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2016 is the year CES became the high-tech auto show

The cars for everyone are showing up in the desert.

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Cars have been a part of CES for a while. But they've always been a bit of an afterthought, pushed to the back corners of the north hall behind the iPhone cases. The last few years though, the automotive industry has undergone a renaissance of innovation. Forget about the drones and Internet of Things. Wheels have become far more important than propellers and expensive light switches. And with all the unveilings and proclamations about the future of transportation it's become crystal clear: CES is officially an auto show.

It's not the show where you'll see a new Toyota Camry introduced. The traditional events in Detroit, Tokyo and Los Angeles (but mostly Detroit) will still handle those. Instead CES attendees will line up to see a car that's making news not because of its zero-to-60 time or horsepower, but because integrates itself into our lives in a way we haven't seen since the smartphone revolution.

In fact, the ever quickening evolution of transportation has been large enough to birth a new car company: Faraday Future. It used CES to unveil its completely insane concept car. But more importantly, it talked about its Variable Platform Architecture. It's a way of building multiple car variations upon a single frame thanks to a modular battery and interchangeable motor configuration. It's the company's "OS." A core that can built upon.

Even Volkswagen, still reeling and apologetic about the TDI fiasco, used the electronics show show its commitment to electric vehicles. It introduced a system similar to Faraday's and a fast-charging battery technology in its BUDD-e concept. Volkswagen CEO Hertbert Diess also said, "the BUDD-e is the first car in the Internet of Things." Imagine that being said in Detroit. At CES, it caused a buzz.

Then one of the most important cars in the transition from gasoline to electric was introduced. The 200-mile range Chevy Bolt EV is the electric vehicle the rest of us can afford. Well not all of us, but at about $30,000 (after federal tax credits) it's within the reach of far larger audience than the Tesla. Plus it will be available by the end of the year.

As a society we used to talk about a car's horsepower. Then the roads became increasingly crowded and all that power and fun was slowly drained from the experience. Cars are now less of a reflection of a person's personality and more of a tool to slog though the unending traffic that clogs our cities. The next automotive wave aims to make driving fun again.

The automakers at CES are not only trying to reduce traffic with autonomy and make the world greener, they're also giving customers the ability to tailor the interior experience with customizable dashboards, apps and connectivity to their smart homes. They also took this opportunity to temper enthusiasm for autonomous driving. Spoiler: It's going to take a lot longer than you think.

Next week at the Detroit auto show, high-powered cars will be introduced. Trucks that can haul the equivalent of a small house. Sports cars that can go from zero-to-60 in less time than it takes to read this sentence will grab headlines in the automotive press. But the tech that will be powering the future of transportation, that belongs to CES.

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