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At CES there was a huge presence of new automotive, robotic and mobility technologies that may re-define how the world travels. Cars, trucks and other forms of transport were on display drawing crowds and comments.

“From an automotive technology perspective, CES 2020 was a mixed bag of grand visions stretching past the next decade-plus, along with more measured progress on the key enablers required for change,” said Jeffrey Hannah, Director of North America for automotive technology research firm SBD Automotive.

Concepts included mobile boutique hotel spaces, connected ice cream trucks, flying taxis, building full smart cities, and numerous pod concepts for both human and logistics transport, says Hannah, who noted the building blocks of 5G, electrification, diagnostics, video content, HMI, and even vehicle shopping, could still be found across the event from an increasingly capable supply base, as well as hungry technology disruptors.


All Transportation, Trucks and More

A trend at CES is the convergence of all transportation methods into an automotive and mobility framework, according to Colin Jamal Bird-Martinez, Senior Knowledge Analyst at Boston Consulting Group. His case-in-point is Hyundai’s Personal Air Vehicle (PAV). Hyundai has partnered with Uber for air taxis.

Inside and outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center were a wide array of trucks and pre-production vehicles. Visitors seemed to love experiencing vehicles that will not go into production for years.

Amazon announced that Rivian will enable automotive functions from Alexa, from opening the hood climate control, rolling windows up and down, and even opening the hood and trunk. Crowds opened doors and peeped inside a blue electric Rivian R1T truck.

“We are here at CES to showcase our Alexa integration features,” says Amy Winters Mast, Marketing Manager for Rivian. She notes that Rivian vehicles will have Alexa functionality even when offline. Drivers can be in their homes and ask ‘How charged is my Rivian?’

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“CES gives us the opportunity to reach some people we haven’t interacted with before. Technology is inherently super important to what makes Rivian special. CES is a natural fit for us,” says Winters Mast.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Zerolights’ concept that customises the vehicle buying process, from online research to personalised remarketing to in-dealership and post-dealership interactions, drew the attention of auto retailers.

Besides the Rivian pickup truck inside CES, Nikola revealed its fuel cell-powered big-rig truck in the Central Plaza through via partnership with Ryder Trucks. The interior looks more like an airline cockpit than a Class 8 trucks, the white leather seats face the metallic accented dash emblazoned with touch screens and side mirroring screens.

Cars were the focal part of many demos from automotive suppliers. Several Karma vehicles were displayed to illustrate various new technologies in exhibits and demos. In the case of Nissan, visitors were drawn to the Nissan electric ice cream van for free hand-scooped ice cream chilled by repurposed lithium-ion cells from Nissan EVs.

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Gee Whiz! Look What 5G and Wireless UWB Can Do

BMW announced that its all-electric iNext SUV will be the first car in the world to be equipped with 5G technology from Samsung and HARMAN for automated driving and infotainment including streaming video games.

HERE Technologies and Verizon announced that they will be collaborating using fast 5G data and edge computing for collision avoidance, and better location identification and navigation for ridesharing pick-up/drop-off and delivery services.

Ultra-wideband (UWB) enables better smartphone key fobs, says Volkmar Knaup, Head of ITS Product Segment at Continental the company that invented the smart key. He noted that ultrawide-band wireless technology prevents relay attacks and makes keyless operation safer. UWB prevents unauthorized access by man-in-the-middle attacks. UWB pinpoints the driver’s location to the centimeter.

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Big Screening, and Big Streaming

Screen size and ways to see images in cars is increasing in size at CES. Hyundai invested in augmented reality projection technology from Way Ray and showed its possibilities in a Genesis G80 luxury sedan. Images related to the location of the vehicle are shown all across the windscreen for navigation. Images give navigation directions as well as lane departures and forward-collision warnings.

Audi showed its 3D-stretchy display. The transparent display, partially embedded in the instrument panel, projects upwards for some functions. The display is 15 cm tall and 122 cm wide. When watching a movie, the display extends upward by up to 25.5 centimeters, allowing passengers to watch movies in 16:9 format on a 21-inch screen.

Visitors at the exhibit were able to view clips from ‘Spies in Disguise’ that features Audi RSQ e-tron streaming video. Audi took the streaming theme into its exhibit space by surrounding the entire display in colourful and clear streamers from the ceiling from which many selfie videos were streamed.

