While much of the emphasis at CES 2021 was focused on autonomy (and related sensors), artificial intelligence, and bigger-picture tech, there were still plenty of little gizmos on virtual display promising a brighter driving tomorrow. Gadgets that solve little problems, like why your phone sometimes doesn’t juice up properly in a Qi wireless charger, and how a WiFi camera can help you monitor precious trailer cargo or reverse a long rig into a tight spot, and even how to pay for gas or parking remotely. Here are five hot gizmos from this year’s non-show.
Sweet-Spot Qi Wireless Charger
Ever notice how sometimes when you toss your phone onto your car’s Qi wireless charger, it doesn’t always start charging (or maybe it gets hot but charges slowly)? That’s often because the ideal spot on your phone for picking up inductive charging hasn’t aligned ideally with the coil on the pad. Panasonic seeks to fix this problem with a moving coil that roves around under the surface of the pad to locate your phone’s sweet spot and commence charging at the fastest, most efficient location generating the least amount of waste heat possible.
True Wireless Wi-Fi Camera
Need to see when reversing that double-axle fifth-wheel camper into its berth? Want to keep an eye on the horses inside the trailer? Want to do it all on your vehicle’s nice big infotainment screen? Then check out Panasonic’s new True Wireless Wi-Fi Camera, which can beam a crisp 1080p picture at 60 frames/second and low (sub-80 millisecond) latency right to your screen. It’s powered by a battery that can be trickle-charged by hard wiring it to the trailer or vehicle, or recharged onboard via USB, mounts via suction cup or mechanical mount, and is dust-tight and waterproof to 1-meter depth for 30 minutes. At least initially it’s envisioned as an OE accessory item integrated into the user interface, and Panasonic has a customer signed to deliver the feature in the 2022-2023 timeframe. It’s unknown whether said customer will endeavor to program its system to stitch this camera’s image with those of other rear-facing cameras to provide “invisible trailer” view or not, but this is technically feasible.
Smoke/Vape/Chemical Weapons Detector
Zeeland, Michigan-based supplier Gentex started out in the smoke detector business and recently acquired Utah-based startup Vaporsens to double down on that area of expertise. The plan is to incorporate a new nanofiber technology developed by Vaporsens that employs a mesh net of nanofibers about 1/1,000th the size of a human hair. The fibers themselves are porous enough to absorb targeted molecules and identify them via subtle changes in electrical resistance. By incorporating such technology in the HVAC system or in overhead console sensors, a shared vehicle or robotaxi could narc on scofflaws who smoke or vape in a vehicle or potentially sense more dangerous substances brought into or left behind in a vehicle. In either case they could trigger Gentex-supplied driver monitoring and cabin sensing cameras to capture images of the perps.
Using Toll Tags to Buy Gas, Pay for Parking
New cars are gradually incorporating Integrated Toll Module devices into their windshield mirror assemblies, and now ITM supplier Gentex is working with PayByCar to enable contactless in-vehicle payment of other products and services like gas and parking. Pulling into a gas station, your car will be identified and your phone will get a message asking which pump you’re pulling up to, what grade of gas you want. After that, the system will then authorize that pump and automatically charge your preferred method of payment.
The program is just rolling out at gas stations on the East Coast.
META NanoWeb See-Through 5G Antenna
With the increasing popularity of hood-to-trunk glass windshield/roof/backlight designs, the problem of where to put an antenna arises. Here’s a handy solution: A see-through antenna. The magic that allows this nearly transparent antenna to work virtually as well as a metal one is its highly transparent metal mesh, which marks a huge improvement over previous metallic films like indium tin oxide (sometimes used in windshield defrosters). Optical transmission is up to 98 percent with no color tinting and minimal haze (less than one percent). It’s designed to receive frequencies from 400 MHz to 92 GHz (4G, 5G, XM Radio, etc.).