Just last week we headed off to "Sin City" in order to cover Audi's very first official appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show, known in short as CES. This trade show comes just a few months after SEMA (which stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association), also in Las Vegas, and a week before the NAIAS (North American International Auto Show) in Detroit. Unable to attend them all, I had to choose one of the three acronyms to attend. CES won out over the others both because of the sheer size of the event and how much I'd heard about the show over the years. It certainly lived up to the hype, and now I can check that massive bitch of a trade show off my "bucket list". Although, it did nearly kill me, as days later I'm still recovering. The copious levels of alcohol and meager amounts of sleep may also have something to do with it...
Day one of CES began bright and early Thursday morning (January 6th) when it was off to the Las Vegas Convention Center to obtain my badge holder and then to the nearby Hilton for a keynote speech by AUDI AG Chairman, Rupert Stadler. It was then that I learned just how difficult it was going to be during our entire stay to get a cab (or any mode of public transportation for that matter) anywhere in town. If I was going to wait in the hotel's taxi or shuttle line, I'd surely miss the keynote. So it was off to the street to flag down a cab. Luckily that risky move paid off, and away I went to the Thunderdome!
The next lesson I learned, is if you're registered as press then get there a day early on the actual "Press Day". Thursday was the first full-on day of CES, and since they were expecting nearly 200,000 attendees, the press registration was no longer mixed in with the other various types of attendees. It meant heading from the North Hall near where the keynote was being held, across the Central Hall, and over to the South Hall in order to simply get my badge holder! Even though I had my badge weeks in advance, a few of the "door guards" were denying entry without that piece of paper hanging from a piece of plastic around my neck! A few tries later, and several minutes late, I was finally into the conference room and in my seat. Mr. Stadler was already on stage along with a stunning red e-tron Spyder concept, but thankfully I didn't miss much.
The majority of what was discussed in the keynote can be found in Audi's recent press release, and some within their press video
. It was a lot of what us Audi nerds already know, all about the "Vorsprung durch Technik". Audi was at CES to make aware the world's technology companies and press that Audi was leading the way in the future of automotive technology, not just within the European luxury market but all segments worldwide. This rings true with the more common in-car technologies such as smartphone integration, car audio and video, WiFi hotspots, and navigation. They were also pointing at what's next such as highly upgradeable and customizable MMI interfaces. The later was the main reason that Jensen Huang, Founder and CEO of Nvidia, joined Mr. Stadler on stage. The famous chip maker has been working with Audi for some time now, and will be continuing to develop processors to keep up with the growing needs of Audi's engineers and developers. The most famous and relevant quote came at the end of Rupert Stadler's speech when he said, "We are taking the lead in matching horsepower with processing power".
Of course one cannot talk about the future of the automobile without touching on hybrid and electronic tech. Audi had several of its latest and greatest electronic concept vehicles on hand for CES. As mentioned earlier, joining Rupert Stadler on stage at the keynote was one of Audi's sexier concepts in recent years, the e-tron Spyder concept. Unfortunately the car did not make it over to Audi's booth display so that I could drool over it further, but they did have the e-tron Coupe based more heavily on the R8 body as well as their little A1 e-tron concept. Not normally a huge fan of small cars, I absolutely dig the A1 and am really hoping Audi brings it to North America in the coming years. It kills BMW's Mini in so many ways, especially once it gets quattro all wheel drive!
Also being shown off in Audi's massive light-box of a booth, was a loaded-to-the-gills A8L decked out in an "Audi Exclusive" interior combo awash in an inordinate amount of brown leather and wood. Not something I would normally go for, but it worked in this car. I really like the matte wood finish Audi is offering instead of the more typical high-gloss seen in previous models. They also had a display with that same front seats and dash, but with no car, allowing you to walk around it and view it from angles you couldn't when inside the vehicle. Audi's impeccable craftsmanship and materials are really on display here. There were a few other standing displays showing both current and emerging tech, such as Audi's Multimedia Interface and a glimpse at the future of Audi dashboards and displays. The animated 3D instrument display and Heads Up Display (HUD) are truly fascinating to see in person, and so I encourage you to view Audi's "Highlights from CES Las Vegas 2011
" video to see them in action.
So now, here I am back in my low-tech world writing an article on my obsolete laptop. CES certainly does put one in a state of techno shock, but we had a great time nonetheless. We learned a lot about our increasingly electronic, hi-def, 3D world. I'm excited about what the future holds, and to experience the technology that car manufacturers such as Audi will be using to enhance our interaction with the car and enrich our time spent within it. Audi truly is leading the way in that regard and I welcome it, so long as I still have one the old school gasoline burning, mechanical gauge reading, cassette tape playing Audis to play with as well.