CES went digital this year for obvious reasons. I missed the coincidence that was associated with strolling through the start-up alleys of start-ups and wandering through company stands. It was much more difficult to satisfy my curiosity and discover unexpected products, services, materials, partnerships, or old friends online. I didn’t miss having sore feet at the end of the day though! All in all, I missed the live version.
After reporting on mobility and auto technology at previous CES exhibitions (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), I am happy to share what caught my attention this year. The unique format attracted less than half of last year’s exhibitors, 1960 versus 4500. The largest cohorts came from the USA (569), Korea (341), China (203) and France (135). While there were 170,000 people there last year, I’m assuming more people were able to attend this year, which is good. The digital venue will remain open for content viewing until February 15.
This year’s main mobility / car technology themes were digital cockpit and cabin experience, electrification and autonomous driving, albeit to a lesser extent.
Digital cockpit and cabin experience
The best example of the trend towards the digital cockpit comes from Daimler. The impressive MBUX hyperscreen, which will be presented for the first time in the Mercedes EQS, will certainly give the 17-inch center display of the Tesla Model S and the 4-display setup from Porsche Taycan a chance. The 56-inch single piece made of curved glass runs almost from pillar to pillar and houses a specific OLED display zone in front of the driver as well as in front of the front passenger and in the middle. The perceived quality seems amazing (video).
MBUX hyperscreen. Source: Daimler
An 8-core CPU controls the drive and convenience functions using AI. The “passenger display” offers a wide range of options and the possibility of sharing content with rear passengers. For safety reasons, this display appears to be disabled when the driver looks at it thanks to a camera that monitors his gaze.
Augmented Reality coupled with a heads-up display (HUD) also did the show after it was featured in VW’s recently released ID.3. Panasonic presented its own version. In both cases, computer vision and object classification are combined with navigation inputs and the HUD to facilitate project management and safety critical Information in front of the driver. The falling costs for HUDs, the increasing availability of raw data and the computing power should make this function almost ubiquitous in a few years.[Read: How this company leveraged AI to become the Netflix of Finland]
Sony surprised us last year when they launched Vision-S Concept, a battery-electric Limousine that uses the company’s broad technical spectrum. If most people had doubts about Sony’s real intentions, it should no longer be the case. The company doubled in size, showed road tests and showcased its partners. These include Magna Steyr, Bosch, Valeo, Continental, ZF, Vodafone, HIER, AIMotive and more. It is surprising that all suppliers are European.
Sony’s Vision-S concept. Source: Sony
This latest announcement shows Sony’s serious determination. Could this new outlook make the brand cool again? Within weeks, comparable news or rumors emerge about forays into the mobility sector by other technology giants. This latest news and rumors related to Apple’s evasive Titan car project, Amazon Zoox Robotaxi, Alibaba’s (China’s Amazon) Zhiji / IM EV JV with SAIC, or Microsoft’s participation in GM / Cruise’s $ 2 billion round.
These moves by high-performing and wealthy tech companies put pressure on established OEMs and suppliers. It forces them to accelerate their transformation in the direction of electrification, digitization and mobility services. Incidentally, a key part of the Bosch press conference was the restructuring, in which 17,000 computing hardware and software resources were combined in a new unit for cross-domain computer solutions. We should expect this to become a powerhouse.
In the area of electrification, I would like to highlight the joint venture announced between Magna and LG Electronics for the manufacture of electric motors, inverters, on-board chargers and electric drive systems. LG will contribute its electrical / electronic skills, building on the experience gained with the Chevy Bolt EV and Jaguar I-PACE, while Magna will contribute its software, systems integration and manufacturing expertise.
GM’s eVTOL concept. Source: GMGM used CES to introduce a Cadillac shuttle concept and an eVTOL concept. Other OEMs like Hyundai or FCA (now Stellantis) are also investigating urban air mobility. The company also announced the creation of Brightdrop, a new entity dedicated to vehicles and delivery services that is in a process of profound change. The EV600 is a 1 tonne payload commercial van with a range of 250 miles utilizing GM’s Ultium battery technology. GM also launched Ultifi, a customer portal / app that you use to manage your vehicle, buy new features and services, control OtA updates, etc. This seems to replicate Tesla’s well-designed app and customer portal.
There were fewer announcements on the autonomous driving front than in recent years. The mass adoption of AVs is perhaps a decade away. A surge of concentration – the latest sign is the recent acquisition of Uber ATG by Aurora – combined with massive rounds of financing by the big players, allows the latter to pick up the pace of fully driverless pilots like Waymo, Cruise or AutoX.
LiYAR radar from Mobileye’s next-gen subsystem. Source: Mobileye
During CES, Mobileye announced the development of a new LiDAR system-on-chip (SoC) that leverages the capabilities of its parent company Intel. With this product, which will be part of the company’s camera-first sensor suite, Mobileye expects it will have a Level 4 system by 2025 at a price consistent with broad consumer demand. In the meantime, the company will deploy AV pilots in Tokyo. Shanghai and Paris next to the current cities (Tel Aviv, Munich and Detroit). These deployments can reportedly be completed by 2 people in 2 weeks.
Regardless, GM announced that it would use Super Cruise for 22 vehicles by 2023. The Level 2 solution known on Cadillac CT6 will next be used in the CUV version of the Bolt EV. GM is continuing its dual path to full autonomy by informing the public of the more widespread Level 2 and shooting directly to Level 4 with Cruise.
If you want to learn more about CES 2021 beyond autotech and mobility, I recommend Olivier Ezratty’s CES report. It’s as fun as ever, even in this shorter version (in French).
This article was written by Marc Amblard, founder and managing director of Orsay Consulting on The Urban Mobility Daily, the content site of Urban Mobility Company, a Paris-based company that drives the mobility business through physical and virtual events and services. Join their community of 10,000+ mobility professionals by signing up for the Urban Mobility Weekly newsletter. Read the original article Here and follow them on Linkedin and Twitter.
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Published on February 1, 2021 – 18:00 UTC