Large Chicago Auto Show sign

The Best Tech We Found at the Chicago Auto Show

We here at Booredatwork appreciate the fine qualities of an automobile, for sure. But we’re not really “car guys (and girls)” so to speak, so when we visit the nation’s largest auto show in Chicago, IL, we definitely geek out, but not so much about the cars. We’re all about tech here at Booredatwork, but we’re not really into drivetrains and carburetors. We’re not even sure if carburetors are still a thing, so when we headed to the Chicago Auto Show, our antenna perked up at all sorts of tech. Here’s what you can expect.

The Cars Themselves

Toyota RAV 4 Prime

Electric vehicles are definitely a theme this year with just about every car manufacturer bringing electric or hybrid electric cars. In fact, we found as many of them as we could. While the United States is very thoroughly a fossil-fuel culture, no doubt about it, EVs are making a strong push into our daily commutes. The jury is still out on whether or not this is a net environmental gain or loss, but for right now, it’s really cool technology.

The Chicago Auto Show features cars of all shapes and sizes in the EV category. Chances are if you want a car regardless of its primary function in your life, there’s an EV option. Of course, chances are also very good that they’re more expensive, but there’s one less excuse getting in the way of your electric car in 2020.

Inside the Cars

Dashboard featuring a very large display in a Dodge RAM truck

All of the cars at the Auto Show are packed with tech. We’re still not 100% positive how we feel about this, but just about every car you sit in has a screen on the dashboard. Some cars boast screens that take up the entire dashboard, others carry a single screen in the center console. Even the beefy pickup trucks that drive up and down 30 degree inclines and towed walls have touch screens. So let’s take a look at what’s on those screens.

Birds Eye View

This is not new, for sure, but bird’s eye view tech in cars like the Toyota Rav4 Prime really catch our eye. If you’re not familiar with the technology, a series of cameras around the car allow you to see what’s around you as if you’re floating above the car. If you want to know how close you are to the curb, or to the parked car in front of you, you can see that. This kind of tech makes it a lot easier to maneuver your car. For example, our RAV 4 test driver showed us how we could drive around traffic cones while using the technology. It’s just really cool. If you ever have the opportunity to have it on your car, we recommend it.

Android Auto and Apple Car Play

Dispaly showing Android Auto

As we mentioned earlier, just about every car at the show has a screen on the dashboard. Happily every car also has Android Auto and Apple Car play as an option. In most cars it was standard. This is really awesome since both auto interfaces have evolved into really nice ecosystems that can help make you a safer driver while still staying connected.

In our humble opinion, there’s really no reason to not offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay standard on every car, but things get complicated when money gets involved. Of course, if you currently have a car that does not have Android Auto or Apple Car play, we also have a recommendation for you. Going forward, you probably won’t need to upgrade.

Outside the cars

Interactive driving simulator

Of course, most of the technology at the show involved the cars, but there are a few experiences outside the cars that involve tech. Naturally, one of the more common experiences we saw were driving simulators. These simulators went from the basic chair-and-steering wheel setups to the super complex hydraulic systems that cost more than a house. And those were cool, but we didn’t find one that really did as good a job as actually driving a car. They are slow to respond to controls and it’s hard to stay on the road. Yes, it’s very likely that we just suck at driving them, but driving simulators weren’t the only tech we saw.

4D experience

A 4D driving experience with Oculus Rift and moving chairs.

One experience that really stands out is the Virtual Dynamics Adventure 4D Experience at Chevrolet. For this experience, you sit in a custom chair and put on an Oculus Rift headset. During the demo, you sit in the cars themselves and the chairs bounce around while you “drive” on rough dirt roads. You also fly alongside the vehicles as they cruise down the highway. If that was the bulk of the experience, we wouldn’t be writing about it.

During the experience, you not only get to see the cars, and feel the bumps in the road, but you also feel the breeze and smell the smells of a forest, or the coastline. The experience is exhilarating but be warned, we felt a little queasy at times. We’re no strangers to VR headsets but flying like a drone over a car on a curvy highway is quite disorienting. All the same, this 4D experience is next level and we highly recommend you give it a try.

Flip disc board

The flip disc board uses a camera to follow your movements.

Volkswagen has a nifty piece of tech over at its booth. The flip disc display by a company called Luster is made up of thousands of plastic discs that flip from white to black. It’s a shifting display that can depict just about anything you want on it, which is a neat trick. But, when you add a camera to the display, it can sense movement in front of the display and show that in all its pixelated glory on the display itself. We found ourselves walking back and forth in front of the display, waving our hands, and having all kinds of fun with it. It was a nice little extra touch, and one we hope to see more of in the future.


A playful brown labrador puppy.

Ok, so puppies are not technology, but Subaru had labrador puppies at its booth and they bring all the cute with them. The puppies are from Anderson Animal Shelter, a local animal shelter called based in South Elgin, IL. These playful pooches are available for adoption and if we’re totally honest, we came close to taking a new friend home with us.

The Chicago Auto Show is a great show for card enthusiasts, but even non-car folk can find plenty to keep themselves entertained. If you attend the show, be sure to check out all the tech we outlined above, and check out the electric vehicles while you’re at it.