Autonomous a decade away? What about connected smart apps until then?

Last week saw the big CES show in Las Vegas, where autonomous vehicles took over five years ago; the star then was the Audi A7 self-driving prototype. Many attendees this year were very disappointed that automakers and tech partners have changed their story from the AV Revolution over to cool, connected features being added to new cars.

Consulting companies Gartner and PwC now estimate that autonomous vehicles reaching mass production and sales — along with the much-hyped robotaxis — will take another decade or so to get here. Auto sales will probably continue declining for a while and then should go back up in the US to over 17 million or more as car buyers aren’t going to be ready to change their lifestyles with AVs — and electric vehicles and mobility services — for quite a while.

At last year’s CES show, several companies revealed advanced driver-assist technologies. It was a letdown for many attendees, and began signaling that the AV Revolution is going to take a while.

“I remember the projections from CES four or five years ago that by 2021, we’d have autonomous fleets and, obviously, that’s not happening as quickly,” said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES. “There’s a lot of barriers,”

A Deloitte study launched right before CES affirms it. Nearly half of US consumers (48 percent) of the respondents believe that fully autonomous vehicles will be unsafe; and 58 percent aren’t willing to pay more than $500 for AV technology.

The Deloitte 2020 Global Automotive Consumer Study surveyed more than 35,000 driving-aged consumers, from 20 countries, across the world. While increased connectivity in new vehicles is thought to be the bridge between the current models and AVs of the future, surveyed consumers have mixed feelings. People in India (80 percent) and China (76 percent) are embracing the idea at over twice the rate compared to Germany (36 percent), followed by the US (46 percent). Some issues do carry over to India and other countries — concerns over privacy and data security being a top issue.

Consulting company PwC says autonomous vehicles used in robotaxi operations will not reach roads in any significant presence until after 2030.

Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility sets a clear example of where the technology is now, and where it’s headed. Intelligent Mobility offers a suite of integrated technology designed to increase safety, comfort, and control while driving, “connecting you with your vehicle and the world around you.” Intelligent Driving starts now with driver assistant technology like Safety Shield 360 that helps you see more and sense more, giving you a helping hand when you need it. Then there’s the e-Pedal that makes electric car driving even more fun. And going to the next step: smart vehicles that connect with each other in an ecosystem that improves safety and traffic flow.

Automakers and tech giants like Apple and Alphabet are following the lead set by Amazon in recent years with the launch of its Alexa and Echo systems. They integrate control systems and devices into a personalized, customized system for giving voice commands to driving directions, EV charging, playing the music you love to hear, and much more. You might say, “Alexa, tell me the best place nearby to pickup a low-carb dinner, and the best way to get there fast while playing great music from the 1980s.”

Highlights from this year’s CES:

  • Sony unveiled an electric car concept that could set the Japanese tech giant up as a partner for self-driving EVs of the future. The company said sensors are embedded within the vehicle, in order to “detect and recognize people and objects inside and outside the car, and provide highly advanced driving support.” Magna Steyr built prototype, and Sony listed Benteler, Blackberry, Bosch, Continental, Elektrobit, Genetex, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and ZF Friedrichshafen as partners.
  • Along with reminders about its intelligent mobility offerings, Nissan revealed a new twin-motor, all-electric, all-wheel-drive system. It’s expected to debut in Nissan’s first all-electric crossover utility vehicle that may arrive in the US in 2021. Called e-4ORCE, the new system will deliver high-torque, precision handling and stability, Nissan said. This will be possible by optimizing power delivery to each of the four wheels.
  • Toyota’s Woven City was shown off as a prototype community of the future that will be built near Mount Fuji in Japan. The 175-acre site will house an experimental laboratory of future technologies including self-driving vehicles run on hydrogen fuel cells, robots, smart homes and new forms of personal mobility. People will be able to live in this community of the future.
  • Hey there, hardcore gamers:  This year, both Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation will launch new, next-generation game consoles. Both are scheduled to arrive this holiday season, and both are being slowly finished up for major launches. And you can always get a cutting-edge TV of the future to play the games on and watch your favorite show. Samsung showed off its Q950 8K TV with a minimal 15mm frame and AI processor that can track screen objects and position the sound to match. LG unveiled its latest rollable OLED TV, that can roll down from the ceiling like a projector screen with no need for a projector; there’s also a more affording OLED TV with a smaller 48-inch display.
  • Uber and Hyundai Motor Co. have a new partnership to develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial ride share network, and the new partners unveiled a new full-scale aircraft concept. Hyundai is the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative, bringing automotive-scale manufacturing capability and a track record of mass-producing electric vehicles.
  • Renault is developing a solution enabling automatic and secure interaction and communication between cars and connected objects in homes in partnership with French smart-home startup Otodo. Users will be able to control their home’s connected objects directly from their vehicle’s dashboard, as well as send instructions from their home, using a smartphone or connected speaker, to their connected Renault vehicle to prepare or share an itinerary, and other functions. It will be available in all Renault models that have the new Renault EASY LINK multimedia system, including the all-new Zoe, Clio, and Captur.
  • Hey there, Avatar fans:  Something that could be called “Ava-car” will be launched to promote upcoming sequels to the hugely popular Avatar movie made by the legendary director James Cameron. He spoke at CES to announced an Avatar-themed partnership with Mercedes-Benz, revealing the futuristic AVTR concept car. It offers what the German carmaker sees as the future of automotive design, featuring things like a steering wheel that will “merge” man and machine. AVTR will be able to recognize the driver based on their heartbeat and breathing patterns. The look of the car is based on non-human characters from Avatar’s fictional eco-universe. The seats and floor are made from sustainable materials, and the battery is recyclable, too.

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