CES confirmed its commitment to the automotive mobility realm this year: that part of the show took up the whole North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, plus several other spots scattered around the city. Many vehicles, spanning the spectrum from the implausible ideamobiles not intended to forecast any real car, all the way to production-ready prototypes, were seen for the first time. They sprang from legacy makers (Mercedes, Toyota, Hyundai, FCA, Nissan, BMW, Audi, Ford), new makers (Fisker, Byton, Faraday Future, Rivian/Amazon)—and even Sony as a surprise.
Here are some highlights we retain:
Electric Vehiclesare coming, in high volume with higher prices—on average $10k higher than vehicles with combustion engines.SUVsand pickup trucks will continue to dominate the U.S. vehicle landscape.Autonomous vehiclesare not coming soon, at least not beyond some controlled-access, gated areas. Daimler noted their “reality check” on plans for 10,000 robo-taxis by 2021, and Ford CEO Jim Hackett said, “We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles.” Some Tesla fans actually still believe his timetable of the Model S being fully autonomous by May with a flip of a switch, but that seems most unlikely.Ride Sharingis happening, and operated fleets are sure to prosper over those who do not. But uptake is slow, except in China. Automakers keep investing, but at low volume and low profitability.
Now let’s get to the good part: interiors! According to interior-design experts, the top emerging trends include larger and more user-friendly screen-based human-machine interfaces (HMI), reconfigurable seating and individual-focused drive deck environments. There are also safety- and health-promoting features ready to be deployed, such as biomedical monitoring. This can provide basic health metrics, but also monitor drivers’ vigilance to determine fitness to operate the vehicle at various levels of automated driver-assist functionality.
BMW is introducing an interior concept for their i3 EV. The “BMW i3 Urban Suite,” said to have the relaxed feel of a boutique hotel, features a large seat with footrest, a screen that flips down from the headliner, and a “Personal Sound Zone.” The goal is to show how a car interior can be transformed into a laid-back place for relaxation. The seat knitted textile, its color and execution a bit of a throwback—not like a BMW signature as we know it.
Mercedes is showing a striking new car concept, see the Design Lounge. Consistency with nature, beyond the leaf seat idea, comes through materials and interior lighting. The commitment to sustainable materials starts with floors made of karuun, a wood composite made of fast-growing rattan (palm tree family). The seats are made with vegan Dinamica microsuede—its manufacture is similar to paper recycling, with no harmful chemicals—which is the only vegan microsuede to guarantee an entirely environmentally sustainable production chain. The batteries are also compostable and recyclable.
Interior lighting is controlled by the passengers’ moods as sensed through their heartbeats, and can influence kids’ mood out to their parents when they’re in the back seats through a pulse in the seat.
Audi is presenting the Audi AI:ME as a personal mobility partner, the empathetic Audi Intelligence Experience technology, and the innovative 3D mixed-reality head-up display.
AI:ME knows its users and their habits, and uses intelligent functions combined with artificial intelligence to increase the passengers’ safety, wellbeing, and comfort. The self-learning navigation system, already in current generation of the MMI systems, saves preferred destinations, connects them with the date, time, and current traffic situation, and derives suggested routes from this data. Next, the car will also analyze preferences including the seat position, media, route guidance, temperature, and interior scents. Seats are built and adjustable on a central slider, and the instrument panel is a long curved flat wooden surface going all the way through left to right B-pillars.
The 3D mixed-reality head-up display is new technology developed in cooperation with Samsung. Just like with a 3D television, two views are generated of each picture: one pixel for the left eye and the neighboring pixel for the right eye. To the driver, the pictures appear to be floating at a distance of 8 to 10 meters; through clever representation, the apparent distance is even increased to over 70 meters with no re-focus necessary.
Other new innovations: a transparent display on demand screen is 15 cm high, 122 cm wide, and partially embedded into the instrument panel. It offers two layers: a transparent OLED display and a black layer for a particularly deep shade of black. Sections of the display that are not required for showing information remain transparent, allowing occupants to see the road through it.
Ford showed their 2021 Mustang Mach-E crossover in a new GT version, with extended battery range of 300 miles. The Interior stays as presented in LA.
