CES 2022 was the best auto show in years

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

CES has always been on the fringes of auto-show culture, but over the past few years, automakers have steadily given more and more priority to Las Vegas in January. Despite a number of setbacks in 2022, including media and vendor pullouts over COVID-19 concerns, the show continued on, and the result could qualify as the best auto show in years.

It’s easy to see why CES matters more to automakers — and you, dear car-buying reader — every year. The line between automotive and consumer tech gets blurrier every day, whether it’s tech companies outside of automotive dipping their toes into cars or automakers content to find the most unique applications for their future vehicles. What you see here isn’t just science fiction; many of the innovations outlined below may arrive at dealerships before you know it.

Get ready, get set, stream!


Amazon Fire TV integration

Amazon has been on the edges of automotive for a while. It’s integrated Alexa into a few cars, but now, its popular Fire TV brand will make its way into the cabin, as well.

Amazon announced that it will expand its Fire TV integration to Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Prior to the announcement, it was only available in Jeep’s Grand Cherokee, Grand Wagoneer and Wagoneer models. It uses a car’s built-in cellular connection to deliver streaming content to every screen in the vehicle, although main-screen use is disabled unless the car is parked. Content can be downloaded ahead of time, in the event reception becomes an issue on a long road trip.

Stream while waiting for your EV to charge; YouTube is coming to Android Automotive OS this year.


Android Automotive upgrades

Android Automotive is Alphabet’s name for its infotainment operating system, which allows automakers to create telematics interfaces that connect directly to the tech giant’s litany of services, whether it’s the Play Store or good ol’ Google Maps. This year’s Android Automotive announcements at CES were all about deepening cars’ connection to this ecosystem.

On the hardware front, Google announced a new USB-A wireless adapter that can put wireless Android Auto within reach of owners of older vehicles. On the software front, Android Automotive OS is getting more powerful, by way of greater third-party app integration and the introduction of YouTube to Volvo vehicles (with the proper safety protocols, fear not). We’ll also get a look at the next generation of Android Automotive OS, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon architecture, which will arrive on the Polestar 3 later this year and carry some massive improvements to overall performance.

BMW Digital Art Mode

BMW always brings some left-field thinking to CES, and this year is no exception. How would you like a car full of art? Well, BMW’s trying to make that happen in the very near future.

BMW’s Digital Art Mode is a new feature that, as the name suggests, brings some digital art into the cabin. The automaker’s proof of concept was shown on the iX electric vehicle, displaying art from multimedia artist Cao Fei on the iX’s curved digital dashboard. The mode will show off said art, in addition to implementing changes to ambient light and sound to provide what BMW calls a “holistic user experience.” Best of all, it’ll be available on BMW’s production vehicles later this year.

BMW iX Flow

If you thought digital art on the dashboard was wild, wait until you see color-changing body panels.

That’s the idea behind the BMW iX Flow concept. A special electrophoretic wrap basically turns this iX into a rolling E-Ink display, with each body panel capable of shifting through every corner of the grayscale spectrum (also known as the German rainbow). It’s not just flat swatches of color, either; the panels can shift through a wide variety of designs, offering even more customization. It also has a practical effect: If the car shifts to white panels on hot days, it can keep the cabin cooler than usual, helping improve overall efficiency.

BMW iX M60

CES unveils are usually more about technology than vehicles themselves, but a smattering of proper car debuts still take place at the show. This year, BMW used the stage in Las Vegas to introduce a new performance EV.

BMW pulled back the sheet on the iX M60 this week. It uses the same 111.5-kilowatt-hour battery pack and electric motor setup as the standard iX xDrive50, but the automaker turned the wick up to 610 horsepower and 811 pound-feet of torque, enough for a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.6 seconds, a full second quicker than its pedestrian sibling. BMW estimates range around 280 miles, a reduction of 20 or so from the iX xDrive50. Of course, this won’t come cheap, as the iX M60 starts at $106,095 including destination, a roughly $22,000 premium over the regular iX.

That’s a lot of real estate.


BMW Theater Screen

OK, back to weirder stuff for a bit. If you enjoy rear-seat entertainment in your car, but you’ve always wanted something a little more… theatrical, BMW has just the thing for you.

BMW’s Theater Screen is a 31-inch, 32:9-format widescreen that can play multimedia in resolutions up to 8K. Turn on the display, and the rear window sunshades darken the cabin while a Hans Zimmer-created “sound experience” accompanies the screen unfolding from the headliner. This isn’t a headphone sort of affair, either; the audio gets pumped through the car’s speakers for a little extra immersion. Streaming content on this system will come by way of an Amazon FireTV integration. BMW promises that this is destined for production cars “very soon,” too.

