CES, the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, increasingly caters for the long-run concepts in the reimagining of mobility. Key takeaways from this year’s show:
• There were some concept and prototype cars, maybe a few more than last year, but still not very many of them. Still, we were quite amazed at the progress made by Byton, Rivian, and Fisker out of the work-in-progress realm—this year they showed vehicles looking very nearly ready for production. High-quality prototype cars were shown by the likes of Nissan, Hyundai Mobis, and Mercedes, and dream/concept cars by brands including Chrysler, Fiat, and Sony. There were quite a few car-plausible bucks built for showing how suppliers’ technology might be integrated.
• Overall, there was quite a lot of vehicle and driving technology on display. We got the sense that showing these kinds of technology was easier this year: last year, companies had to put a lot of effort into explaining what the various parts of the transport ecosystem might look like and how they might fit and work together. With those lessons having percolated in the public mind over a year’s time, providers could more readily show their innovations without having to explain every basic aspect of what they are and how they fit in the world.
• Lidar, lidar, lidar. There was an enormous amount of lidar hardware on display. It’s getting smarter, it’s getting smaller, and it’s migrating toward solid-state (and away from moving parts). There appears to be a broad consensus that lidar will soon be ordinary equipment on most all vehicles, Elon Musk’s staunch anti-lidar opinion notwithstanding. There’s a great deal of jockeying for position by a lot of companies, and industry analysts increasingly say the current superproliferation of lidar suppliers must boil down before too long.
• Integration and interaction are basic bedrock in the transport revolution. In the way vehicles use infrastructure, in the way humans use vehicles, in the way vehicles use data, and in the way technology is configured and deployed, integration and interaction will be found all up and down the scale.
• Not a whole lot of lighting innovation on display this year, but there was some. SLD Laser, Dr. Shuji Nakamura’s company working on laser-based lighting, have made some big strides in the last year. Stanley are aggressively pushing into the UV-C LED space for killing bacteria without endangering human beings. The push to integrate ADAS/AD sensors into car lights continues, as does the pushback from those worried about cost and feasibility of car repairs. Last year’s notable lighting innovation powerhouses—AL and Varroc, for example—were dramatically scaled back or not present this year, though interesting new technology was shown by Osram.
• What used to be considered “high resolution” for variable-message/variable-image pixellated display screens on the outside of vehicles, is now considered low resolution. The improvement in just a single year’s time is remarkable. The same goes for ADB, and we also noticed the spread of ADB-like technology—that is, the dynamic selective shade-out of light—to other areas of the car.