CES in Las Vegas is the world's largest technology show, with over 4000 brands attending and 150,000 media and retailers there to see them. One very large section of the show is dedicated to Automotive, and most car makers now have stands at CES.
In the recent past, we would be looking at what each brand envisioned as their car of the future. In most cases, it was a living room on wheels: essentially two lounges facing one another. This year, that has all changed, as brands focus on what a real vision of the future looks like.
In 2020, car brands brought cars of the future… that looked like cars again.
Sony, maker of home entertainment products, even showed a concept car of the future that looked like it would blend in on the roads today. Mercedes worked with James Cameron to design a car of the future and even it had a typical look to it.
What's happening in the automotive industry now though, is a strong focus on gradual change, implementing current capabilities properly and working with companies like Here Technologies to understand and connect their cars with the rest of the world.
The technology coming to cars through 2020 will focus on integration with your life, be it your diary, your smart home or your wellbeing. This is all to bring a higher level of convenience to the driving experience.
Lamborghini and... Amazon?
Lamborghini announced this week it is partnering with Amazon to bring the Alexa voice assistant to the Huracan.
This internet-connected vehicle can be integrated into the smart home, so you could open your garage door through voice, set the air conditioner on your way home, book a restaurant but also integrated into the car itself. Ask Alexa to switch the Huracan into race mode, change the ambient lighting colour to red and turn off the seat warmers.
This level of integration is where many carmakers will be focused, as people are becoming comfortable with this technology now.
Sony Vision-S: Tech flex on a new level
When Sony took the wraps off the Vision-S concept vehicle at CES (above and top of article), it was clear in the audience that most couldn’t believe Japan's giant audio and video company had made an entire car.
This wasn’t an exercise to delve into the auto industry, mind you. This was a flex of the company's strengths that car brands should be leveraging. Speakers built into the seats, touch-sensitive panels in the interior, screens in all areas of the cars and sensors to detect pedestrians, other vehicles and provide great detail of the surroundings.
While Sony already works with many car brands, this would be its way of showing the world how far and wide its technology can spread.
Here Technologies and autonomous tech
Sitting down with Here Technologies again this year, the plan was to focus on the person, focus on everything around the car and build more partnerships. The focus on the person means that we all want to get from A to B, and to do so usually means many different stages.
For example, getting from home in Sydney to Here's booth at the convention centre meant driving, walking into the terminal to find my gate, my flight, walking again, taxi to the hotel, taxi to the convention centre and then walking to their booth. All of those stages required me to look at a different app, a different board or signage, and Here wants to change that.
The company is close to releasing its end-to-end navigation app for smartphones, which will be able to do accurate indoor and outdoor guidance so you could literally type in Here's booth name and location while in Sydney, and receive the entire process for navigation.
The focus on everything around the car was interesting. Elon Musk will tell you his car is ready for fully autonomous driving. What does the Tesla do when it approaches road works that blocks the lane? It sees an obstacle and stops, much like standing in front of the car. What Here wants to do is deliver data to the vehicle that helps it make the decisions it needs.
In a situation where a pot hole develops, only one car should have to notice it before every car knows about it. The sharing of information will mean that issues like that do not occur and driving is infinitely safer.
We also discussed mapping and cars of the future, with autonomous modes needing to use a higher-definition map. A top-down 2D map is not providing enough information to a vehicle. It will know to turn left in 200 metres, but will it know there is a sharp decline before it? If so, it should apply more braking to that section of the road. Considerations for entirely cross-sectional mapping and live adjustments through data is required.
The focus on partnerships was an interesting piece. While not every car on the road will have autonomous technology to gather and share data, there are still plenty of cars on the road that could be a source of information. So Here is working with companies like Uber, Toll, DHL, Amazon and cities to share information about fastest routes, live delays, accidents, road works and more.
Every Uber driver could be used as a data point in a larger pool to create insights for use. If every vehicle could communicate, and if you consider the kilometres many people rack up each day, there would be very different traffic reports on the radio.
Progress in the automotive space is flying, and technology is the greatest asset to the vehicle from a selling point and for usability. One day, we will sit in a living room that takes us to work.
We might be hoping it arrives before we retire, but that may not be the case just yet. We can, however, still be very excited about the steps happening today and the changes we are getting access to in our cars today.
Geoff Quattromani (@GQuattromani) travelled to CES as a guest of Jabra, LG, Uber and HERE Technologies.
MORE: All CES 2020 coverage