Honda, besides their augmented driving concept (more in this newsletter’s Design Lounge section) is showcasing technologies jointly developed by their incubator Honda Xcelerator and startups focused on improving workplace ergonomics and manufacturing efficiency: exoskeleton devices, voice-enabled, AI-powered personal assistant developed with SoundHound, and their “Smartphone as Brain” technology, which allows drivers to safely use their phones while on the road, because of optimized system integration. Honda personal assistant technology developed with Drivemode allows better control of data, compared to a Google or Alexa system.
Nissan showed off their Ariya electric crossover concept, already presented at the Tokyo motorshow. It’s a production version of the 5-seater SUV with a 300-mile battery range. And for fun, Nissan presented their zero-emission ice cream van!
Renault was present at the Otodo booth—that’s a young French company with focus on smart-home connectivity—to deliver a secure link between car and user’s home connected objects (thermostat, lights, shutters for a leaving-home and arriving-home scenarios). This innovative will be available in all Renault cars that have the new Renault Easy Link multimedia system, including the new Zoe, Clio, and Captur.
Byton showed a production (or near-production) version of the M-Byte, with its giant door-to-door dashboard screen. Their story here is very much around plans for unconventional retail networks, with direct-to-consumer internet sales first in California, and later wherever they’re able to change laws to make it legal (many U.S. states have laws protecting the dealership model of auto sales).
Fisker: Henrik Fisker, personally at the booth full-time, presented the company’s 80 kWh Li-Ion Ocean all-electric SUV with 300-mile range, which is expected to become available in 2022. We got our first chance to see the EV with a full-length solar roof and vegan interior—no leather! Subscription proposed at $379 a month.
Faraday Future had no booth, just one car parked in front of the Renaissance Hotel (where BMW and Continental were). It’s real, three years after first introduction. Interior remains as presented in the first place; large screens dominate the dashboard with a tablet-like infotainment display in the center and another screen on passenger side, plus a screen high on the dash in front of the steering wheel, integrating the instrument cluster information. Faraday also integrates screens into the doors that house the controls for seat setting, climate control, individual sound zones, and more. Comfort is a focus, especially for rears with zero-gravity seats, 60° recline, heat/cool, massage, lower leg support, lumbar and upper backrest adjustment.
Rivian was at the Amazon booth—Amazon is now a major Rivian shareholder. They showed their upcoming R1T electric pickup truck and R1S electric SUV. One of the biggest highlights of these models is that they will come integrated with Amazon’s popular voice assistant, Alexa. Unlike previously seen models from other makers, which only come with the ability for you to control Alexa-connected devices from your car, Rivian has embedded Alexa into the hardware of their upcoming electric vehicles.
GM was only present via a demo integration of Amazon’s Alexa Auto voice-controlled virtual assistant in a new Cadillac CT5, also at the Amazon booth.
Hyundai revealed only some details about a flying vehicle concept, presented with an Uber signature. This strong strategic statement around new mobility with Uber seems to need further development. At this stage, it can transport four passengers within 100 km, with 8 electric fans to carry a 3400 kg payload. It’s sort of dronelike, 10.7 m long with a wingspan of 15 m. From a pure energy equation standpoint, it’s far from a reasonable mobility solution—but it certainly generated buzz! Hyundai also presented a highly customizable prototype car with autonomous-driving capabilities, looking like an elegant Davos cable car cabin, not even on wheels. Will it eventually make it to production? Well…we’ll see.
Toyota showed signs of an even more radical strategic shift, going directly to the city level, far beyond mobility itself. See the Design Lounge.
Sony was a surprise newcomer. More details in the Design Lounge, but Sony has developed a car that is both drivable and gives full consideration to safety. They presented it as a glimpse into the future of mobility encompassing the evolution of safety, comfort, entertainment, and adaptability. The Vision S feels like the culmination of the many ways Sony and their many products could be shown and tested in a car, to help Sony engineers and customers to fully understand Sony product value.
For Sony, future mobility turns around enhancement of safety, comfort, entertainment and adaptability. It has advanced camera-based systems for driving and driver monitoring, 360° Reality Audio system, panoramic screen, and multiple sensors in their “oval sensing” approach.