The international motor show currently filling exhibition space in Geneva is famous mostly for being the first time humans clap eyes on a millionaire’s garage of gas-snorting supercars. Yearly.
But we dug a little bit deeper and, alongside the sub-three-second-to-62mph arms race, was a miscellany of genuinely interesting, innovative new car tech. Like this stuff, for instance…
1.) The Car With the Light Overcoat
That image up top is engineering firm EDAG collaborating with ruddy-cheeked, outdoorsy clothing chap and friend of young people Jack Wolfskin to produce this “Light Cocoon” concept. Let's give it a twirl…
It’s a fancy way of saying that the car is essentially clothed in Mr Wolfskin’s finest material – in this case a lightweight weatherproof fabric which might ordinarily be cut and stitched into a parka or bomber jacket.
The “Texapore Softshell”, which is one-quarter the weight of standard copy paper, is wrapped over a 3D-printed shell, with lights inexplicably then shone through it. Looks terrific. Not sure how it performs in high speed, see-you-at-St-Peter’s-Gates crashes, though.
2.) The Car With the Backseat Workouts
Audi’s Gea concept is not missing the fitness trick, including a full back-seat gym set-up supplied by TechnoGym. Seriously, this is A Thing.
Handles pop out of compartments on the arm rests for upper body routines and two flat boards have been fitted to the floor for lower limbs, stepping and whatnot. Monitors even display video tutorials. Good grief.
3.) The Car With the Hologrammatic Dash
Lexus’s LF-SA concept – that’s short for Lexus Future Small Adventurer, obvs – sports a “black-bevelled hologram display” on the dash, with a hologram-style digital screen inside and a large head-up display that shows various vehicle read-outs.
In practice, this appears to be a slight 3D effect where the speedo turns through 180˚ on the horizontal plane once the car gets going. Although, in fairness, when pushed, the Lexus rep told us: “Certain features are more imagination than reality.” Hmm.
4.) The Car that Scans the Road With Lasers
Swiss car scribblers Rinspeed’s Budii concept not only has the wackiest of names, but also a telescopic, roof-mounted laser scanner which maps out the road ahead and adjusts the suspension on the fly to best the UK’s vexing miscellany of rocks and potholes. It’ll even avoid rocks in the road automatically.
There’s an integral watch winder on the dash – how wonderfully “Swiss” of them – the steering wheel moves to the other side for if your passenger fancies a go and it’s autonomous, too, naturally.
5.) The Car With the Most Reflective Paint on the Planet
Aston Martin surprised all in attendance by debuting its all-electric, all-wheel-drive, all-Premier-League-footballer DBX concept, and it had three interesting world firsts – the first being a whole new kind of paint.
Called “black pearl chromium”, it’s designed to mimic the look of a genuine black pearl by adding a micro-fine layer of chrome, resulting in a level of reflectivity that cannot be obtained through normal paint finishes – hence the ultra-reflective, ultra-gorgeous supercar above…
6.) The Car With Smart Glass (Not Smartglass)
Still on an Aston tip, the toughened glass in the DBX also incorporates an auto-dimming “smart glass” inter-layer sandwiched between ordinary glass, adding to what the firm describes as the “cocooning ambience” of the cab.
All we need now is some sun to test it out. And a DBX. Or two.
7.) The Car with Heads-up Displays For All the Family
Third time's a charm for the Aston innovation team as it also released info about the DBX's bespoke heads-up displays for drivers and passengers.
The driver’s, presumably, will be boring stuff like current speed, fuel reserves and speed limits. The passenger, however, will be able to watch TV, surf the web and WhatsSpp their mates: “I’m in an Aston! *raising both hands in celebration*”
8.) The Car that Uses Biometric Data to Plan Your Route
Volkswagen's Sport Coupé Concept GTE introduces biometric sensor reading alongside its “3D” dash, a patented ambient light with a three-dimensional effect which makes the dials seem to hover in the virtual space.
Sensors from a smartwatch or armband are interpreted by the car and it plans your route accordingly, selecting “an ambitious and winding country road, or a gentle route instead”.
It takes a baseline reading from the sensor as soon as you enter navigation mode. So the car interacts directly with the driver, they say? Don’t get in straight after a jog, then, eh? Your raised heartbeat will send you around all the houses on your way to Asda.
9.) The Car that Uses Biometric Data to Keep You Safe
Hyundai’s Tucson 48V Hybrid Concept also syncs with smartwatch sensors or some kind of health band to make good use of biometrics, but this time for safety.
The car assesses your current physical state based on heart rate and undefined “alertness” to recommend rest periods. Sending alerts to the watch could alert the driver about blind spot encroachment or even link to navigation: one buzz for left, two for right.
10.) The Car Running on Two Tanks of Ionic Liquid
The Quant F is a beautiful eco-car produced by a company called NanoFlowcell, but its claims are enormously impressive/a bit suspicious.
Rather than a conventional battery or fuel cell, the electric power train gets its juice from two tanks of ionic liquids: one positively charged, the other negative. When the two mix, they produce energy, resulting in a 0-62mph dash of 2.8 seconds, top speed of 186mph and range of 500 miles.
The only hitch? No one outside of the company has seen it working, resulting in legion of exclamations of *cough* “Bullshit!” *cough* from the back of the automotive industry. If it works, it’ll be a game changer. And if wishes were horses…
11.) The Car Made Out of Graphene
Spanish supercar manufacturer Spania claim to be the first car maker in the world to incorporate space-age material graphene into the structure of a car – in this case, the delicious GTA Spano.
Graphene is an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms, so it’s incredibly strong and impossibly light. Spania has, therefore, incorporated it wherever they can, into components including the chassis, bodywork and even the leather. Somehow.
12.) The Car With the 'Drift' Button
With the Focus RS hot hatch, Ford hope to put drifting within the grasp of ordinary drivers, not just Ridge Racer players and Japanese chaps in modified Mazda RX-7s and Skylines.
Hence the “drift” button, a mode which makes the all-wheel-drive easier to oversteer – drifting is essentially purposefully losing traction, very difficult in a four-wheel drive car – so this mode sends 70 per cent of torque to the back tyres. Brilliantly, Ford are going to have to disable it in some territories such as Australia, home of suicidal hooning.