This year's CES showed that commuter and luxury cars are undergoing a small digital revolution – from Volkswagen's gesture control, to BMW's future interaction, to Audi's virtual dashboard. Even high-end sports cars got in on the action. Aston Martin collaborated with LeTV in adding some serious screen space to its Rapide S.
A Chinese tech company with its hand in everything from Web streaming to smartphones, LeTV is hellbent on going after Tesla in the performance electric car market. In addition to its work with Aston Martin, it's teased its own "Le Supercar" ahead of an anticipated 2016 Beijing Motor Show debut and is also working with CES showstopper Faraday Future.
Not that it really has much experience with cars. Bloomberg reported LeTV's Tesla-fighting ambitions in December 2014, saying that it had been developing an electric car for about a year and was seeking a license to manufacture in China. After putting together a team of auto industry veterans, LeTV made its first auto-specific product release, the Autolink system, in November 2015.
Not long after that debut, LeTV signed a memorandum of understanding with Aston Martin on December 3, firming up plans to collaborate on research projects, including those relating to the development of EVs. The parties quickly followed up with a Rapide S show car at last week's CES, just a few days after LeTV appeared on stage with Faraday Future.
If the Rapide S CES concept is any indication, LeTV has money to burn on its multifaceted electric vehicle development program but not enough hard time spent in R&D. The "Internet of the Vehicle" IOV system in the Rapide S somehow manages to look even rougher than its name would suggest.
Not to say that the combination of tablet-like 13.3-in center console touchscreen and 12.2-in instrument panel couldn't look good in a Rapide sedan – say, perhaps, an all-electric RapidE with its sights set on the very same Tesla that LeTV is gunning for. It'll need some serious refinement, though. The infotainment screen looks like they just slapped an off-the-shelf tablet over a Rapide center console blank, and the digital gauge arch looks comically rudimentary and underdeveloped. Buyers investing in an Aston Martin are quite right in expecting a whole lot more.
But it's only the beginning of the project, and if Aston really does plan on putting an LeTV-designed system in a production car, it can wait for its Chinese partner to get things right.
LeTV says the current system supports speech recognition, its LeCloud service and remote monitoring.
"Aston Martin is renowned for the beauty and quality of its hand-crafted cars," comments Aston CEO Dr. Andrew Palmer. "The integration of LeTV advanced connected technologies into this bespoke environment is a natural progression as we look to the future demands of our customers."
Notice he didn't say "the integration of this IOV system." This iteration isn't getting anywhere near an Aston production car's "bespoke environment."