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Six Tech Highlights From AutoMobility L.A.

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 12/2/2017 Motor Trend Staff

In its sophomore year, the L.A. Show's AutoMobility tech day—held on the eve of the media days—featured some noteworthy announcements from startups and established players alike. This year a new competition, Ten Automotive Startups, attracted and featured several interesting apps and technologies that promise to impact your driving future. And in a keynote address, BMW board member Peter Schwarzenbauer announced his company's intention to transform itself into a mobility services provider (following similar announcements from Ford and others). This move, he boldly predicted, would ensure BMW's continued viability through the year 2030—a statement that begs the question, were you afraid your former "Ultimate Driving Machine" ethos would doom the company prior to that date? We boldly predict that you will live to enjoy the following concepts and technologies on cars self-driven and otherwise.


a drawing of a face© Motor Trend Staff

Precise navigation is tricky using only street addresses. Most of the planet is not assigned an address, and many large locations (such as the L.A. Convention Center hosting this event) have just one address that doesn't provide much guidance as to which of its many entrances attendees or delivery vehicles should navigate to. Sure, you could type in GPS coordinates out to about eight decimal places, but that's tedious and fraught with opportunity for errors. What3words has a unique solution to this problem: divide the planet up into 57 trillion 3-meter squares and assign each one three simple, easily pronounced words. Because the words can be placed in any of the three positions, only 40,000 words are needed to cover the globe. The team started by assigning English words, but in just four years has "reworded" the globe in 14 languages with 14 more in the works (so an American needs never struggle to pronounce Chinese words when looking for a Chinese location, and vice versa). There are no homophones (here, hear!) and combinations containing similar-sounding words are placed worlds apart (chair.table.lamp is in Chico, California, and chair.table.clamp is in Queensland, Australia) so nav systems can infer an input error. The UN is using What3words, as are delivery companies such as Aramex and nav apps such as Navmii. Next year, Mercedes-Benz will begin offering three-word navigation input. Download the free smartphone app or visit to learn your driveway's three-word address or search for fun word combo locations. is in the middle of I-44 near St. Clair, Missouri, for example. And Motor Trend's front door is at burst.rider.intend if you were wondering


a screenshot of a cell phone© Motor Trend Staff

This is military stealth radar for your car. No, it's not to further diminish the already infinitesimal chance of your blind-spot detecting corner radar drawing rocket-propelled grenade fire. Rather, it's to prevent the increasing likelihood that your blind-spot radar could cancel the blind-spot radar of a car in the next lane, effectively rendering the other car "stealthy" and potentially resulting in a collision. Most such radar units emit waves at one of two frequencies (24 or 77 GHz) and a handful of fixed amplitudes, making it possible for two signals to be perfectly out of phase, thereby canceling each other and signaling empty space. GhostWave randomizes the amplitude of each wave pulse it emits, looking for reflections of the identical wave signature so that there's virtually no chance that two nearby vehicles' wave signatures could cancel one another. The technology is all off-the-shelf, so cost shouldn't be prohibitive. Prototypes are expected begin testing at the end of January. Another cool Ghostwave technology promises to eliminate those ugly round ultrasonic sensor zits currently befouling millions of bumper fascia. A thin flexible strip mounts behind the center of the bumper cover and emits a broad near-range radar beam that can compute the speed and direction of the travel of obstacles behind the vehicle in any weather conditions. Ultrasonic sensors only detect position and can be affected by weather. Cost is definitely an obstacle here, at about 10 times that of the zits. What price fashion?

Hyundai Connected Car Services

Hyundai Blue Link All Access© Motor Trend Staff Hyundai Blue Link All Access

Hyundai is going all-in on the connected car concept, making Blue Link standard across all 2018 models including the Accent, with the monthly service included for three years. At AutoMobility L.A., the company launched Blue Link All-Access powered by Smartcar—a connected car services company based in Mountain View, California, that aims to be an app store for your car. All-Access will partner with California-based companies to bring various connected-car services to market. One such company is WashOS, a mobile car washing and detailing service currently launching in L.A. and the San Francisco Bay Area. The promo clip showed a young office employee arriving at work in his filthy and trashed Ioniq, just as a text arrived reminding him he needed to drive the boss to the airport at noon. No problem! After a moment's fiddling with his phone, WashOS was booked to come to his office parking lot, wash the exterior and be granted temporary access to the interior. Our slob hero is alerted when the car is unlocked by WashOS and again when the car is securely locked and the job is complete. This ability to grant access for entry and operation of the car also now powers a fleet of WaiveCar Hyundai Ioniq EVs in Santa Monica, California (this service grants free access to an EV for up to two hours, paid for by copious advertising on the outside of the car). These and other innovations are being incubated at the company's newly opened Silicon Valley-based Hyundai Cradle.

a blue car parked in front of a house© Motor Trend Staff

Three More Worth Mentioning

WayRay won the top prize in the Ten Automotive Startups competition for its holographic navigation user interface.

a drawing of a face© Motor Trend Staff

GoKid is a carpool arranging app for the 32 million school kids who are not offered a school bus transportation option. It helps parents keep track of whose turn it is to drive and to manage members of the carpool.

Waze hits the bigger screen! Abalta Technologies' new WebLink software platform will make it possible to cast the world's most popular nav app on your infotainment screen. Praise be!


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