BrightDrop electric van orders

Some CES announcements aren’t focused on new vehicles or new technologies. Rather, they serve as important updates to the business side of the automotive industry.

BrightDrop, a General Motors subsidiary, announced at CES 2022 that it has picked up some big-name orders for its upcoming electric delivery vans. Walmart has placed a reservation for 5,000 examples of the van to use with its InHome delivery service. These vans should start arriving to the company as early as 2023. BrightDrop launched at CES one year ago, with FedEx hopping on board quickly, having ordered some 20,000 vans as of this writing.

Cadillac InnerSpace concept

You don’t see too many two-door cars these days, as automakers have tightened the belt on passenger-car models in favor of more and more crossovers. But concept cars are always about thinking outside the box, and this new coupe from Cadillac is certainly impressive, both visually and technologically.

The Cadillac InnerSpace concept is, like so many autonomous concept cars, basically a rolling living room. It envisions automobiles in a time of personal self-driving mobility, and boy howdy is it fancy. The doors and roof open to a single love seat spanning the car’s width. Inside, a massive screen occupies the dashboard, giving the occupants access to entertainment galore. What really strikes me about this car is its design, with that massive speedtail and the roof line that barely has any rise to it. It’s a proper stunner.

The Equinox and Blazer look better than ever, and all it took was a radical overhaul of both models.


Chevrolet Blazer, Equinox EV reveal

Given some of GM’s electric-vehicle reveals of late, you might be sitting here wondering, “Where are all the electric cars for the mass market? We don’t really need that many six-figure moonshots.” Well, hypothetical person I just made up in my head, this bit of news is just for you.

Chevrolet announced that it is hard at work on electric variants of both the Equinox and Blazer crossovers. Not only do these vehicles pick up sharp new designs derived from other modern GM EVs, they are destined for the not-too-distant future. Both models are slated for a 2023 launch, and while Blazer EV details are more or less nonexistent, CEO Mary Barra did confirm that the Equinox EV is aiming for a starting price around $30,000. If the range is there, that will be a huge deal for mass-market consumers.

Chevrolet Silverado EV

Speaking of six-figure moonshots, Chevrolet’s got a new electric pickup truck on the way, and it is loaded with tech.

The 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV won’t start reaching customers until 2023, but there’s already so much about which to get excited. In its range-topping RST First Edition trim, which will be the first available to consumers, the Silverado EV will put out up to 664 horsepower and 780 pound-feet of torque, while being able to tow 10,000 pounds and shove another 1,300 pounds in the bed. 10 outlets will provide 10.2 kilowatts of power to job site tools or campsite accoutrements. Inside, there’s a 17-inch infotainment screen, and like many other new GM vehicles, it’ll come with Super Cruise. Oh, and it also carries a $105,000 price tag.

Chrysler Airflow concept

To help give us an idea about what to expect for its future, Chrysler dug into its past.

The Airflow concept borrows a name that dates originally to the 1930s. It’s just a battery-powered design study for now, and Chrysler has remained tight-lipped on whether or not this concept will spawn a production vehicle, but we’re hopeful it will, because it’s gorgeous. It’s also full of new tech, like Level 3 autonomy, eight separate displays and about 400 all-electric horsepower split between two motors. Cross your fingers on this one.

Chrysler Airflow Concept

Get used to electric Chryslers, because in a few years, that’s all that’ll be available.


Chrysler electrification pledge

In addition to its fancy new concept, Chrysler also dropped a big announcement about all future vehicles under its brand.

Chrysler announced this week that the automaker will be an entirely electric affair by 2028. Its first EV is still a ways off, with a target date of “by 2025,” but this still marks a big shift for Stellantis’ troubled American subsidiary. The 300 sedan is getting old, meaning the Pacifica has been carrying the brunt of the brand for years. We don’t know if that means we’ll get a production version of the Airflow, although I hope it does, but one thing is for certain: Chrysler is not ready to be counted out.

Gentex says the cost of this technology should not be prohibitive. 


Gentex nanofiber sensing

Automotive supplier Gentex might be the reason your next car automatically switches to recirculation mode, or it might be the reason an autonomous taxi can tell somebody left a bomb inside it.

Gentex came to CES 2022 to show off its nanofiber sensing technology. In short, a sensor attaches these diminutive fibers to electrodes that can detect specific chemicals, creating an electrical signal that can be used to determine what the substance in question is. It could automatically switch your car’s HVAC when it detects you’re driving behind a diesel truck, but in more serious applications, Gentex’s nanofibers could possibly detect explosives. This stuff isn’t quite ready for the spotlight just yet, but the CEO told Roadshow that initial applications will likely come within the next three years.

