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The 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show showcased new trends in technology, styling, sizing, electrification, autonomous driving, as well as allowing visitors to enjoy the great outdoors with family or furry friends. 

“We’re excited to open the LA Auto Show doors to the public, where there is truly something for everyone. Guests to the show can check out the latest vehicles, including the more than 65 debut vehicles that were introduced at our press and trade event, AutoMobility LA,” says Alexis Evans, director of communications at the Los Angeles Auto Show and AutoMobility LA.

Electrifying & Spacing Out

The LA Auto show estimated that 38 per cent of the vehicles premiering are hybrid or electric. Electric cars and charging providers, including Electric America, seem to be everywhere.

“At this year’s LA Auto Show there is a trend of more electrification. The move toward electrification is not just for electric cars but to enhance the other attributes of the vehicle like performance and towing capabilities,” says Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst Navigant Research, who was impressed by the Volkswagen ID. Space Vizzion concept, because he has owned station wagons in the past.

The ID. Space Vizzion is an entirely new shape, not quite SUV but ready for some fun in the sun. The glass sunroof has technology that completely darkens and shades the cabin. Electric longboards and helmets for two are encased in the liftback trunk for last-mile transport.

“I would not call it a station wagon. It’s defining its own segment. You have a higher feeling like an SUV, It’s taking the different strengths of segments and combining them into a new one,” says Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design at Volkswagen.

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One reporter suggested calling the ID. Vizzion a ‘space wagon’, to which Bischoff replied, ”We didn’t give the Beetle its name. We expect people will give the ID. Space its name over time.”

The newer SUVs are looking more like sports cars. In fact, in announcing the Mustang Mach-E, Ford designer Hau Thai-Tang said that the Mach-E has a ‘fastback’. Newer SUVs and concepts have coupe styling features.

ICE, Hybrid, Plug-in Battery of Fuel Cell?

Many car companies are grappling with the decision to stay with internal combustion engine, hybrid or electric. Hyundai’s solution is to do it all.

Hyundai plans thirteen hybrid green vehicles of some sort by 2022.

“We’re the leader and hydrogen fuel cells. We’ve got plug-in hybrids we’ve got all-electric. We’re spreading our bets very smartly. We still see a future for internal combustion. We see a really interesting future for hydrogen the most abundant element on Earth and we see a lot of opportunity for electric and hybrids and fuel cells,” says Jim Trainor, Director of Communications for Hyundai.

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To Grille or Not to Grille

When Ford announced the Mustang Mach-E there are two grille options but they are not really grilles. Mach-E’s, other than the GT’s, have body-coloured plastic with the Mustang emblem in the middle instead of a grille. The Mustang Mach-e GT has a faux honeycomb grille with a smooth clear cover for aerodynamics.

Some automakers are making grilles even though electric cars don’t need the venting like gas-powered engines do. Some grilles remain for just branding.

‘Vision Mercedes Simplex’, an electric version of one of Mercedes’ first models, has an electric radiator grille: “a symbol of digital transformation.” The name Mercedes appears on a black panel/3D display with animations. The concept vehicle is called ‘hyper analogue’. While the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the silver three-pointed star circle is emblazoned on a black panel grille,

The MINI Cooper SE electric has an emblem-looking chrome plug piece in the front. It can be clearly seen from outside the centre, hanging from the side of the building.

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Hyundai’s concept Vision T Plugin Hybrid has an electric parametric rotating grille; when the car is stopped the grille is closed. Once in motion, the grille cells move dynamically controlling airflow to the powertrain, optimizing aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

Head-Ups to New Lighting

The other thing that can be noticed while walking the floor is that headlights don’t look like headlights any more. Recessed headlights are totally in vogue on the show floor, especially in sports cars. An engineer on the floor, during the Karma SC2 launch, commented that the recessed headlights are aerodynamically superior.

The Hyundai Vision T Plugin concept headlights look like there are no lights at all because of the lamps hidden under the grille with a half-mirror system that “transforms into functional lighting on demand.”

The recessing of the lights could be for area aerodynamics but there is more behind lighting design.

“The lights bring in a new sort of identity because now we have this more naked front without a grille such as with the Porsche Taycan where you can see a kind of passion,” says Samuel Chuffart, Global Design Director, Icona Designs.

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Opening Up New Doors to Innovation

It wasn’t apparent how to open up many of the car doors on the show floor, some which did not have handles at all. There is more than one way to open up a door. The Karma SC2 concept has doors that fly up and out.

