GET YOUR KICKS ON ROUTE 66 (AND BY ROUTE 66 WE MEAN "AT CES")
Another CES, the largest in history, has come and gone. Multiple venues were packed full of exhibitors and attendees. To say CES was crowded would be an understatement. It was a literal sea of humanity.
The "buzz," especially as reported by the press, focused on:
2: Organic LED
3: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
4: The legion of companies looking to integrate Amazon's virtual assistant, Alexa, into their own platforms. Amazon, incidentally, had the largest booth space at CES
5: Samsung's new products, including intelligent appliances and wearables.
Our own CES attendees viewed the show from a somewhat different perspective. The way we see it, the automotive industry is rapidly becoming more prevalent at CES. In fact, there are those who jokingly refer to CES as the "Car Electronics Show." Here is a sample of what we saw (and heard) during our days at the show.
During her keynote presentation, General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra unveiled the new 2017 Chevy Volt EV. This is important because the announcement broke with tradition. Auto manufacturers typically haven't used CES as a showcase for the introduction of new models. However, they have unveiled new electronics and technology for their cars at CES. Barra didn't speak about the Volt EV's electronics – she unveiled the whole-car. This makes us wonder if the practice won't become more commonplace in the future. CES could fast become the "go to" venue for major model introductions. If this comes to fruition it will surely be a growing concern for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).
Another compelling unveiling was Faraday Future's FFZERO1 concept car. According to their website, Faraday Future will only develop, produce and sell one hundred percent electric cars. The sleek FFZERO1, which looked like a futuristic Batmobile, is built on what they call Variable Platform Architecture (VPA). This provides them with nearly unlimited options when designing a car. Faraday Future cars can be built with a variety of battery configurations which, of course, are the life blood of an electric car. The VPA also allows for unique engine configurations utilizing up to as many as four separate engines. These various combinations allow designers to alter a cars range, performance and appearance while utilizing identical architecture. The VPA is modular and, according to Faraday Future, it will allow them to bring different models to market much faster than the competition.
Other key automotive hot buttons at CES were:
A: Vehicle-to-home connectivity. It is clear that the car of the near future will be capable of performing a myriad of tasks for the driver such as raising and closing the garage door or operating the home's HVAC system when the car enters or leaves a specific perimeter. The connected car will also have connectivity to all forms of infotainment. Ford is adding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to all 2017 model year cars. When one of their cars is connected, its dashboard will mimic an Android or iPhone screen.
B: The Autonomous Car. The self-driving car is likely the most significant technology development currently being pursued by the automotive industry. Ford announced that its fleet of self-driving test cars will grow threefold in 2017.
C: Data analytics for the connected car. There was much discussion about new interactive mapping technologies and more robust location-based service offerings. Emergency notifications to first responders that are triggered by the deployment of an airbag are also in development.
D: This is a serious concern for automakers, especially with the highly publicized hacking of a Jeep last year. The technological advances that make the connected car so intriguing also provide more nefarious-minded concerns additional ways to access the connected car's security system. Furthermore, if the car is connected to other systems within the owner’s home or office, the threat becomes all the more significant. Automakers will devote thousands upon thousands of man hours in the near future to alleviate these dangers.
If you visit the CES website today, you will already see a countdown clock ticking away the seconds until next year's show. It will be interesting to see how close the concepts we have mentioned have come to being a reality by then. Obviously, there will also be plenty of new "buzz." What is becoming certain is that our cars will be able to do more. They will interact with our phones, homes and offices. As such, the car will play an ever-increasing, if not central, role at CES.
Here's one final last thought: If you plan to attend CES 2017, we highly suggest you register as soon as possible. The show will sell out sooner than later. It's also a good idea to book your hotel room. Then again, if large crowds terrify you, you are probably better off staying home.