Presidential visit to tech-savvy NAIAS


An Acura precision concept car

An Acura precision concept car showcased at the North American International Auto Show. Courtesy | Evans Koukios



During the revival of the auto industry, President Barack Obama visited Detroit and made his first visit to the North American International Auto Show, in late January.

New technology was a highlight for Michigan this week, and the automotive industry is behind the buzz with new auto show vehicle premieres, Willow Run plant testing facility plans, and automakers showcasing electric hybrid cars.

The Presidential limousine

The Presidential limousine was greeted by a small group of bystanders as it left NAIAS. Jenelle Franklin | Washtenaw Voice

The ZF automated driving display was the first stop for the president on his private tour of the American automobile side of the NAIAS. The tour shut down half of Cobo Center for Obama’s walkthrough from 12 – 4 p.m. Black curtains were erected along the aisle blocking all views from the public.

“The visit will cause mixed emotions,” said Ernest Porter, a security officer who had a 1 o’clock post along the curtain near the event entrance.

Upon entering, commuters who needed to take public transportation, parents with children in school, and time sensitive visitors were grumbling about missing out on seeing the American side of the auto show.

“It will put a damper on the early afternoon visits, but some will be happy because he came to see the American cars. It would be funny if he peaked his head through for just a second,” Porter said.

The technology spanned the floor of Cobo Center, with Volvo Concept 26 displaying a driver capable of reading a book while driving. The concept includes a self-retracting seat and steering wheel.

Across the show floor, Mercedes-Benz displayed a fleet of vehicles with autonomous safety features.

“Mercedes Benz has been a leader in safety incorporating the autonomous features.

It’s going to know if you are going to be in an accident and it moves the seat sideways for a side impact,” a Mercedes Benz product specialist said.

The 2017 GMC Acadia boasted a list of 10 high tech features, and the 2016 Yukon had a list of five new features. According to the Lexus product specialist, the Lexus LF-FC concept “was built for people who like to drive, and those who like to be driven.”

It comes with four bucket seats, cameras in place of mirrors, swiveling rear seat tray tables, and responds to hand motions.

The new 2017 Chevy Cruze.

The all-new 2017 Chevy Cruze. Courtesy | Evans Koukios

“Autonomous features are the wave of the future. I would say autonomous driving is mainstream in 10 to 15 years,” said Washtenaw Community College automotive body repair instructor, Scott Malnar. He has his eye for detail on the 2016 Lincoln Continental, which will be released with a voice command center, rear hinged “suicide” style doors, and multiple Ecoboost engine options.

The WCC Automotive Department has been part of distinguished projects with both GM and Ford, bringing in engineers to work with students. Because of the quality of the students’ work, their vehicles have been featured in Car and Driver magazine, and on the TV show “Rides;” featuring the Ford Five Hundred GT-R, boasting a $500,000 price tag.

Three universities, including the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State all brought their latest championship winning cars. From Solar technology to international diagnostic champion precision, students from all of the automotive technology fields were looking forward to their next trophies.

The students reported that some of the cars brought to NAIAS may be seen battling it out at the Formula Michigan race this upcoming May 11 – 14 in Brooklyn.

Just after 3:30 p.m., and once the President had his fill of American innovation, his presidential motorcade left the auto show mostly unobserved, and only a small crowd gathered near Fort Street to see Obama continue on to give his speech at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources in Detroit.



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