The best car tech of CES 2023: Color-changing paint, an LTE dash cam, and more

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It’s a heck of a time to be a car owner.

While one wouldn’t typically think of cars as “consumer electronics,” CES always brings the heat with auto-tech and the 2023 trade show was no different. Everyone from Google to BMW, Volkswagen, and Garmin got in on the action, either with new cars entirely or nifty new features for existing cars. 

Whether it’s a car that changes colors, a car that glows in the dark, or a handy way to keep your car toxin-free, CES 2023 had it all.

Android Auto gets a facelift

A fresh coat of paint for Android Auto.
Credit: Google

First up is Android Auto, Google’s software-level solution for Android phones that are connected to cars. Android Auto itself isn’t new, but Google brought a much-needed makeover for the product to CES and rolled it out to users immediately, which is nice.

The Maps view is now situated on the left side of your car’s interior display, so it’s the first thing drivers will see when they glance over at the screen. There’s a new quick toolbar for apps you open frequently and everything has been updated to reflect the “Material You” look that Pixel phones have been sporting for the last couple of years. 

Between those additions and the ability to make WhatsApp calls from your phone while in the car, Android Auto users would probably be satisfied. But there’s more. Podcasts and music finally have a progress bar so you can skip around your favorite track while driving. Great stuff.

An air purifier for your cupholder

Panasonic portable air purifier for cars
Eliminate odors straight from a cupholder.
Credit: Panasonic

Sometimes cars don’t smell great. Whether that’s because of food or circumstances in the environment that you can’t control (count your blessings if you’ve never driven past a field full of livestock), Panasonic has a way to fix the problem.

The nanoe X Portable Air Purifier looks like a stainless steel water bottle, but it’s actually an air purifier made to fit into a car’s cupholder. It makes tiny water particles that oxidize the air, ideally reducing both bad smells and bad bacteria in the car. We can’t vouch for its effectiveness against things like diseases, but at the very least, it should keep your car smelling fresh.

Hot tip: Regular car washes will also do that.

Ready Vision and Ready Care

Harman Ready Vision
Futuristic!
Credit: Harman

It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for cars to resemble their sci-fi counterparts from movies like Minority Report. With Harman’s new Ready Vision tech, the wait might be over.

With Ready Vision, your car will use augmented reality to project helpful images onto the windshield itself. GPS instructions, blind spot warnings, and other important info about your car can all be projected by Ready Vision, which Harman says will go into production this spring.

Another new Harman feature going into production at the same time is Ready Care. Using neuroscience and machine learning, Ready Care uses cameras, sensors, and monitors to detect if drivers are sleepy or otherwise distracted. If that’s the case, the car will deliver a personalized response to keep you focused on the road.

BMW and VW getting freaky with exterior paint

VW ID.7 car on cliff

Volkswagen’s light-up ID.7.
Credit: Volkswagen
BMW i Vision Dee in yellow

Sometimes you just want a yellow car.
Credit: BMW

For basically an entire century, cars have typically been painted one color and that’s it. BMW and Volkswagen, however, came to CES with two unique visions of how cars could adapt their appearances on-the-fly going forward.

The VW ID.7 is an electric sedan that’s sure to be eye-catching on the road, as it’s covered in multi-colored digital camouflage paint and QR codes. Different sections of the car can light up or go dark independently of one another, so your car can put on a light show in sync to music you’re listening to, for example. It’s not really clear if this is helpful in any way, but it’s a conversation starter, if nothing else.

The same goes for the BMW i Vision Dee. This is a concept car with an e-ink exterior that allows drivers to actually change the color of the car. You can choose between 32 different shades for 240 different segments of the car’s exterior, creating all sorts of unique patterns depending on your taste. Again, this feature is unlikely to change your life, but it is cool to have a giant, mechanical chameleon in your garage.

The dash cam of your dreams

Garmin Dash Cam Live
Ne’er-do-wells will think twice before messing with your car.
Credit: Garmin

Finally, Garmin came to CES with a dash cam that can do all sorts of fun things…for a price.

The $400 Dash Cam Live comes with LTE connectivity, which requires a $10/mo fee to utilize. If you do choose to pay the fee, you get the ability to remotely view a 140-degree, 1440p feed from the dash cam no matter where you are. If someone tries some funny business with your car while you’re inside a restaurant, for example, you’ll be able to see it and react accordingly.

The always-on camera will also auto-save incident clips with time and location tags, and it’s voice command-enabled so you can tell it what to do while your hands are on the wheel. It’s certainly not a color-changing car or a portable air purifier, but one could argue the Dash Cam Live is the most actually useful car tech shown off at CES.

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