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CES 2019 was a behemoth of automotive technology and demonstrations, a mega-mall shopping palace for automakers and suppliers. Auto Futures was on-site to supply insight into the top trends at the event. Trends include aftermarket upgrades, pods, alternative transport, personalisation, new lidar and cameras, autonomous vehicle software and hardware solutions. There was a spirit of cooperation and, of course, lots of stiff competition.

Connectivity for Everyone

There are whole areas of the show floor dedicated to aftermarket car solutions. These included new audio systems from Alpine, Kenwood and Pioneer, with Android Auto and CarPlay making their CES debut. This year, companies also extended new advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to consumers with older vehicles, as the aftermarket industry looks to exploit a new revenue stream, especially during this transitional phase.

“Safety shouldn’t be just for new car buyers, but for everyone,” says John Waraniak, Vice President of Vehicle Technology at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) who notes that, for less than $500, car owners can retrofit their cars with a safety system. He says aftermarket ADAS is valued at $1 billion a year, growing annually to $1.5 Billion in 2021.

Several companies announced new lidar and cameras for automakers. Those shopping for new lidar systems for their vehicle line ups learned about new offerings from Blackmore, AEye, RoboSense, Innoviz, Cepton, Velodyne, GaN, Ouster and many other suppliers. For automakers interested in autonomous cameras, Foresight debuted its QuadSight vision system designed for visible-light stereoscopic and emissive thermal stereoscopic vision and AdaSky showed-off its Viper FIR thermal camera.


2019 is the year of the pods. Almost every car had been replaced with a pod, with exhibitors such as Bosch and Aurrigo showing off driverless electric shuttles and last mile transport. Hyundai’s booth had ‘cocoons’ with video screens, Continental showed off its Continental Urban Mobility Experience (CUbE) that combines a robot-taxi with package delivery robots and AEV Robotics displayed its modular vehicle system. The list goes on.

Founder and CEO of Rinspeed Frank Rinderknecht says that he was proud to see an uptake in pods at the show: “I felt like a father seeing many of his children that I didn’t know about. It’s a big compliment to be copied. That’s why I have to keep three steps of everyone else.”

Where Have All the Cars Gone?

Most of the booths were filled with enormous screens, rather than having any actual cars. However, the few vehicles on display included the premiere of the second-gen Mercedes CLA 250, the Audi E-Tron and Ford’s Hybrid Police Responder with GoRide telematics. The main vehicle launch came from Nissan, who finally debuted its new LEAF E+ with a higher range and more powerful battery pack. The Waymo-equipped Chrysler Pacifica Minivan also made a return to CES, located behind the FCA stand. BMW gave rides in the X7 and demoed its self-driving R1250 motorcycle, while Ford showcased connectivity, mobility and its new dockless scooters from Segway for SPIN.

The biggest buzz and busiest booth, however, was Bell’s Nexus flying taxi. The colossal vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle is about the size of two or three buses next to each other. “It was fun to see the Bell helicopter,” said Rinderknecht “Whether it is a viable option or not.” We will soon find out if futuristic innovations like this will be achievable. But one thing is certain: Bell took the limelight at CES this year.

Getting Personal

Cars are getting personal. Ever since technology such as Amazon’s Alexa was introduced, human factoring has become a main priority for software giants. HARMAN gave a media demo of ‘a day in the life of Tyler,’ which showed off state-of-the-art personalisation features. Tyler is identified by face recognition and his voice is used for setting vehicle preferences. Through voice commands, he accesses his Spotify playlist, starts a conference call and uses Yelp to find French restaurants near him.

Elsewhere, Nuance exhibited a new camera, voice biometrics and Affectiva AI to detect a driver’s mood and drowsiness. If the driver yawns multiple times, the voice assistant will react and wake the driver. From an automaker’s perspective, Kia’s Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving (R.E.A.D.) System touted its emotional-based interaction system, which alters the cabin accordingly to a person’s mood.


CES: The New Geneva?

This year, attendees were able to try out self-driving cars, with Aptiv providing autonomous Lyft rides and AutoX offering free autonomous burger deliveries, providing the public with a preview of how technology will change the way we travel, eat and live.

Intel’s Mobileye announced that it will test self-driving software in Israel and China, working with Beijing Public Transport Corporation and Beijing Beytai on autonomous public transport and ADAS with Great Wall Motors.

NVIDIA announced its Level 2+ DRIVE AutoPilot solution, following the news that its self-driving technology had been selected by Uber for its cars and trucks. The company, along with ZF and Baidu, is also creating a production-ready AI autonomous vehicle platform designed for China and announced plans for Mercedes-Benz’s next-gen AI cars.

While at the NVIDIA booth, Auto Futures was able to speak to none-other than founder and CEO Jensen Huang who was wearing his iconic leather jacket and Fendi Buggies sneakers with metal spikes on the back. Huang predicts that, “in the future, cars will be all about software,” as more automakers look to cooperate with technology companies.

“Because autonomous cars are so difficult and expensive to create, we’re seeing OEM’s and Tier Ones working together. If we’re going to have autonomy we need to cooperate,” said Egil Juliussen, PhD Director of Research and Principal Analyst, Automotive Technology. “In the last six months we started to see this happen and now we’re going to see it more.”

The Detroit Auto Show, which has always been held a few days after CES, has moved out of the way and will be held in June next year. Technology events like this have sent a huge warning to the established auto shows, which will become irrelevant unless they act fast. So much so, that Rinderknecht believes that automakers may even look to skip the leading shows. “CES is the most innovative place in the world. I’d rather skip Geneva than CES.”

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