4 CES announcements fleet managers need to know about

The lines between the automotive and IT industries have been blurring for years now and few events confirm these trends like CES (Consumer Electronics Show) which has just got underway in Las Vegas. 

CES has been taken over by the world's automotive manufacturers.

Despite its focus on tech-related trends and developments, many of the headline-stealing gadgets announced so far concern the automotive industry. Australia's fleet managers will need to take note, especially as some of the most advanced products on display are promising to greatly increase vehicle safety. 

So far, many of the major developments represent a continuation of established trends, with connected cars, autonomous vehicles and touch-screen controls all making an appearance. 

Here are four upcoming products that will have the biggest influence on the way Australian fleet managers operate.

1. Tech tackles distracted drivers

It's no secret that tired and distracted motorists can be just as dangerous as those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, while breathalysers and other equipment can confirm the presence of illicit substances in a driver's system, it can be much harder to tell if someone is too tired to be behind the wheel. 

Automotive technology producer HARMAN believes it has the answer, with the company debuting a system at CES which can track and monitor drivers' pupils. The system specifically observes pupil dilation, which the company states is a key indicator of cognitive workload and an accurate sign of a driver's mental condition. 

As HARMAN is an independent provider of electronic equipment for vehicles, the technology is unlikely to be brand-specific, so there is a chance fleet managers can secure the technology no matter what cars they purchase. Vice President of Technology Strategy Alon Atsmon believes these systems will be valuable for both drivers and fleet managers. 

"Our priority is to arm OEMs with a holistic range of integrated technologies that address both driver wants and needs, and the HARMAN eye and pupil tracking technology is another advanced step toward a more intelligent driving experience," he explained. 

Distracted drivers are dangerous. Distracted drivers are dangerous.

2. Ford embraces autonomous challenge

CES 2016 is home to a range of Ford's latest developments, with the firm highlighting its commitment to a future dominated by connected and autonomous cars. 

Possibly the most notable announcement the marque made at CES concerns the expansion of its autonomous fleet. For research and development purposes, Ford will triple its test fleet of Ford Fusion hybrids. In total, there will be 30 of the green cars tested across the US. 

While the technology needed to support autonomous vehicles is already considered fairly competent, many of the algorithms that dictate how these cars behave need to tweaked. According to Executive Vice President Raj Nair, this issue can only be resolved with more experience in real-world conditions. 

"With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter," he explained. 

Ford also announced at CES that its vehicles would be world leaders in merging smart cars with smart homes. The company's SYNC Connect technology is able to communicate with Amazon Echo and Alexa, allowing drivers to schedule engine start times or confirm if they remembered to shut the garage door. 

3. BMW offers a glimpse at a touch-less future 

While many cars are only just catching up to the touchscreen revolution prompted by smartphones and similar devices, some manufacturers are already moving on. BMW announced its alternative to clumsy buttons and touchscreens that can be more of a hindrance than a help. 

Some manufacturers are already moving on from touchscreens.

Dubbed gesture control, the technology allows drivers to interact with the car's interior functions without having to touch buttons or surfaces. The show model that housed this technology is the i Vision Future Interaction concept car, based on the company's revolutionary i8 hybrid sports car. 

As well as pioneering gesture controls, the concept car is also adorned with other technologies likely to be significant for vehicles in the future. The i Vision Future Interaction concept carries the theme of connected cars, with BMW stating that it possesses the ability to connect with other vehicles and homes. 

If put into production, the i Vision Future Interaction concept would be an important link between developing tech trends such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things and the automotive industry. 

4. Smart cars for smarter fleet management

Always one to be at the forefront of automotive innovation, Volvo has also increased its focus on connected cars and the benefits they may bring to fleet managers and their drivers. Microsoft's smart wristband the Bend 2 will enable Volvo owners to talk to their cars. 

The list of useful functions includes being able to start the heaters before people enter, setting a route on the navigation system and locking the car. 

With the world's automotive manufacturers well and truly taking over CES 2016, smarter cars are likely to remain a focus for the industry in the future.