“I love the scissor doors, but I have to deliver them. We have a driver forward of the instrument panel, that drives a gear that we’ve designed in house. The gear gives you the entire travel of the door. First, it swings out, then it swings up and we call that a scissor-hatch,” says Karma’s VP of Engineering, Todd George.

There are sensors to stop the doors from opening if there is not enough space. The identity of the person is verified through thumbprint and retina identification; when the car recognises the driver, the Karma will open the door.

The Mustang Mach-E has doors in which you can barely find the handles. There is a push button in the frame above the window sill. Upon activation, an actuator opens a little and the handle that pops out on top of the front window sills. There are no handles on the back doors.

The VW ID. Space Vizzon currently does not have door handles. Touch lights are embedded in the doors. However, Bischoff noted that Volkswagen wants to make the car affordable and the final production version may have door handles when it is introduced in 2021.

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Autonomous Driving in the Background

Tools for the future of autonomous driving were shown at Automobility LA in a test vehicle and at an executive seminar.

Autonomous driving creates massive amounts of data that has to be identified and analysed. Elektrobit gave test drives of in Elektrobit’s EB Assist Test Lab outfitted with numerous lidar, sensors and radar. Test drivers either on earthly or virtual roads can identify situations through the interface. The cloud-connected database tool enables faster management of collecting processing, identifying and finding data.

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“The pace of innovation in the automotive sector with the emergence of autonomous capabilities has never been greater and the LA Auto show offers an opportunity to see and hear firsthand from those at the forefront of that innovation, ” said Gary Silberg, KPMG partner and national automotive practice leader. 

Executives were treated to a demonstration by Danny Shapiro, NVIDIA’s senior director of automotive. NVIDIA’s NDRIVE Constellation platform can create multiple simulation scenarios of unknown situations in driving racking up billions of miles of information. It has 1,000 employees identifying data.

“The problem with human test drivers is that they take over in an unknown situation. In simulations unknown scenarios can be tested,” says Shapiro.

No-Show Controversies

Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, staff and commissioners announced via a media conference call that they will not be attending the LA Auto Show. She called Honda, VW, BMW and Ford the “Fabulous Four” for agreeing to the stricter California emission standards.

“The decision not to attend the LA Auto Show is a direct response to the action taken last month by 15 automakers, including GM and Toyota, and the National Automobile Dealers Association, to side with the Trump administration in its effort to eviscerate California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own vehicle emissions standards,” a CARB news release stated.

Volvo is also a no-show. Last year, Volvo made news by stating they would not be showing cars – only apps and selling subscriptions. This year Volvo did not show up at all.

Show Me… The Show

Most importantly it’s called the LA Auto Show and there is plenty more than cars to be experiences at the show.

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Many displays remind visitors of the great outdoors and what fun they will have in their vehicles, camping, off-roading or travelling. Subaru created an indoor National Park complete with geysers and snow.

Dog lovers may be sad to see the loss of last year’s pet kissing booth, however, there is spacious pet rendezvous ‘meet-n-greet corral’ with picnic tables for visitors to pet or play with dogs and other adoptable fur-ever friends.

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In the main entrance of the South Hall of the convention centre, visitors can see a Bugatti made out of Legos and construct a play vehicle out of Legos. Hyundai is also offering the Hyundai Racing Challenge with individual racing cockpits.

Those who love to sing in their cars can hop into a Land Rover for Carpool Karaoke in the south lobby.

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The Jaguar Land Rover exhibit space not only has a VR racing game but visitors can be strapped into a vibrating seat, buckled into a heavy-duty harness get their bums shaken while wearing VR headsets perceiving a virtual helicopter ride to snap photos of a Land Rover Defender in action.

On the outside patio, the Ford STEAM Machine offers experiments and fun games that teach children about air pressure, kinetic energy, magnetism, Newton’s laws of motion, and more.

“There will be plenty of interactive experiences including virtual reality gaming, climbing walls and celebrity appearances. There will also be many cool Instagrammable moments, including Guinevere, the van from the upcoming Netflix, Disney, Pixar (film), Onward.

“This year we have introduced the EV|LA Lounge, which will feature education and resources for visitors,” says Alexis Evans, director of communications at the Los Angeles Auto Show and AutoMobility LA, who is clearly excited about this year’s show. 

“We look forward to welcoming everyone,” adds Evans.

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