CES Las Vegas: The Other Motor City

1/26/2017
— Alex Verduzco 

A few years back, when the Consumer Electronics Association started wooing automakers out to the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (OK, CES!), some thought it was a fad. But now, that little blip on the radar in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center has morphed into what might as well be called the Car Electronics Show.  Consider it the new proving ground for the most advanced automotive technology concepts from tech companies, suppliers, and car makers alike.

With CES 2017 in our rearview mirror, those of us who were on the ground caught sight of a few emerging trends:

“Look, ma, no hands!” – Your car’s robots

The rise of autonomous and connected vehicles is creating an explosive new market for sensors and automotive software. Longtime suppliers like Delphi – partnering with Mobileye to develop integrated cameras, LiDAR (LASERS!), and image processing tech – are now competing with tech companies to get a piece of the autonomous driving (AD) pie. Chip maker NVIDIA is building end-to-end artificial intelligence (AI) systems for AD cars. NVIDIA’s self-driving system not only tries to understand the environment around the car, but also uses AI to understand what's going on inside. Cars with NVIDIA inside will be able to watch which direction the driver's head is turned, where his or her eyes are gazing, and even read lips to understand instructions even with loud music playing. NVIDIA and the folks at Audi showed it off right in Las Vegas.

Of course, the traditional set of auto companies aren’t just sitting around, and most definitely are NO strangers to the push into AI and connectivity. For its part, Toyota unveiled the Concept-i electric vehicle. But going beyond being another electric vehicle to compete against the likes of the Tesla Models S/X/3, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and others, Toyota stepped up elsewhere: The car maker doesn’t envision a system that goes fully autonomous and hands-free. It sees a future where your car knows your driving patterns, emotions, and almost knows where you want to go before you do.

Home Sweet Car

No matter how far-fetched concepts and announcements at CES may seem – some have argued vaporware over the years – the show offers a glimpse into the car of the future, and even shifts in transportation all-up. Hyundai’s “Mobility Vision” easily fits the bill: A fully-integrated smart home and autonomous vehicle in one? Yep. Just imagine an added room that doubles as a car, and you’ve got Hyundai’s latest. Hitting it from another angle, Honda unveiled their take on the future of transportation with the NeuV (New Electric Urban Vehicle). Built with car sharing in mind – which brings up a good question, do you own a car? – the NeuV can be rented out to others as your own personal taxi service while it’s parked in your driveway or office garage. Gives new meaning to rent to own”.

The Body Electric

Though automakers are dedicated to greener powertrains and electric vehicles to meet governmental, environmental, and customer standards, such features and models still need more mainstream adoption. Several startups have come out with their own electric vehicle offerings. Lucid Motors, based out of Los Angeles, brought to light a sporty luxury sedan a few months back and decided that it was alpha-prototype time at CES. Real? Time will tell. Speaking of time, Faraday Future has made some very bold claims about upending the automotive industry as we know it. However, some would say that Faraday didn’t quite deliver on those promises at CES 2016. Then we saw reports of insiders claiming that the company’s timeline of starting production by late 2017 was unreasonable. Well, at least thanks to a showing at CES, it seems like they’ve successfully opened the door to their first model, the FF91, slated for production later this year. Again, time.

So, Now What?

Well, it’s evident that people and organizations took notice at just how auto-centric CES 2017 was. In fact, last year the LA Auto Show team combined their media days with the LA Connected Car Expo to launch AutoMobility LA: three days dedicated to the future of transportation and mobility. In that same vein, the North American International Auto Show, which takes place in Detroit Motor City, launched their Automobili-D expo this year (which came a single day after CES 2017 concluded).

Is there room for them all? It seems to be the case, or at least for the next year or so. CES is all about dreamy views of the future, high concepts and “upending” our current views on transportation. Auto shows like LAAS and NAIAS spotlight new models, connected technologies powering many of the vehicles of today, and what we, the consumers, will be able to find in a showroom or online between tomorrow and in the near future.

For sure, it’s a time of disruption in the auto industry – which means brands that find a way to captivate audiences through their stories will stand out from the crowd. In this increasingly jam-packed industry, auto brands must create deliberate threads of content that engage consumers in their daily motion – as our Stories in Motion research showed.

But enough from us – what do YOU think? Comment below, tell us on social, or give a honk the next time you’re on the road: We’d love to hear your take.

 

Written by Alex Verduzco (LinkedIn) and some thoughts from Dan Lantowski, WE-NY (@DanLantowski / LinkedIn)

 

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Alex Verduzco

WE Communications

Austin, Texas

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