2014 CES connected carmakers image

Although traditionally the Detroit Auto Show has been the first venue of the year for automakers, the annual Consumer Electronics Show has increasingly upended that role, as this year eight different manufacturers trumpeting their presence in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This year’s CES saw brands like Audi, Chevrolet, Toyota and Kia cover a wide spectrum of high-tech topics, from advanced lighting to in-car entertainment, as well as what has become one of the most talked-about technologies in some time: autonomous driving.

BMW used CES to detail its state of autonomous driving, bringing attendees up to the nearby Las Vegas Motor Speedway to watch as a 6-Series and a prototype of the upcoming M235i handled the big course in fully autonomously mode, braking, accelerating and even maneuvering a short slalom.

Audi also had autonomous driving in mind as it began its own presentation with a driverless car pulling on stage, but the highlight of its news conference was the new Audi Sport Quattro Laserlight concept. A step beyond the LED lights only now becoming common in the automotive market, the show car’s laser headlamps can light up the road for nearly a third of a mile, far more than any competing technology.

Chevrolet used its time in the spotlight to announce it would begin building new 4G LTE hotspots into virtually all of its products, starting in 2015, in partnership with AT&T. They also debuted a new Performance Data Recorder with internal camera, microphone and telemetry system for the Corvette.

One of the more intriguing developments at CES was news that Google would gain a foothold in the fast-growing infotainment world, Audi, General Motor, Honda and Hyundai signing on with the new Open Automotive Alliance that will be based around the tech giant’s Android operating system.

Kia, meanwhile, showed a couple of concepts at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that can be used with its UVO system.

Toyota generated buzz with the U.S. unveiling of its new FCV, a concept version of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle it plans to put on the market in 2015. They also brought two battery cars, the ultra compact electric i-Road and the FV2, the latter deemed a model for the connected future.

Ford showed that battery cars don’t have to be tied to the plug, meanwhile, unveiling the C-Max Solar Energi Concept, an extended-range electric vehicle that can alternatively draw its power from the sun.