The Paris Motor Show wraps up this weekend after its two-week run. We already brought you the most impressive cars from the show. Now we dive a little deeper, taking you inside the engine bay and cabin for the show’s most interesting technologies. New equipment like electrified superchargers and laser headlights provides a glimpse into the future of automotive componentry.
Audi Blows Up the Road with Lasers
The Audi R8 sports car has been around since 2008, so the R8 LMX at Audi’s Paris display wasn’t the magnetic draw that newer cars like the TT Sportback concept were. With a closer inspection, however, it had one of the most interesting technologies at the entire show, and we’re not talking about the 570-hp V10 (though we like that too). It’s the first Audi, and one of the first two cars period, to feature laser lights.
We’ll leave the bickering about “world’s first laser lights” to Audi and BMW; the real story here is that cars are shooting lasers. Lasers. Audi says that the LMX’s laser high beams double the light range when compared to LED beams. They’re designed to make the dark road pop to life at speeds over 37 mph. Since other road users wouldn’t be too psyched about getting eye-probed by lasers, the light system automatically drops the high beams when the LMX’s cameras detect oncoming traffic.
Kia Electrifies Supercharging
The electric supercharger isn’t a new concept in the aftermarket world, but only recently have we seen a push by automakers to force air into their engines with electric power. Audi showed such a concept several months ago, and Kia followed suit in Paris, where it revealed the Optima T-Hybrid concept.
Backed by an upgraded 48-volt lead-carbon battery, Kia’s electric supercharger works with the 1.7-liter engine’s turbocharger to increase performance. Because the electric supercharger is decoupled from the engine in terms of energy supply, it offers instantaneous forced air, improving engine torque and response even at low engine speeds.
The Latest Android is a Honda
The aforementioned technologies prove that automakers still direct new technology at on-road performance, but with the overwhelming growth of mobile connectivity, they’ve become more and more sidetracked with improving technology inside the cabin. Honda presented its latest with the new Honda Connect infotainment system, which will be standard on next year’s European-market Civic, Civic Tourer and CR-V.
Terms like “Android 4.0.4” and “Nvidia Tegra” make it sound like Honda released a new tablet. And in a way it did, only that 7-inch tablet is embedded in the center console of its cars. The world’s first in-vehicle infotainment system running Android on a Tegra chip is designed to mimic the feel and function of a mobile device. Its capacitive touchscreen boasts sharp graphics, selectable skins, and fast, seamless pinching and swiping.
The Honda Connect system pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth and allows you to access your familiar smartphone screen by MirrorLink. The system comes preloaded with apps, including Aha Radio, and users can download more Connect-fitted apps at the Honda App Center. Of course, you can also use the system for traditional car stuff, like navigating from point A to B.
Infiniti Auto-Brakes Self-Driving Cars
Autonomous driving promises to be the biggest story in automotive tech for years, probably decades, to come. This year’s Geneva Motor Show was more a showcase of the future of autonomous driving than Paris, but the Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Paris concept car highlighted an interesting division in the conceptualization of our autonomous driving future.
“As part of our creativity and exploration philosophy, Infiniti considers that autonomous driving is an integral part of a premium car of tomorrow,” Francois Bancon, Infiniti’s vice president of product strategy said in introducing the Q80’s push-button automated system. “In our case, we have taken the approach that autonomous driving should empower and enhance the driving experience, not do the driving. Our path of development is not taking us into the area of self-driving vehicles.”
It’s an interesting tack to take, particularly for a luxury brand, and doubly so for a Nissan-owned luxury brand. Nissan is a primary driver in the autonomous movement, with plans to get self-driving cars on roads as early as 2018. Infiniti appears to have much more conservative plans, and it will be interesting to see how its “path of development” evolves as its parent brand and competitors start putting self-driving cars on the road.
Renault Gets Creative
The French half of the Nissan-Renault Alliance had its own ideas about car technology. Its EOLAB Concept wasn’t the prettiest or most visually intriguing at the Paris show, but out of all the concepts there, it could have the most immediate impact on the future of the automobile. In designing the concept, Renault ripped the modern car to pieces, replacing traditional materials with the lightest materials it could find or create, including a magnesium roof and steel-aluminum-thermoplastic body. Those measures resulted in a staggering 882-lb weight loss, down to a model-like catwalk weight of 2,105 lbs.
Moving a lightweight car forward is much easier than shoving the average hubbed chub, so the EOLAB is able to get by on a small hybrid powertrain with just under 130 hp of total system output. With the help of optimized aerodynamics, the combination of hybrid power and lightweight design result in a massive 235-mpg fuel economy number.
While the EOLAB itself won’t become a production car in the near future, Renault plans to bring the 100-some technological innovations of the car to production gradually over the next 10 to 15 years. In building the concept, it identified strategies that would be both effective and financially viable in the near term.
The average family sedan won’t become an ultra-lightweight, self-driving, laser-flashing, e-supercharged rolling Android phone by next model year, but these technologies are sure to play a role in the automobile’s continued evolution. With things like self-driving cars and new alternative fuels on the horizon, we’re excited by just how far that evolution might progress by the time the next Paris Motor Show comes around in 2016.