CES 2018: Tech Is Disturbing the Auto World

The crowd at the main hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center where the CES 2018 is happening.

The future of the car world is autonomy and technology is now turning the whole industry topsy-turvy. This is the obvious direction of the automotive industry in the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 here in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With autonomy, car technology is also now delving into connectivity, electrification and alternative fuels creating a disturbance in the way cars are made and how the car world is appreciating mobility. Judging from the direction at CES, there may be a profound paradigm shift in the way people look at their personal conveyance.

Car tech demonstrations even brewed coffee and did pizza delivery. The auto world may be changing but everyone still needed to eat and have coffee.

Ford’s self-driving Fusion designed to deliver Domino’s Pizza.

To the gear heads and car buffs, it comes as no surprise because this has been the major talking point in almost all major auto shows for the past 5-8 years. The effect, however, goes far beyond cars and how it is powered and controlled. Now, consumers want their vehicles to be interactive, just like their mobile phones and computers.

This direction can be gleaned from the number of tech companies now involved with automobile stuff on display at the CES 2018. Car companies have turned to these organizations to spice up, if not improve their products through the integration of more modern gadgets into their cars.

Toyota’s self driving electric machine that can be designed for multiple use like mobile shop, delivery unit or even a mobile office.

Autonomous, connected, and interactive cars require systems, software and technology that car firms have no experience in. And here is where the opportunity arose for tech companies large and small racing to develop autonomous, connected, electrified and interactive systems.

On the forefront of car displays at the CES 2018 are Japanese car makers Nissan, Honda, and Toyota. Korean brands Hyundai and Kia are also prominent with German brand Mercedes Benz not far away. Of course American badges Ford, and Jeep are also there.

If you told anyone at CES 10-years ago that cars would take over, they would have scoffed and snorted.

The New Fisker, an electric car that is so sexy.

The auto tech section, those catering to the needs of the auto companies, had a lot of stands. These are firms showing off self-driving hardware or software, ultra-fast secure communication, HD mapping and electric charging points and systems. Many of them are already supplying OEMs  and they are expected to grow fast.

Some of the more interesting presentations this week were Hyundai bringing to CES their NEXO FCEV, a hydrogen fuel cell SUV. Sister company Kia, not to be outdone, brought out their electric car concept version of the Niro SUV, which was stuffed with connected and autonomous devices that wont be in production until late 2018.

Hyundai presenting their NEXO, a hydrogen fuel cell powered electric car with smart technology from Aurora.

There are also other, new electric vehicles in the show, like the the Chinese start-up Byton with its tech-filled Concept SUV. Also on display is the Fisker Emotion, a real looker for an electric car, that promises a range of 400-miles.

Toyota, taking their number one status worldwide to another level, went full concept with the e-Palette. This is a customizable self-driving electric machine that can function as a mobile shop, delivery unit, office space or home. Toyota aims to have a version running by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Rinspeed unveiled the Snap, a boxlike carrier, its answer to how self-driving service vehicles might work in the future.

The Rinspeed Snap is a driverless box-like vehicle that can be the answer to how autonomous vehicles will be in the future. (PR photo from Rinspeed)

Today, the marriage of tech and automobiles is inevitable.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett delivered one of the CES keynote speeches, focusing on social changes to cities that autonomous cars will bring. And to drive the point home, Ford’s attraction is not a new car, but a self-driving Ford Fusion which was used to trial driverless Domino’s pizza deliveries. So American, the whole idea of the car may be changing, but, food delivery will always be top of the shelf.

Mercedes-Benz, that German firm that has always been first in many technology was a bit somber this year, showcasing only their latest development of its Mercedes-Benz User Experience, including the somewhat controversial inclusion of a new touchscreen that will be introduced to the new A-Class.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class interior.

Nissan, however, took the autonomous driving system to another plane when they unveiled the vehicle to brain technology. Nissan’s new toy had a system that monitors a driver’s brainwaves so that the car can respond quicker, much like a car reading a drivers mind. They even bragged a bit when they used a Nissan Leaf to power a coffee macchiato machines. Again, cars may be changing, but the Japanese will need their coffee.

Some traditional products like Samsung-owned Harman Kardon developed a sound system that can alter the audio output to match the style of sister brand JBL. But other car audio brands that just went old-school, and stuck hundreds of speakers in the boot of a car and cranked the bass up. The Orion stand’s Jeep Wrangler was one of these and it was notably ear-splitting.

Ultimately, though, the real fix at CES 2018 are those technology for car autonomy, connectivity, and electrification. If you told anyone at CES 10-years ago that cars would take over they would scoff and snort. Today the marriage of cars and technology is inevitable and the world is scrambling to take dibs.

The author is a certified motorhead and has been a journalist for the past 30 years. He will be a journalist all his life. He thinks he is famous and his mother agrees. His father has another opinion on that matter.
Email him at irapanganiban@wheelsph.com

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