CES 2023: Flying cars and karaoke top the auto tech highlights from this year's event in Vegas

BMW's colour-changing car was back at CES this year
BMW's colour-changing car was back at CES this year   -  Copyright  AP Photo
By Sarah Palmer  & AP

The future of cars has fuelled many of the displays at CES this year, ranging from solar-powered breakthroughs to returning favourites like BMW's colour-changing concept.

Here are some highlights.

A battery-powered truck

Cruising out on stage to make its global debut at CES, the RAM 1500 Revolution battery-powered truck is a concept car by automaker Stellantis' commercial vehicle brand, RAM.

"The fierce figure of this RAM is designed to put its broad shoulders straight into the future," explained Mike Koval Jr, RAM's CEO.

"The modernised RAM badge comes to life with a fully animated LED tuning fork design, LED lights integrated into the front bumper flares, and animated tail lamps. The side mirrors are 3D printed and feature digital cameras to capture the surroundings".

Last year, Americans bought more than 2.1 million full-size pickups, most of which still run on gasoline.

This electric alternative will go on sale next year – although the production model isn't likely to look as edgy as the one shown on stage in Las Vegas this week.

AP Photo
Mike Koval, Ram Brand CEO, unveils the Ram 1500 Revolution electric battery powered pickup truck during the CES tech show on ThursdayAP Photo

BMW unveils updates to its colour-changing car

BMW has been back at CES this year with its latest colour-changing concept car.

Following last year’s event where the carmaker unveiled its colour-shifting iX Flow, the i Vision Dee is a medium-sized sedan, and enables its owner to either switch between - or combine - 32 different colours. It will be on the market for consumers from 2025.

VW has developed a Tesla rival

The newest electric model from VW positions itself on the same track as Tesla’s model 3 or the Polestar 2.

Its USP is its claim that it offers one of the longest single-charge ranges in the industry, promising up to 700 km.

Flying cars have officially landed

There have been many prototypes of concept flying cars already on the road, some of which have officially earned their wings. But could this be the first commercial success?

 Roughly the size of an SUV, the ASKA A5 is a four-seater electric vehicle that its creators say can travel by road and up to 400 km by air on a single charge.

When it enters flying mode, the vehicle's wings and six roots unfold, allowing the vehicle to take off vertically or do conventional runway takeoffs.

AP Photo
People view a functional prototype of the ASKA A5 VTOL flying carAP Photo

The solar-powered Squad

Charging infrastructure is one barrier when it comes to getting more EVs on the road. That's not a problem for the solar-powered Squad by Dutch company Squad Mobility.

The manufacturer claims it's the world's first solar city car and expects the first vehicles to roll off the production line in 2024. It's charged via an integrated panel on its roof so drivers never have to plug in.

In a climate like Las Vegas, on a sunny day it could generate enough charge for up to 31 kilometres.

"So who likes charging, you know? Charging your phone, charging your laptop, charging your car, nobody likes it," said Robert Hoevers, CEO of Squad Mobility.

"This charges each day and every day throughout its complete lifecycle, and you never have to do anything about it, it's totally automatic".

Carpool karaoke?

And finally, one for those who save their vocal prowess for long car journeys. Manufacturers The Singing Machine and Stingray see this integrated karaoke software as a must-have accessory for the cars of the future.

It comes with an app that disables the screen when the car is ready to move so as not to distract the driver, but it allows passengers to continue the karaoke session by following the lyrics on their own smartphones instead.

"As vehicles are obviously becoming more and more autonomous in the future, a lot of motor brands are looking for ways, they see the inside of the car as an extension of the living room and they're looking for entertainment value," says Gary Atkinson, CEO of The Singing Machine.

"And so as people are sitting in their car, they're maybe doing long road trips, they're looking for things to do, some fun, engaging experiences. And obviously, karaoke, what's more fun and engaging than that?"

Why do car manufacturers put so much effort into concept vehicles which often bear little resemblance to the models that end up in production?

"Concept cars are a really hugely important thing for brands and basically identify where the brand wants to be and how they want you to perceive them, much more so that actually presenting a product that's actually going to come to market," car expert Tim Stevens explained to AP.

"But if nothing else, concept cars are a signal that brands are feeling confident, that the market is going well, they're making money, because concept cars are very expensive to produce."

Concept cars in 2023 are all about electric power. But that's an option already available in less sci-fi-looking vehicles.

Plenty of EVs that are already on the market or soon to be launched are on the show floor at CES - but so far, this industry focus on electric is not reflected in the cars people choose to buy.

"There's certainly a lot of excitement about EVs, but here in the US at least, they're very small, about six per cent of new car shares last year were EVs, so that's very small," added Stevens. "But that doubled over the year before and we're expecting to continue to see that rate of increase, so while the adoption rate is low, the excitement is high".