As I previously mentioned, I was recently in Detroit (my first time to Detroit since I was a teenager) to see what Ford has been working on. That trip took me (and over 150 other media from all over the world) to the North American International Auto Show (aka NAIAS). It doesn’t get much bigger on this continent than this event in the car world.
The first day started very early (especially with the time change for me). We headed to Cobo Hall and then walked over to Joe Louis Arena for the Ford press conference. I’ve been to plenty of auto shows in the past, but nothing of this scale.
We arrived just as they were beginning. It was a very impressive show for what would only be about 20 minutes long.
As the various executives discussed the new models, the excitement was building for the unveiling of the all new F-150 truck. As they mentioned it, the trucks crashed through the walls and stopped perfectly on the stage.
After that, we headed back to the main building next door to check out the Behind the Blue Oval experience at NAIAS. This was a giant convention room divided into various sections.
Here we got to hear a number of more detailed presentations on the innovations that Ford has been working on. After the presentations, we could explore the various sections in the room that were dedicated to the topics discussed.
We even had a Q&A session with Ford’s CEO, Allan Mulally.
My favorite area was the 3D printing corner (which I covered in my recent post). Also in this corner was Ford’s take on the autonomous vehicle – the self-driving car. Using various forms of radar and sensing technology, this car can navigate the real world without a driver. It’s still in the research stage but it’s a very exciting technology that many companies are trying to figure out.
Throughout the Blue Oval space was various booths and displays. There were things you expected to see like concept cars, like this Ford Edge:
A fun Mustang inspired pool table:
And the hero car from the upcoming Need For Speed movie:
But also things like the latest in law enforcement technology built into this Intercepter:
It has sensors that will close the windows and lock the doors if someone was to approach it from behind.
There was also a large display that featured a scale model Mustang being sculpted in clay.
There was also a few unexpected displays. Like this pregnancy suit that the designers wear to test out how comfortable the vehicle interiors are while they design them:
A favourite among my fellow media folks was the ‘candy conveyor’ although it started out in the morning dispensing healthier options before being replaced in the afternoon with chocolate bars and licorice:
We then headed out onto the main auto show floor. Like I said before, I’ve never seen anything quite the scale of this. It was the media preview portion of the auto show so it wasn’t open to the public yet but it was still very busy.
Everywhere you turned, there was another company unveiling their latest vehicles and the media capturing it all.
One thing I noticed as I made my way around the show floor was the size of Ford’s presence compared to the others. I’m not just saying that because they were my host.
It may be due to that fact that it’s their home turf but the Ford area was massive. It was even multilevel as the Mustang museum in the middle of their booth was upstairs and featured classic Mustangs down below.
They also had a huge display of their factory robots demoing their precision work:
Interactive displays are always my favourite and they had an impressive Focus ST Simulator that you and a friend could race each other in:
Here’s my not-so-stellar race from the perspective of my Google Glass:
A crazy amount of fun!
Of course, I also got to check out the other cars on the show floor. Here’s a gallery of some of the others making an appearance in Detroit for 2014:
At dinner that night (held in the convention center), we got a sneak peak at the new Need For Speed movie that comes out in March.
The director, Scott Waugh, and one of the stars, Scott Mescudi (aka Kid Cudi) were on hand to give some background to the movie before our preview and some photo opps afterwards.
I had seen the teaser trailer for it and while it looked interesting (I’ve played the crap out of the videogames), it wasn’t my thing. That is until the director mentioned that there is no computer generated effects in the movie…it’s all real stunts. That immediately changed my interest level in the movie as some of the stunts I saw were very impressive and almost hard to believe they were done in camera.
The second day of the event was spent in nearby Dearborn at the Research and Engineering Center
In addition to the tour of the 3D printing facilities, I also got a tour Ford’s virtual reality studio where they do early prototyping without making a single part.
It lets engineers experience the vehicles in realtime and make iterations on the fly. Using the latest technology right out of film and video game industries, the virtual reality studio is basically a motion capture stage.
You wear a helmet that has a high resolution display inside and tracking nodes on top (similar to the Occulus Rift but much higher resolution). Sensors around the room track your movement and it’s basically like being in the Holodeck.
You can move around the room (which looks hilarious to those not immersed in the VR) and walk around the virtual car. You can even move through it, look under the hood, just like it was really in front of you.
They have another studio with a mockup of the vehicle’s interior. This lets engineers sit in the vehicle and reach for virtual controls and still get some tactile feedback from the physical interior they are sitting in.
It was incredibly real with the combination of large projection screen and the displays inside the helmet. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced in terms of virtual reality.
It was an amazing trip and I got to meet a lot of new friends while seeing a ton of new technology. My huge thanks to the Ford Motor Company for having me as their guest during the Auto Show.
As usual, you can see more photos from this trip on Flickr.
Disclosure: The Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations at the three-day NAIAS Digital Summit in Detroit. I was not compensated in any other manner for my time. My opinions posted here are my own.