The Las Vegas show that took place last week confirms its relevance as an automotive event, with many smaller suppliers of in-car technologies making up for a couple of big names missing. As expected, AI and the software-defined vehicle were the talk of the show.
In the last decade, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has become more relevant as a platform for car tech-related announcements. After the inevitable pandemic hiatus, the automotive section of CES 2024 has picked up steam again. Not all the big names of the auto industry made it to the show. Stellantis group was the most glaring absentee: the group had to pull out of the show “to preserve capital” in light of North America’s United Auto Workers union.
AI Is the (Buzz)Word
Nonetheless, the automotive companies who did attend CES, along with a large ecosystem of suppliers and tech startups, abundantly made up for those who didn’t. Some announced new cars, and others focused on infotainment or introduced EV concepts and visions. Almost all of them felt compelled to show how they’re leveraging artificial intelligence in one way or another to shape the future of mobility and the driver’s and passengers’ experience.
During a high-profile event at its booth on Tuesday, Mercedes Benz debuted its new MB.OS system. The company announced it a couple of years ago, and it’s finally ready to bring it into its cars. The system will offer an AI virtual assistant, 3D graphics for navigation, and support for additional apps in the future.
On the other hand, BMW didn’t have any big announcements to make, but the company used the CES opportunity to show off its virtual valet service for remotely parking cars.
The other big German automaker, Volkswagen Group, went all-in on generative AI, showing a demo of the integration of chatGPT in its new IDA infotainment system, developed in partnership with Cerence. The feature will come to the new Golf and Tiguan, along with the ID.3, 4, 5, and 7 EV models during 2024.
Asian car manufacturers also picked CES for a series of announcements. Before the show, Honda hyped the launch of a new line of “global EVs”, but the company showed up in Las Vegas with only two concept cars, the SpaceHub and the Saloon, to the dismay of many.
According to automotive expert and analyst Nicole Scott:
“Honda’s announcement was a misstep for CES. The models they introduced were too futuristic and detached from what Honda’s line of EVs could look like when they hit the road.”
Moreover, the letdown for Honda’s hyped announcement was underlined by the concept series unveiled by Kia. The Korean brand showed a new line of electric vehicles that, unlike the ones from its Japanese competitor, explored a more pragmatic philosophy for the future of mobility. The “Platform Beyond Vehicle” concepts would be built around new frames that allow the vehicle body to be swapped out quickly so that a van could turn into a taxi or camper for the weekend.
Vietnamese brand Vinfast also doubled down on its US push by renting out some top real estate at CES and announcing a new EV truck, the VF Wild. While still a concept, the car looked very close to production.
Last but not least, Hyundai generated buzz with its eVTOL vehicle, which looks a lot like a Volocopter, capable of carrying four passengers. The vehicle could obtain certification from U.S. authorities for commercial operation in 2028.
However, the Korean company picked CES to show its continued commitment and investments in hydrogen, which the company sees as the best bet for the future of sustainable transportation. Hyundai also announced that it would expand HTWO, its fuel cell brand, to turn it into the Group’s “hydrogen value chain business brand,” with an HTWO Grid solution that will accelerate the transition to a hydrogen society.
The goal explained by the company during its keynote, is to transition Hyundai from its position as a “hydrogen first-mover” into a global role as a hydrogen provider.
New Silicon Announcements
Car brands were not the only ones aiming for the automotive headlines at CES 2024. German giant Bosch took the stage to announce a new cockpit & ADAS integration platform based on Qualcomm‘s Snapdragon Ride Flex System-on-a-chip (SoC). By supporting mixed-criticality workloads, the new central processing unit offers automakers a centralized compute and software-defined vehicle architecture that lets them easily scale performance and features to differentiate tiers much more efficiently and flexibly.
To counter Qualcomm’s automotive efforts, underscored by a prominent booth in the automotive section at West Hall, Intel also picked CES to announce its first serious foray into automotive tech. The Santa Clara company introduced a new family of AI-enhanced system-on-chips (SoCs) for software-defined vehicles.
According to Jack Weast, vice president and general manager of Intel Automotive:
“Intel is taking a ‘whole vehicle’ approach to solving the industry’s biggest challenges. Driving innovative AI solutions across the vehicle platform will help the industry navigate the transformation to EVs.”
Is Autonomous Driving Old News?
One topic that was underrepresented at CES 2024 was autonomous driving. The tech hasn’t matured enough since we started talking about it years ago, and it still hasn’t delivered on the bold and unrealistic promises we’ve been hearing for a long time.
Walking through the halls, we stumbled upon lidar startups and other suppliers of car sensing technologies, but no one seemed to be particularly excited to touch on autonomous driving when asked and, in general, to tie its name to a technology that so far has over-promised and underdelivered.
According to Scott:
“Industry players started to distance themselves from autonomous driving due to Tesla‘s recent blunders. Elon Musk’s repeated yet unfulfilled autonomous driving promises cast a bad impression on a technology that has consistently underdelivered so far. Tesla’s recalls of its cars due to issues with its Autopilot function, with the most recent one of 1.6 million vehicles in China just a few days before CES, also contributed to other brands deciding to discreetly move away from the brand risk of talking about autonomous driving at the show”.