With other areas of tech stagnating, cars and mobility have risen to the forefront at CES in recent years.
As Silicon Valley sees it, the transportation sector is ripe for disrupting and in dire need of a heavy injection of innovation. Both OEMs and tech suppliers alike converge at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) to display emerging automotive tech, giving us a good window into future auto industry trends. If it’s hot at CES now, it will probably appear on a production-ready car in four or five years.
After spending three days at CES, we kept hearing the same phrases over again and seeing similar-looking products and displays from automotive exhibitors. It was pretty easy to analyze the market trends at the tech industry’s largest event of the year, so we decided to list the top five. Don’t be surprised if these CES trends become auto show trends in the coming years. Whereas auto shows are typically used to showcase current tech, CES is all about what’s yet to come.
5. Big, Horizontal Infotainment Screens
We know, this one is sort of already a trend on current cars, but not like at CES. One of the more impressive displays in a production car is Mercedes’ dual 12.3-inch screen, but even that has nothing on the meter-wide display found in Byton’s new SUV, or the Harman system we demoed. Mercedes’ new MBUX in-car entertainment display is also mounted longitudinally and should appear rather large once it appears in a production vehicle. If you thought today’s cars had big screens, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
4. Pod Cars
Pod cars are all the rage right now. Not just at CES, but at auto shows too. Toyota, Rinspeed, and Smart all brought some autonomous pod-things to CES, and Navya even demoed its pod-like Autonom Cab outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center. A company called Bell Helicopter even debuted a pod-like flying taxi concept, although like the other vehicles listed here, it’s not autonomous. It seems the future of transportation will involve us being in tightly packed little capsules. Woo!
3. Cockpit Concepts
Digital cockpits and in-car displays and entertainment were a huge theme at CES this year. Many companies, such as Mercedes-Benz and Kia, showed concepts for future in-car displays and cockpits outside of a demo vehicle. Others, like Harman, put the cockpit concept into a car – a Maserati GranCabrio in that instance. This trend is hardly a surprise, but digital in-car cockpits are just about everywhere you look at CES. It’s a good place to see emerging in-car tech that you may not come across elsewhere.
We could have picked autonomy for this point, but that was a bit too obvious, and a bit too broad. The real theme here, beyond autonomy, is mobility. Getting people around in safer, faster and more efficient ways is the true goal of the tech industry’s disruption of the transportation sector. VW gave us further details on its Moia ride-sharing service, which it says will enable the elderly, disadvantaged and disabled to get around easier, and Toyota and Honda showed some self-driving scooter-style mobility concepts designed to make your life easier.
1. In-Car AI
In-car assistants and artificial intelligence systems were in just about every vehicle presented at CES. In the Byton SUV, for example, the AI assistant would analyze your calendar, frequently visited locations, hobbies and smartphone application data to deliver a personalized in-car experience on its various screens. Harman’s audio system comes with several digital assistants, such as IBM Watson and Amazon Alexa, and Mercedes’ MBUX in-car display is powered by a digital assistant that can be prompted by saying ‘Hey Mercedes..’ The system also has natural language recognition, so you could say ‘Hey Mercedes, I’m hot’ and the system would turn the AC on, for example. Siri was just the start – AI assistants will be in your car, home and just about everywhere going forward.