Hyundai CES PnD ecosystem

Hyundai predicts a future where people and products travel in cute modular pods.


Hyundai PnD pod concept

Hyundai’s presence at CES 2022 is less focused on cars and more focused on the idea of how society will change as we introduce new methods of mobility.

The Plug and Drive module is an electric pod concept that sports 360-degree steering and electric power. It can be used to help logistics robots safely deliver cargo, or it can be sized up to a single-person pod that can greatly improve independence for people of limited mobility. The Drive and Life system is similar to Plug and Drive, and it can be used for guide bots and other manned and unmanned applications. It might be a little more forward-thinking than just a flashy autonomous car, but it’s nice to see automakers step back and envision more big-picture stuff like this.

Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX

Some concepts go above and beyond imagination. Case in point, the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, which is a research and development vehicle that will hit the road later this year to prove just how efficient electric vehicles can get.

The Vision EQXX utilizes a number of advancements in design and powertrain technology to enable a damned impressive range — 621 miles, to be exact. The body has a super-low drag coefficient of 0.17, better even than the super-slippery EQS sedan. Air is channeled under the body to help cool the battery, reducing reliance on power-sapping liquid cooling systems. Inside, the dashboard is a single bonded screen from A-pillar to A-pillar. Not only will some of the design elements seen here arrive on future Mercedes models, EVs with this new battery tech are slated for public consumption in 2024 or 2025.

These are some pretty slick dash cams.


Nextbase iQ dash cam

Not every automotive CES reveal comes from an automaker. Dash cams are an important way to keep your belongings safe, and to keep people’s stories straight in the event of a crash, and Nextbase has just rolled out a new line of smart dash cams.

The Nextbase iQ series promise integrated 4G LTE connectivity and a pair of cameras — a forward-facing lens captures footage up to 4K, while a cabin-facing one can record up to 1440p. It runs on voice commands, and the lack of a screen means it takes up less space on the windshield. Its data connectivity includes a new emergency-response feature that can send location data to emergency responders if an impact is detected and the driver does not respond. It can also tattle on valet drivers and, using built-in AI, help detect pedestrians and cyclists.

Ram ProMaster EV orders

The Ram ProMaster isn’t the prettiest work van on the block, but it’s capable as heck and gets the job done every time. It’s no wonder, then, that companies are signing up to scoop up the next-gen electric version.

At CES, Ram announced that Amazon will become the first commercial customer for the automaker’s forthcoming ProMaster battery-electric van, which is believed to hit the road in 2023. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares didn’t say how big the order was with specificity, just noting that “it’s a significant number.”

Sony Vision-S 02 SUV

We knew Sony had vehicular aspirations two years ago, when it first introduced the Vision-S sedan concept. Now, the tech company’s automotive hopes are beginning to take a clearer shape as it plays into the zeitgeist.

At CES 2022, Sony rolled out the Vision-S 02, an electric SUV that serves as a bigger analogue to the Vision-S. Roughly the same size as a Tesla Model Y, the Vision-S 02 utilizes a pair of 268-horsepower electric motors to move around its roughly 5,500-pound curb weight. The outside is slick, if a little anonymous, while the interior is half car, half content delivery machine, with a host of screens to stream content until your eyes cry out for moisture. Should the cars come to production, they’ll do so under the umbrella of Sony’s new mobility division.

Being able to communicate between off-roaders without an active cellular connection could be pretty darn helpful.


Stellantis STLA SmartCockpit

Stellantis, the 50-50 merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group, rolled into CES with a big announcement that will eventually affect all of the brands under its megacorp umbrella.

Stellantis announced that it will work with Amazon on the development of its STLA SmartCockpit digital platform. The platform isn’t just one thing; rather, it’s basically a diving board that will give each Stellantis brand the connectivity to develop unique features. For example, a Chrysler Pacifica may come with a connected road-trip planner, or a Jeep might offer off-road “coaching” over difficult terrain, all of which would be coming from the cloud. STLA SmartCockpit can also integrate with Alexa-enabled devices, allowing owners to fiddle with the car from the house, or vice-versa.

VinFast US battery factory

VinFast is a Vietnamese automaker that wants to join the ranks of global automakers, and in order to move beyond selling internal-combustion vehicles in its home country, the company is prepared to start breaking ground in new places.

During CES, VinFast announced that it will transition to an all-electric lineup starting in late 2022. In order to hone in on the US market, the automaker will build a battery factory in the US. It’ll start by building packs with cells from suppliers before breaking away on its own. The site location has not yet been decided upon, but VinFast said it should have a final decision ready this year.