Self-driving cars and electrified vehicles were key themes at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas. CES has become the leading showcase arena in the U.S. for the coolest, cutting-edge devices for cars and other consumer products. It seems to be evolving into the leading event of the year for the auto industry, slightly surpassing the North American International Auto Show right before it starts up this coming week in Detroit.
Analysts say we’re 15-to-20 years from seeing hundreds of thousands of fully autonomous vehicles on our roads. In the meantime, the concept of self-driving cars appears to be an ideal platform for automakers and technology partners to be rolling out, and testing out, new bells and whistles that will eventually become standard features. Electric vehicle technologies were also shown off by OEMs during CES.
- Ford CEO Mark Fields was a keynote speaker at CES, where he announced a deal with Amazon to incorporate the cloud-based voice assistant, Alexa into its vehicles. Using Alexa will allow a driver to not just open a garage door but turn on lights and adjust the thermostat by voice command, among other features. Fields talked about Ford’s commitment to personal mobility through supporting ridesharing and carsharing programs. However, he didn’t mention the alliance with Google on self-driving car technologies that had been announced shortly before CES. Fields did talk about a new light and radar sensor (LiDAR) that can be mounted in the mirrors of a car. Developed by Silicon Valley-based company Velodyne, Inc., this third-generation sensor can extend the LiDAR range by 200 meters, which is essential for the safety of autonomous vehicles. It’s called the “Ultra Puck,” and will enable a driverless vehicle to create a real-time, 3D map of its surroundings, Fields said.
- General Motors chairman and CEO Mary Barra, during her keynote Wednesday, confirmed that the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric car would be in production this year and would sell, after government rebates, for $30,000. While it will be competing with the Nissan Leaf, it will get about double the range at 200 miles. Barra’s unveiling of the Bolt at CES came just days after GM announced an alliance with ridesharing service Lyft that includes the creation of a fleet of shared GM vehicles available for Lyft drivers to rent. The Bolt will be a key display feature for GM this week at the Detroit Auto Show.
- As Volkswagen continues to battle the diesel emissions violations scandal, CES was a platform for showing off its electric people-mover concept. VW’s BUDD-e minivan concept has been designed to show what connected, electric transportation could look like a few years from now. The BUDD-e concept, revealed at CES on Tuesday, offers a new modular platform toolkit designed for electric vehicles that the automaker intends to deploy across its brands. BUDD-e packs a 101-kilowatt-hour battery providing up to 373 miles of range in the New European Driving Cycle, a test cycle designed to assess emissions. It can be recharged to 80% in 15 minutes, the company said.
- Automakers and leading automotive suppliers have been taking self-driving car technologies very seriously in recent years – according to a study released during CES by Thomson Reuters. According to the new report from the Intellectual Property and Science business of Thomson Reuters, there were more than 22,000 new inventions related to selfdriving automobiles between 2010 and 2015. Companies such as Toyota, Bosch, Denso, Hyundai, GM and Nissan, have been the global leaders in selfdriving vehicle innovation. Toyota alone has patented over 2,000 new driverless tech inventions in the last five years, double the number two player Bosch, according to the report. LG, Samsung, Google, Boeing, IBM, Amazon, Carnegie Mellon, and MIT also have contributed significant new intellectual property in the category over the last five years.
- While Apple is new to the autonomous vehicle game, Thomson Reuters IP & Science analysts predict that Apple will soon make a collaboration announcement with Tesla Motors; while Apple is not a leading innovator in this field like Google has become, a partnership with Tesla would be a predictable move for both companies, based on a thorough review of both companies’ patent portfolios, according to Thomson Reuters.
- Nvidia has introduced a new computer for vehicles that includes artificial-intelligence features to make them more autonomous. Volvo will use the new product in its public trials of autonomous vehicles in 2017, the company said. Nvidia designs graphics processing units, as well as system on a chip units for the mobile computing market, and is working on playing a role in the automotive technology market.
- Self-driving cars was the topic of several surveys and studies released last week. New data from an Autotrader study reveals 70% of consumers are more likely to consider vehicles with autonomous features such as parking assist, collision avoidance, and automatic braking.
- Self-driving cars are involved in fewer crashes on average than vehicles with a driver behind the wheel, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute commissioned by Alphabet Inc’s Google unit. It looked only at Google’s fleet of more than 50 self-driving cars, which has logged 1.3 million miles in Texas and California in self-driving mode. The test fleet has reported 17 crashes over the last six years, although none were the fault of the self-driving cars, Google said. After adjusting for severity and accounting for crashes not reported to police, the study estimated cars with drivers behind the wheel are involved in 4.2 crashes per million miles, versus 3.2 crashes per million miles for self-driving cars in autonomous mode.
- A survey conducted by Volvo found that 92% of respondents believe that people should be able to take control of self-driving cars at any moment while 81% of the people agree that automakers, not car owners, should take responsibility if an accident occurs while a vehicle is driving autonomously.
- While self-driving cars grabbed most of the media attention at CES, Panasonic Corp.’s President Kazuhiro Tsuga says it will be years before autonomous systems contribute meaningfully to the company’s bottom line. Panasonic, which has partnerships with Ford, Toyota, Tesla, forecasts sales in the automotive segment will climb to $17.8 billion in the year ending March 2019. Most of that will come from cockpit infotainment systems and car batteries, Tsuga said.
- Kia executives said that said the Korean automaker will offer their first “partially autonomous” vehicle by 2020, with “highly autonomous” technology to follow five years later. The company will invest up to $2 billion in autonomous vehicle technologies, the company said.