January is an exciting time for both green technology and eco-friendly cars, as the Consumer Electronics Show segues into the Detroit Auto Show -- which just kicked off today! Inhabitat is on the scene at NAIAS 2013 to bring you the latest green car unveilings. So far, Mercedes-Benz launched its 2014 E Class Hybrid and Volkswagen showcased the Crossblue plug-in hybrid SUV. We also saw several breakthrough automotive technologies at CES 2013. Audi unveiled its new futuristic LED headlights, which the company claims will increase visibility and reduce the chances of a collision and Lexus unveiled a new high-tech autonomous vehicle that could pave the way towards self-driving cars. Also at CES, New York-based company CTA Digital unveiled the iPotty, a toddler potty that comes with a built-in iPad stand. Earlier last week, the state of Nevada followed California's lead and granted automakers permission to operate self-driving cars on public roads. In other green car news, Nissan announced that the 2013 Nissan Leaf will be more efficient, come with more features and charge in half the time as earlier models.
In the weird science department, scientists at UC Berkeley developed a small, fast robotic cockroach that's made from cardboard. Researchers from the University of Helsinki and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics created high-tech gloves that help you find what you're looking for by vibrating when you get close to the lost item. The French electronics company Parrot just unveiled the Flower Power, a new gizmo that monitors the moisture, sunlight, humidity, temperature and fertilizer conditions of your houseplants. And in perhaps the week's oddest story, the Dutch nonprofit Mars One announced that it is now accepting applications for a four-person Mars colony with hopes of establishing a permanent settlement on the Red Planet.
Is it feeling hot in here, or is it just us? The National Climate Data Center announced this week that 2012 was the hottest year on record, crushing the previous hottest year, 1998, by a full degree. The need to develop carbon-free energy sources is greater than ever, and Germany is leading the charge, breaking all previous solar installation records in 2012. But the German government's decision to cut subsidies on solar power is putting the future in doubt. In other green energy news, Nicaragua announced plans to produce 94 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2017 and South America's first solar thermal plant recently opened in Antofagasta, Chile. And UC Davis researchers figured out a way to engineer blue-green algae to make fuel from sunlight.
As 2013 kicks into gear, Inhabitat has been profiling some of the world's most exciting new green developments, ranging from small pavilions to soaring skyscrapers. In Milan, we shared an update this week on Bosco Verticale, a new high-rise development that will feature the world's first vertical forest with large trees growing from the balconies. Meanwhile, in Spain, organizers constructed a pavilion from 45,000 recycled milk cartons, winning the world record for a construction project using a recycled material. At Sweden's Icehotel, designers from Pinpin Studio carved a frosty suite with glowing UFOs made entirely out of ice. And architecture firm HWKN sent Wendy, the firm's spiky blue, smog-eating pavilion, across the globe for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.