Automotive Technology at CES 2017

Unlike last year's Chevrolet Bolt launch, there was no single dominant automotive technology introduction at CES 2017. There were a lot of prototypes from manufacturers—many of them more envisioning exercises than views of an actual future product.

The years are long past when it was unusual for an auto manufacturer to have a presence at CES. Audi, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagon all had a presence in the Las Vegas Convention Center's cavernous 409,000 square foot North Hall (as has been true for the past few years, BMW had a large tent outside the LVCC). Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota also held press conferences.

If there was a leading story among the manufacturer's, it was not a good one; startup Faraday Future's debut of their FF91 pure electric tall sedan/short SUV included a failed demonstration of its self-parking capabilities.

Fiat Chrysler had the first press conference of CES 2017. They introduced a prototype Portal minivan that attempts (like so many vehicles do now) to appeal to millennials.

Toyota used the first part of their press conference to introduce their far-out Concept-I prototype. More interesting to me was what followed: a detailed briefing on automotive autonomy given by Gill Pratt, the CEO of the Toyota Research Institute.

BMW gave Microsoft a rare win in the automotive space by showing how Redmond's Cortana digital assistant can be integrated with Munich's iDrive. As it was everywhere at CES 2017, Amazon's Alexa was a notable presence among auto companies: Ford, Hyundai, and Volkswagon all had Alexa-related announcements.

Hyundai used its press conference to reveal the latest in its Future Mobility lineup, featuring "autonomous vehicles, connected car technology and robotic exoskeletons." One of their demos featured a car that physically connects one of its doors with a large port of sorts in a house. At that point, the vehicle can aid the home's central HVAC system, afford additional sitting or sleeping space, or provide emergency power during outages.

Honda introduced its Cooperative Mobility Ecosystem, which included the Riding Assist self-balancing motorcycle. They also displayed the New Electric Urban Vehicle (NeuV) prototype, a pure electric which is designed to function as an automated ride-sharing vehicle, picking up and dropping off patrons at local destinations during the 96% of the time the average vehicle owner is not using their car.

Tesla wasn't at CES, but Panasonic once again made sure they had a presence as they emphasized the ongoing Gigafactory collaboration between the two companies.

Many of the manufacturer's displays highlighted previous announcements: Ford showed the prototype of their attempt at an SAE Level 4 automation vehicle, something they have committed to delivering by 2021. They also highlighted their mobility services, including the City Solutions offerings that were announced in 2016.

Finally, an intriguing Ford-Toyota alliance was announced at CES. Called the SmartDeviceLink (SDL) Consortium, this consortium aims to provide a third alternative to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration. Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru), Mazda, PSA Group (Citroën and Peugeot), and Suzuki have already signed on. Interestingly Blackberry/QNX has also signed a letter of intent to join.

John Mulhern III, Posted 1/22/2016