(Relaxnews) - Even though CES has started taking some of the shine off the glamour of Detroit as an event for debuting a new car or vehicular innovation, the 2016 North American International Auto Show still had its fair share of star cars shinning a light on the path the industry is taking towards greater environmental responsibility and greater autonomy.

"Of the 57 introductions at NAIAS, nearly 90 per cent were worldwide debuts, which is an incredible testament to the global position of importance that NAIAS plays in automaker's new vehicle and technology launch strategies," said 2016 NAIAS Chairman Paul Sabatini.

And although Buick's latest concept dazzled, the most important reveal was that of a rather ordinary-looking mid-size executive sedan, the Mercedes E Class.

"Over the years, [it] has consistently redefined the benchmark in the business-class segment. It is now carrying this tradition forward with a host of first-rate innovations. The new E-Class takes another major step towards fully autonomous driving," said Daimler board member Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber.

How big a step? It is the first production car licensed for autonomous test-driving in the U.S. state of Nevada and the first that can drive itself at speeds of up to 209 kilometres per hour. And although fully autonomous cars are a long way from being a reality, the E Class represents the pinnacle of what's not just possible, but tried and tested at this moment in time.

Alongside the E Class, new models from Ford and Volvo were promoted primarily on their active, semi-autonomous safety systems. The new Ford Fusion will be the first Ford sold in the US with a pedestrian detection system and hands-free parallel and perpendicular parking, while Volvo's new S90 will be the first car to go on sale in the US with autonomous highway driving features as standard.

Alongside autonomy, the other major theme at this year's show was greater responsibility, whether via hybrids, plug-in electric or fuel cell.

"We believe Mirai and hydrogen fuel cell technology represents the future of sustainable transportation," said Jim Lentz, Toyota North America CEO. Toyota is even inviting other companies to use its patents. "We hope sharing this technology with the auto industry will bring us closer to achieving a future hydrogen society helping us to improve lives for generations to come," continued Lentz.

For its show car, Audi unveiled a hydrogen powered crossover, the h-tron Quattro, and Mercedes and BMW have also indicated their desire to explore the technology, but for the moment, hybrids are key.

"The BMW i3 is the world's third-best-selling pure electric car," said BMW board member Dr. Ian Robertson (HonDSc). "We are transferring our knowledge from BMW i and will electrify the whole fleet. This year we'll add several new models as plug-in hybrid versions, including the BMW 3 and 7 Series."