The future of driving: CES 2020 gives us a glimpse at the cars of tomorrow

(Image credit: Continental)

An instrument, a conference room, and an entertainment center. According to Continental, the cars of tomorrow will be all these things and more.

At CES 2020 in Las Vegas, the German car software and hardware manufacturer presented its vision for the automotive industry, in which consumer technology blends seamlessly into our cars, making our journeys more personalized, holistic, and ultimately, connected.

Speaking to press, a spokesperson for Continental said that “this is the largest transformation the automotive industry has seen since its birth”, as the company announced a number of innovative new technologies it would be bringing to the table.

More than a vehicle

One of the most exciting new technologies comes as part of a new partnership with Sennheiser, which brings immersive Ambeo 3D audio to your car – and in turn, transforms your humble vehicle into an instrument, negating the need for space-consuming speaker systems. 

Continental’s Ac2ated Sound system uses specially designed actuators to "excite" specific surfaces in a vehicle, using the resonant areas of the car to amplify sounds being created by vibrating the vehicle's interior. In theory, this will create a bespoke, immersive audio experience, all in the comfort of your car. 

Another new technology shown off at the tech show was Natural 3D Centerstack, which turns the display on your car's dashboard into a 3D experience – without the need for special glasses or head tracker cameras. 

It works by emitting a lightfield that gives a 3D impression of the information on the center console display in your car, in 4K resolution – for example, accepting a call could generate a 3D hologram-like avatar of the caller.

According to Continental, the display board can also be operated by touch and provides haptic feedback, increasing "convenience and safety". 

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

Is it safe?

While the idea of a car that doubles up as an entertainment center admittedly sounds cool and futuristic, it does raise questions around safety – driver distraction is already a big problem, accounting for 8.5% of fatal crashes in the US in 2019.

With bleeping smartphones, crying children, and confusing sat-nav directions, our vehicles are already driving us to distraction. So, do we really need more sensory overload with immersive sound systems and holograms bursting from our dashboards?

For its part, Continental is confident in the safety of these new technologies, and believes that they will improve transportation for the better – not just for the individual either, but for entire communities with truly connected cities and mobility solutions that work for everyone. 

It's even launched an Automotive Security Operations Center, which monitors data sent by cars to the cloud, looking out for cyber attacks, and enhancing the security of our increasingly connected vehicles. 

Continental is shaking up the automotive industry for sure, but it's arguably long overdue – since its invention in 1886, the car arguably hasn't truly evolved from a simple mode of transportation to get us from A to B, innovations in safety and functionality aside. 

However, if Continental's vision of the future turns out to be accurate, it could soon be so much more. 

  • Check out all of TechRadar's CES 2020 coverage. We're live in Las Vegas to bring you all the breaking tech news and launches, plus hands-on reviews of everything from 8K TVs and foldable displays to new phones, laptops and smart home gadgets.
Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.