Amazon announced partnerships with both BMW and FCA to offer streaming Fire TV on their rear-seat entertainment screens. BYTON also partnered with ViacomCBS and ACCESS for entertainment on its mammouth 48-inch screen.

“Our intention is to surprise you at CES,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, “With BMW i Interaction EASE, we are redefining mobility when autonomous driving is the new normal.” He notes that BMW customers will have greater freedom with multimodal BMW natural interaction.

BMW’s i Interaction EASE system from DesignWorks operation is intuitive through voice, gaze, advanced gesture control and next-generation Head-Up Display. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant appears in the right place on the windscreen for the passenger.

All the user needs to do focus their gaze on the superimposed information to bring up further details on the display while a confirmation gesture takes the user to the next interaction level.

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Mobile Tech and TV Companies Get in the Act

Samsung and HARMAN’s Digital Cockpit 2020 concept car offers a rear display on the back of the vehicle. Customizable signs warn other cars, such as “road work ahead,” “accident ahead,” ”Just Married” or “Baby on Board.” Media mode is built into the center QLED screen.

Sony showed a 4K OLED TV, 8K Android TV and surprised the world by announcing its Vision- S concept electric vehicle. The concept car has a display that runs across the entire dash, with side displays for side-view cameras and displays on the back of seats for rear passengers that can show Netflix.

Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida stated during the reveal that “the revolution of mobility will also redefine cars as a new entertainment space.”

TV, phone and screen maker LG is expanding into the automotive screen space by open-sourcing webOS software to developers through Automotive Grade Linux.

“WebOS allows automakers to maintain their brand and use web developers who can program in HTML and javascript,” says Steve Lemke, Principal Engineer at LG Electronics Silicon Valley Lab.

In fact, on Friday, Luxoft, and LG Electronics announced a joint venture to deploy webOS Auto for digital cockpit, in-vehicle infotainment, rear-seat entertainment and ride-hailing.

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Innoviz announced that its LiDAR was chosen by BMW for its first AV fleet. A plethora of LiDAR companies including AEye, Blickfeld, Cepton Technologies, Innovusion, LeddarTech, Ouster, Quanergy, Robosense and TriLumina Corp, to name just a few, showed their tech. Luminar announced it is offering its LiDAR by subscription for $500 and $1000 per month, depending on the level of autonomy. Velodyne announced its cheapest yet – the compact Velabit for $100. Yes, $100. 

Autonomous Vehicle Trends

During CES events for the last five-years, autonomous driving was a hot topic, however, how autonomous vehicles sense surrounding or route themselves is yet to be determined.

“On the autonomous vehicle front, as the realization that full autonomy is not as close as once thought, manufacturers and suppliers demonstrated a near-term focus to L2+ systems and improving ADAS. This has implications for vehicle architectures, domain controllers, in-vehicle networking, and increasingly sensors, as suppliers continue to announce more efficient chips which can be used for AI and process more and more data at the edge,” says Hannah.

“CES always delivers the vision of what tomorrow will be,” says Brian Irwin, Accenture. Accenture, who also reports that the euphoria of commercializing self-driving vehicles has diminished. The question has shifted from “How fast?” to “How can we get there?”

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Robots to the Rescue

For alternative vehicles, e-scooters were nowhere to be found on the streets of Las Vegas. E-scooters can only be rented if they are returned to the rental facility. In the Segway Ninebot exhibit, some journalists were able to experience the S-Pod, a comfy self-balancing electric mobility chair piloted by a joystick which many journalists compared to the floating chairs of the characters in dystopian future of Pixar’s ‘WALL•E.’ However, demonstrations were halted when a journalist crashed an S-Pod into a wall.

There were no crashes of the autonomous wheelchair from the WHILL Model Ci Persopnal EV that can be summoned through apps such as theme parks, museums, hospitals, shopping malls or airports.

Robotic delivery solution vehicles and bots are ready to deliver packages and necessary accouterments. Ford displayed Digit, who now has a new blue aqua body, a robot that walks like humans to deliver packages, transporting goods on the sidewalk and able to overcome steps.

Postmates showed ‘Serve’ the stroller-sized delivery robot at the AGL booth. However, the bathroom experience from RollBot stole the show, delivering bog rolls autonomously on-demand from a smartphone app. 

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