Visitors to the Chicago Auto Show can check out the newly redesigned Ford Mustang, dance with Kia's hip hop hamsters and marvel at technology that could enable their refrigerators to sense when they are low on milk and signal their cars to point out they should pick up a carton when they drive near a supermarket.

They will have the opportunity to drive new models that will not hit showroom floors for months around three indoor test tracks and six outdoor test tracks. They could drive Toyota trucks on a proving ground that includes a hill, a water crossing and a teeter totter.

"Last year, more than 75,000 people took part in our test tracks or test drives," said John Webb, 2014 Chicago Auto Show co-chairman. "It's a great way to experience the show and learn about the capabilities of different vehicles."

The 106th annual auto show starts Saturday and will continue through Feb. 17. More than 1 million square feet in the North and South Exhibit Halls of McCormick Place will be devoted to automakers' latest offerings.

More than 1,000 vehicles will be on display. Visitors can see the full range of new passenger cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and concept cars, such as the Cadillac Elmiraj, the BMW I8 Hybrid and the Ford C-Max Solar Energi.

They can get behind the wheel in racing simulators, and they cut a rock music video at a Hyundai kiosk. A supercar garage will feature ultra-luxury performance cars, such as Aston Martins, Bugattis, Fierraris and Lamborghinis.

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"Those are always a huge attraction in the Midwest," said Mark Bilek, director of communications and technology for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association. "You can see cars you never see outside of Beverly Hills or on Fifth Avenue. It's nice to be able to see them here."

For no additional charge, visitors can visit the South Hall and drop by the Connected World Conference, which highlights connected technologies, such as ones that allow people to sync their smartphones to their cars and perform Google voice searches.

"There's a lot of advanced technology, and we hope to educate the average consumer on how they can use it while keeping their eyes on the road and not getting distracted," said Peggy Smedley, editorial director of Connected World Magazine.

The Connected World Conference, which is appearing alongside the the Chicago Auto Show for the first time this year, will showcase technologies that can be used both in and outside the car. People can check out new wearable devices that can monitor their hearts or assess their golf swings, and tell them what they are doing wrong when they shank the ball. One app would enable teachers to detect smartphones students may have sneaked into exam rooms.

More information about the show can be found at www.chicagoautoshow.com.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.