We’ve been saying it for years at this point, but there’s so much car tech at CES that you could almost call it the Las Vegas Auto Show. But this year more than ever, cars — from EVs to dashboard technologies and more — were at the forefront.
However, one of the most interesting trends was the way the tech and automotive industries doubled down on partnerships and cooperation at CES 2018. And not just partnerships between automakers and suppliers, but also partnerships between companies that may have historically competed with one another. It’s as if the industry collectively realized that the road to autonomy moves faster in the carpool lane.
Working toward autonomy together
Nvidia announced a partnership with VW that will let future cars recognize drivers and respond to their needs. The silicon peddler also announced its new Xavier computer, hardware designed especially for autonomous cars and AI that will be used in partnerships with Audi, Bosch, ZF, Here and Zenrin. Uber’s future fleet of self-driving carswill also pack Nvidia chips.
Speaking of Uber, the car-sharing service featured prominently in Toyota big announcement. Toyota’s showcased a new e-Palette autonomous vehicle concept and announced a new e-Palette partnership with Amazon, Uber, Pizza Hut, Didi and Mazda to share autonomous technologies and explore smart cities of the future.
Meanwhile, Ford and Qualcomm were partnered up to bring V2X and V2V communication to the automaker’s vehicles, allowing them to communicate with traffic infrastructure and other vehicles. Hints of a 5G future for Ford cars is implied in the partnership. There was also room on Ford’s dance card for it to partner up with Waze to bring the mapping, navigation and traffic monitoring app into its Sync 3 dashboard systems.
Self-driving cars hit the Strip
However, CES 2018 wasn’t a show where everyone just sat around and talked about self-driving technology — although, we did do a bit of that at our CNET autonomous car panel. Automakers, suppliers and software developers were demonstrating real-live autonomous cars all over the Las Vegas Strip.
Early on, we got a demo of Aptiv and Lyft’s self-driving BMWs, which showgoers were actually able to hop into and grab rides to over 20 locations around Las Vegas. Torc Robotics, meanwhile, showcased its self-driving car on the Vegas streets, alongside many other companies vying for attention in this now-crowded space.
Talking to cars
Amazon Alexa is kind of a big deal in tech these days, and everyone is rushing to figure out how to integrate the voice assistant into everything from smart speakers to dishwashers to cars.
Aftermarket Alexa adapters like the Speak Music Muse could be found at every turn. Meanwhile, Garmin sought to differentiate it’s Garmin Speak Plus Alexa-enabled car kit from the pack with the addition of a forward-looking camera that also adds a compliment of driver aid technologies to it’s inexpensive and universal package.
However, 2018 will go down as the year that Google strikes back with its own Google Assistant software. The search giant made a huge push by integrating Assistant into it’s established Android Auto system, partnering with automakers and, particularly, aftermarket suppliers like Pioneer, Alpine and JVC Kenwood to highlight Android Auto’s new wireless connection tech and Google Assistant smart.
Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, chose to highlight its own technology, debuting the new MBUX infotainment system, which features its own smart voice control, artificial intelligence and a much cleaner interface. We can expect to see more of MBUX in the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class soon.
Electric car manufacturers and startups have also chosen CES as the stage to highlight their vehicles. The EVs showcased ran a broad gamut.
We saw more electric and electrified SUVs entering the market, including the Kia Niro EV concept, the nearly production-ready Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel cell SUV and the Byton electric concept. The Byton, in particular, burst onto the scene with big claims of 5G connectivity, Tesla fighting performance and range, and a platform built from the ground up with autonomy in mind. The massive displays on its dashboard and steering wheel also helped turn a few heads.
We also saw one of the first electric pickup trucks in the Workhorse W-15, which can drive and haul for 80 miles under full EV power before firing up a gasoline generator for an additional 310 miles of range.
BMW, on the other hand, almost managed to steal the show by just hanging out in the parking lot all day giving demos in its drift-record-setting BMW M5, but that’s a very different sort of electrifying ride.
: We tackle 240 desert miles from LA to Vegas in Hyundai’s new fuel cell prototype.
: CNET’s complete coverage of tech’s biggest show.