By now, the auto industry’s presence at the International CES event—held each year in Las Vegas to show off the latest in cutting-edge consumer electronics—has become too extensive to do more than provide a few of the highlights from the 2013 show. But, that being said, let’s see how many we can get to, starting with perhaps one of the most important: The editors of Connected World Magazine recently presented the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi with their Connected Car of the Year honor, recognizing the Blue Oval’s high-efficiency plug-in hybrid for its high-tech range of connectivity services that are anchored by the much-acclaimed Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch.

“SYNC has helped us evolve as an automaker, to think and act more like a technology company, with a new level of openness and access that has forever changed how we look at our business and respond to our customers,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation. “Ultimately, SYNC embodies one of the many things Ford is all about: going further to transform innovative ideas into products that are affordable, attainable and valuable for millions of people.”

Ford also used its visit to the 2013 International CES to announce a new MyEnergi Lifestyles partnership, with companies like Whirlpool and SunPower, aimed at helping Americans leverage new home-appliance and automotive plug-in technologies to help save money and the environment at the same time.

Other auto brands making news at the show included …

Highlights at the 2013 International CES: Audi

“At Audi you’d be hard pushed to find an innovation that isn’t related to electronics nowadays,” said Ricky Hudi, Audi’s head of Electrics/Electronics Development. “This decade will see us network the car seamlessly with the environment, under the Audi connect banner—with the driver, the Internet, the infrastructure, and with other vehicles.”

Ultimately, these technologies will allow Audi owners to benefit from what the company terms “piloted driving.” It’s the future of personal transportation, according to Audi, and will rely on vehicle systems designed to “reduce the driver’s workload should the driver so wish.” Which includes reducing that workload to zero and letting the vehicle drive autonomously—as shown by the 2013 Audi A7 that was at the CES and is capable of doing exactly that.

But we’re also talking about technology that will soon be able to handle braking and accelerating duties in congested traffic, at speeds up to about 35 mph, while also providing functionality that “helps” drivers steer in those situations.

Audi then captured more of CES bandwidth when it introduced the 2013 Audi A3 that will bring 4G LTE wireless connectivity to the auto industry later this year along with a 2013 Audi Q7 featuring the brand’s new “3-D” sound system.

Highlights at the 2013 International CES: Chevrolet

Chevrolet’s international aspirations have been much in the news lately, so it was no surprise to discover that the Bowtie brand’s big reveal at CES also has a particularly global flavor. Per Chevy, the TuneIn smartphone app—able to deliver access to some 70,000 audio stations from around the world—will now be available for the MyLink media system in the 2013 Chevy Sonic and 2013 Chevy Spark, as well as for the soon-to-launch 2014 Chevy Spark EV. And remember, MyLink itself is standard on all the up-level Spark and Sonic trims.

“We listened to customers around the world when we developed MyLink for Spark and Sonic, and we believe TuneIn willbe a big hit with those who crave customized connectivity and entertainment,” said Cristi Landy, director, Chevrolet small cars and electric vehicles. “Our Spark and Sonic buyers will have a fantastic solution for tuning in to their favorite radio stations from around the world.”

Also, for those keeping track, Chevy, too, will soon offer Siri integration, on MyLinked Sparks and Sonics, but the brand made its announcement prior to CES.

Highlights at the 2013 International CES: Chrysler

The first month of the year once again heralded a major media award for the Chrysler Group’s Uconnect technology. Last January, described the system as “cutting-edge—but intuitive” as it won the 2012 Breakthrough Technology Award for its work in the Dodge Charger. This year, at the CES gathering, Uconnect earned the first-ever Technology of the Year Award from AOL Autos.

Significantly, while Uconnect had a slim lead among the judges, it won the overwhelming support of the public in the online-voting for the prize. Of course, it certainly helps that Uconnect continues to benefit from new updates, including the Uconnect Access Via Mobile feature that integrates some of the most popular audio-streaming smartphone apps, for the likes of Aha, iHeart Radio, Pandora and Slacker, directly into vehicles’ Uconnect systems.

“We are honored to be recognized by AOL Autos, but the public’s validation of Uconnect Access is especially rewarding,” said Marios Zenios, vice president of Uconnect Systems and Services. “Clearly, we are on the right track as we focus on designing features that are easy to learn, easy to use and—most importantly—mindful of the fact that driving is the No.1 reason people are behind the wheel.”

Highlights at the 2013 International CES: Hyundai

Hyundai provided previews of its upcoming infotainment technologies at the event, led off by a new feature that allows owners of compatible iPhones to access Siri, Apple’s virtual valet, in a special “eyes-free” mode that doesn’t require drivers to take their eyes off the road. Also making their digital debuts at the Hyundai exhibit were the Dragon Drive voice-services platform, which will let Hyundai owners interact “naturally and conversationally” with their voice-controlled vehicle systems; Mobile High-Definition Link (MHDL), enabling displays from digital devices to be shown on in-vehicle screens—while they’re being charged; and a variety of next-gen hardware that will allow web browsing, mobile wi-fi connectivity, and advanced media-streaming capabilities.

Vehicularly speaking, Hyundai brought its HND-6/Blue2 concept car to Las Vegas, providing a chance for the striking hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle—first shown in Korea in 2011—to make an encore appearance here in this country.

(Hyundai’s corporate cousin also was at the International CES with the 2014 Kia Sorento to announce the brand’s UVO telematics platform would add Google Maps functionality—as reported here:

Highlights at the 2013 International CES: Toyota and Lexus

Toyota wants to be clear about one thing as regards the advanced active-safety research vehicle it brought to the 2013 International CES: “While key components of these research efforts could lead to a fully autonomous car in the future, the vision is not necessarily a car that drives itself. Instead, Toyota and Lexus envision technologies that enhance the skills of the driver, believing a more skillful driver is a safer driver.”

That means the emphasis here was on a fresh, holistic approach to vehicle safety that Toyota calls the Integrated Safety Management Concept. It’s goal: to create a vehicle that delivers superior performance in all phases of a potential crash scenario, from the start of the journey to the arrival of first responders.

To achieve this, the concept vehicle shown at this year’s CES—based on the 2013 Lexus LS—is kitted out with a plethora of gadgetry that includes a 360-degree LIDAR laser, three high-def color cameras, front and side radar units, a distance-measurement indicator, an accelerometer, sensors to measure vehicle angles, and a battery of GPS antennae.

But yes, the car can drive by itself!

By Charles Krome

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