With several brands opting for virtual participation, the tech showdown between automotive brands at the Consumer Electronics Show has been less dramatic than expected, thanks to a resurgent Covid-19. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any path-breaking technology on offer. With artificial intelligence and connected tech taking centre-stage in automotive R&D, it’s up to big tech to be the next big disruptor in the automotive space. The return of the annual technology show, held in Las Vegas had several highlights, both live and virtual.
GM announces plans to launch a self-driving car
General Motors, which chose to make all of its announcements virtually, claimed that it aims to introduce a self-driving private vehicle by 2023. The brand, which also used CES to introduce its new Silverado EV pick-up truck (with a claimed 650km range) stated that it’s “Ultra Cruise” hands-free driving system will debut in 2023 on its top-end Cadillac Celestiq ultra-luxury sedan whose concept broke cover at CES.
Part of Cadillac’s Halo Concept Portofolio, built in conjunction with GM’s electric-only Cruise self-driving car subsidiary. If successful, the model will put GM ahead of Waymo, Apple and Tesla, who have scaled-down their autonomous driving operations in light of recent controversies resulting from the safety challenges presented by autonomous tech.
BMW’s colour-changing car
BMW’s latest tech flex is at best misguided, and at worst illegal. While a car that can completely change its colours at will is cool to behold, we can’t think of what purpose the feature might serve outside of aiding bank heists. While the legality of such a feature is still questionable, it does prove, once again, that BMW is sitting on some bleeding-edge tech.
The sort that allows the car to change colour by the press of a button. The paint, which is temperature sensitive, debuted on one of the brand’s latest electric offerings, the iX Flow. BMW claims that this is made possible by the use of its “E ink” technology, featuring on a body wrap that responds to electric signals which generate different colour pigments on the surface.
BMW hasn’t made it clear whether the tech will ever feature on their production vehicles and going by their past record of limiting radical tech to showpieces only, it’s unlikely to. In the past, the Bavarian carmaker has also introduced cars like the GINA Light Visionary concept which featured a shell covered in fabric instead of painted metal. Thankfully, that didn’t make it to production either.
Sony takes its first step as a carmaker
We seem to live in a world where it’s now easier to book a brand new EV by Sony, than get your hands on their PS5. Sony, which has hinted at entering the automotive space, has taken its first step, by announcing the brand’s maiden automotive offering. Based on the Sony Vision-S concept, the company unveiled a prototype electric SUV, under a newly-formed EV subsidiary called Sony Mobility Inc.
According to Sony’s CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, who was present at the unveiling, the brand is exploring the launch of a commercial EV. The Vision S prototype that was on display, is absolutely stacked with Sony tech. This includes a 360-degree audio system, a set of rectangular displays on the dashboard spanning across the breadth of the dashboard and going beyond the A-pillars.
While it’s unclear whether the car will be equipped with a PlayStation sort of console, one of the screens also contains a tab for games (never a good idea, when it comes to cars), rear seat touchscreens and a wide array of camera sensors which could, in the future, aid self-driving abilities. In order to show that it’s serious about car making, Sony chose to display these features not on a static concept model, but a fully-functional prototype.
Mercedes-Benz to invent the world’s most efficient EV
Merc’s Vision EQXX concept was one of the first highlights of the event. The brand claims that, upon launch, the car will be the world’s most efficient passenger EV, with a sub-1000km range that it will be able to achieve through improved battery chemistry, extreme aerodynamism and solar cells. Now, the brand has gone one step further by announcing that it will begin using the EQXX’s battery tech in series production cars by 2024, even before the production version of the EQXX begins.
Moreover, the brand has established that the EQXX will serve as a sort of template upon which the brand’s future EVs are built, both in terms of battery technology and design language. The EQXX concept is, after all, the most aerodynamic car Mercedes-Benz has ever designed.
Connected tech and artificial intelligence is clearly the way forward
Both Google and Amazon announced key strategic partnerships with car brands, in a bid to bring connected-tech and “ambient computing” to your private vehicles, integrating cars into the ever-growing array of smart devices. Google, which has partnered with Volvo Cars will compete with the likes of Amazon, which has announced a series of multi-year global agreements with Stellantis. While Google will continue to leverage its Android Auto feature to seamlessly work with the car and provide real-time updates, among other things, Amazon wants to integrate its web services like Amazon Last Mile to become indispensable to the automobile sector.
Carmakers are lining up to provide all manner of voice-activated services, from live traffic updates, 3D navigation to real-time information about your immediate surroundings, all of which will be powered by AI and cloud computing. Stellantis, whose brand Jeep and Citroen operate in India, plans to build an STLA SmartCockpit platform which will be found in Stellantis vehicles from 2024.