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Auto Manufacturers Share Innovations At CES

January 16, 2020 Sarah Cavill

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), once an event for cool gadgets and television technology, has become one of the biggest auto events of the year. The increasing convergence of the tech and automotive industries, with a growing need for monetization, make cars and CES a natural fit. CES has dedicated more than 290K square feet of space to vehicle technology and advancements, including self-driving technologies and aftermarket enhancements. Concept cars, the future of car sharing and electric car start-ups, were also represented at the Las Vegas show.

Tech Innovation In The Automotive Industry

The implementation and growth of technology in the automotive industry has been exciting for car manufacturers and drivers, and how that technology will evolve was a central theme of the auto sector at CES.

Hydrogen-Powered And Electric Cars Roll Out At CES

Ford, Daimler, Nissan, Renault and Hyundai all debuted a variety of battery-powered cars at CES. Forbes explains, “Fuel cell and battery-powered vehicles are both electric, sharing the same motors and many other components. The key difference is batteries store electricity and fuel cells produce it onboard as needed, in an electrochemical process that extracts electrons from hydrogen gas forced through fuel-cell membranes.”

Battery-powered cars, like those debuted at CES by Ford, Nissan and Mercedes, offered battery ranges of nearly 300 miles and increased 0-60 acceleration. All electric car brands intend to be mass-market ready in the next several years.

Hydrogen fuel-cells were also a big story at CES. Hydrogen technology in car manufacturing has been trying to find its niche since the nineties, and Daimler is now making a new push with heavy trucks and buses. “Fuel cells work great. It's just a cost issue, and it's all about scaling. We need volume,” said Markus Schäfer, Daimler R&D Chief. “We have trucks, we are the biggest truck maker in the world with Freightliner, with Mercedes trucks, our Asian brands, we have a big presence around the globe.”

The Future Of Automotive Technology In The Real World

While CES relished in the extraordinary concept cars that are central to the show, automotive insiders also discussed the need for technologies that work together to provide usable services for drivers. For example, Toyota displayed a prototype of Woven City, a smart city the Japanese car manufacturer will be building in Japan to test self-driving cars, robots and smart homes. Woven City will be powered by Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell technology. “People have to be at the center of anything that Toyota does,” said James Kuffner, CTO of the Toyota Research Institute. “It means that we aren't just building technology for technology's sake, but really thinking about how people could have happier, healthier, green lives.”

Smart Tech Innovations Continue To Integrate With Cars

Shutterstock_750610873 EV Car or Electric car at charging station with the power cable supply plugged in on blurred nature with soft light background. Eco-friendly alternative energy concept

As CNET pointed out, there are a lot of moonshots at CES, including prototypes that will likely never happen. But the integration of smart tech innovations into cars continues to trend and many of the integrations are usable today or coming soon.

  • For drivers with 4G-LTE data connections, SiriusXM and Visa are working on an in-dash ordering and auto payment solution that will allow drivers to seamlessly pay for gas, tolls and parking.
  • After months of speculation, Amazon chose CES to finally share what they have been up to. In addition to Alexa becoming the new voice assistant for Lamborghini and EV (electric vehicle) startup Rivian, Amazon also announced a partnership between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Blackberry to create connected vehicle software. “The real North Star for us is to be embedded with all the cars. That’s where we want to get. We’re working very hard to get there because we believe that is the best experience,” said Ned Curic, Vice President of Amazon Alexa Automotive.

Car Sharing Companies Aim To Meet Consumer Expectations And Shoot For The Skies

The theme of people-friendly technologies continued in the presentation from National Car Rental. As rental car companies evolve to meet the technology benchmarks established by car share services including Uber and Lyft, brands like National are touting the new bells and whistles of “smart” rental cars. “Technology continues to reshape our customers' expectations, which is why National [Car Rental] is laser-focused on offering innovative solutions to provide customers with a frictionless, enjoyable rental experience,” said Frank Thurman, Vice President of Marketing for National Car Rental.

On the other end of the spectrum, Uber debuted a flying concept vehicle. The prototype was on display at CES, with manufacturer Hyundai sharing extremely ambitious plans for the vehicle to be air-ready by 2023 when Uber launches its air taxi network. According to an article in the The Verge, “Hyundai also unveiled concepts for a landing hub and an eco-friendly ‘Purpose Built Vehicle’ (PBV) for ground transportation to and from the station. The PBV resembles a beige rectangle and will utilize AI to find optimal routes and travel in platoons. Each PBV will be able to serve various functions, such as transit, coffee shop or medical clinic.” Industry experts seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach with Hyundai and Uber’s plans given the as yet untested degree of technology and innovation, but in the spirt of CES, it’s very cool indeed.

From car shares to sophisticated in-car tech, technology and cars are now inextricably linked. Like other everyday items, cars are now expected to meet the demands of consumers increasingly expecting connectivity, innovation and seamless experiences.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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