Mercedes-Benz's 'living' car, Hyundai's flying taxi among top auto debuts at CES

Key Points
  • The CES technology conference in Las Vegas has become a place for automakers, suppliers and tech companies to showcase their newest technologies.
  • Several automakers this year unveiled concept vehicles to showcase their new technologies.
  • Among the biggest surprises were a concept car from Sony, a flying taxi from Hyundai and an out-of-this-world concept vehicle from Mercedes-Benz.
The Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept vehicle was unveiled on Jan. 7, 2020 at CES in Las Vegas.

Sony produced a car, Mercedes-Benz unveiled an out-of-this-world concept vehicle, and Uber teamed up with Hyundai to showcase their visions for a flying taxi.

These were among the top automotive announcements this week from the CES technology conference in Las Vegas. The event has increasingly become a place for automakers, suppliers and tech companies to showcase their newest technologies and automotive chops.

Here's a look at five of the most interesting automotive-related announcements to come from CES.

Sony builds a car

Sony President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida speaks after unveiling the Sony Vision-S electric concept car during a press event for CES 2020 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 6, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mario Tama | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Sony surprised the show by unveiling an all-electric concept car called the Vision S as part of the company's plan to accelerate its efforts in the automotive industry.

The Tesla-like vehicle, according to Sony, is meant to showcase the company's new sensor, audio and in-car entertainment technologies.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that mobile has been the megatrend of the last decade. I believe the next megatrend will be mobility as vehicles become more connected, autonomous shared and electric in the coming years," said Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony, during the Monday night unveiling of the car.

Sony produced the Vision S with several automotive partners such as Continental, Bosch and Magna, among others.

What to expect from CES 2020
What to expect from CES 2020

The vehicle features an array of screens, including one that stretches the length of the dashboard, to showcase their entertainment content as well as Sony's "360 Reality Audio" system. The vehicle also includes 33 sensors placed around and within the sedan to demonstrate Sony's potential for emerging semi-autonomous and self-driving vehicles.

Despite Sony having no plans to produce the vehicle, Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst at Navigant, said it was a good way for the company to showcase its latest automotive offerings.

"It got Sony a lot of attention, which is part of the reason for being there," he said. "I think it was a reasonable investment for them to do that and use it as a platform to show off stuff that they make that goes into cars."

S-A1 Air Taxi

Hyundai Motor and Uber have announced a new partnership to develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial ride share network and unveiled a new full-scale aircraft concept at CES.

While many automakers attempt to address traffic congestion with autonomous vehicles, Hyundai Motor just wants to fly above it.

The South Korean automaker this week announced a tie-up with Uber to develop a line of flying taxis for the Uber Elevate aerial ridehailing service. The companies unveiled a new full-scale model aircraft concept at CES called the S-A1.

The electrically powered PAV, or "personal air vehicle," is designed for a cruising speed up to 180 miles per hour, a cruising altitude of around 1,000 to 2,000 feet, and trips up to 60 miles. It can seat four passengers.

"Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation," Jaiwon Shin, executive vice president and head of Hyundai's Urban Air Mobility Division, said in a release. "We expect UAM to vitalize urban communities and provide more quality time to people."

Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR

Mercedes-Benz took inspiration from another world to design its most recent all-electric concept car, the Vision AVTR.

The show car was inspired by the 2009 film "Avatar" and created in partnership with a team that worked on the movie to showcase the German automaker's design and tech capabilities.

"Show cars are here to spark our imagination of the possible just like science fiction movies do," said Ola Kallenius, chairman of the Daimler AG board and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, during the unveiling of the vehicle. "This car showcases new ideas of communication."

Mercedes-Benz described the car as a "living creature" that can interact with passengers as well as the outside world. Most notably, the vehicle features 33 "bionic flaps" on the back of the vehicle designed to communicate "through naturally flowing movements in subtle gestures" like some amphibians.

The Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept vehicle features 33 "bionic flaps" on the back of the vehicle are reminiscent of scales of reptiles. They are designed to be able to communicate with the driver and the outside world "through naturally flowing movements in subtle gestures."

On the inside, the car also features a "completely new" way for passengers to interact with the vehicle that can be operated with hand gestures and biometrics, able to recognize the driver by his or her heartbeat and breathing.

In addition to playing off the movie's title, Mercedes-Benz said AVTR also stands for "advanced vehicle transformation."

'City of the future'

Toyota on Jan. 6, 2019 revealed plans to build a prototype "city of the future" on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan. The project, known as the Woven City, is expected to break ground in 2021.

Toyota plans to build a "prototype city of the future" on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan to test and develop new emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles.

Akio Toyoda, president of the automaker, described the "Woven City" as a "living laboratory" that will include thousands of residents and will test autonomous vehicles, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment.

The master plan for the city includes three sectors for research of such technologies: fast vehicles; mix of lower speed, personal mobility and pedestrians, and a park-like promenade for pedestrians.

"Imagine a fully controlled site that will allow researchers, engineers and scientists to freely test technologies," he said Monday night when announcing the plans. "This will be a truly unique opportunity to create an entire community or city from the ground up."

Toyota expects about 2,000 people — from employees to retailers and visiting scientists — to initially live in the Woven City, according to Toyoda.

Toyota tweet video

Fisker Ocean

Fisker Inc. officially revealed the Fisker Ocean all-electric luxury crossover at CES 2020 in Las Vegas.

California-based electric-auto maker Fisker Inc. debuted its Ocean crossover at CES, calling it the "world's most sustainable vehicle."

The all-electric vehicle features carpeting made from regenerated nylon, which is made from abandoned fishing net waste — pulled from the oceans and aquaculture; 100% vegan interior and other interior components made from recycled materials such as bottles, plastics and tires.

"We are producing electric vehicles with an increased sense of sustainability, while creating an immersive experience built around our mobile platform," Fisker Chairman and CEO Henrik Fisker, a well-known automotive designer, said in a news release.

The Fisker Ocean is targeted to have a range of up to 300 miles and begin production at the end of 2021, according to the company.

Pricing is expected to start at $37,499, excluding federal tax credits of up to $7,500. The company also plans to offer a "flexible lease model" in which consumers can lease the vehicle monthly with no long-term contract starting at $379 per month.