Connected, self-driving cars in the front seat at CES

The headsof Ford and Mercedes-Benz are among the keynote speakers

Cars that can park themselves, cycle helmets that can communicate to avoid collisions and the coming battle between Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto will all be hot topics at International CES in January.

The Las Vegas trade show will offer a mixture of cars and accessories coming out next year, and others that are still years away from being ready.

The latter category includes BMW's self-parking car, which will be demonstrated to journalists in a Las Vegas parking garage. The Remote Valet Parking Assistant has been integrated in a research version of the electric BMW i3, and by combining laser sensors with digital plans of multi-storey car parks it can supposedly park itself. The goal with the demo is to show what will be possible by 2020, according to BMW.

Improving safety is also an important part of what sensors can be used for. Volvo Cars has developed a cycle helmet that can communicate with cars to avoid collisions. The driver will be alerted to a nearby cyclist through a head-up display alert, even if the cyclist happens to be in a blind spot. The cyclist will be warned via a helmet-mounted alert light, according to Volvo. The product will be presented at CES and has been developed in an all-Swedish collaboration with helmet manufacturer POC and telecommunications equipment vendor Ericsson. The connected helmet may seem like a good idea, but the fact that both cars and helmets would have to be upgraded and widely deployed makes it a challenging project.

A more down-to-earth product is an infotainment system from South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai, which it will use in some of its 2016 models. What makes the Display Audio system especially interesting is that has no CD player or embedded navigation system, instead using Apple's CarPlay or Android Auto to access the music and navigation features of an iPhone or Android smartphone. CarPlay and Android Auto work by attaching the smartphone to the car's infotainment system with a USB cable. Once the connection is made, users can make calls, send messages and access third party apps using voice commands or via the display build into the dashboard.

The list of apps compatible with both platforms includes iHeart Radio, MLB At Bat and Spotify. CarPlay also works with Beats Music and Stitcher, while Android Auto's initial app roster includes SoundCloud, Pandora and WhatsApp, according to Hyundai.

The car industry will also be represented on stage at CES. Ford CEO Mark Fields and Mercedes-Benz head Dieter Zetsche are keynote speakers. Zetsche's keynote will include "the world-debut of a new car concept," according to the CES website.

On Friday, LG Electronics announced it is working with Mercedes on next-generation cameras for automated driving, letting the car take over some driving tasks, LG said without delving into the details.

The description of Fields' speech is more vague, saying that he will talk about what's next for Ford. Earlier this month the company announced Version 3 of its infotainment system Sync, which uses BlackBerry's QNX operating system where previous versions used Microsoft Windows Embedded.

Showgoers will see more of what Ford and the other exhibitors have in store for International CES in Las Vegas starting Jan. 6.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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