CES 2018: On the road to the autonomous car

Smart vehicles and the technologies to support them were everywhere at CES 2018, but you can’t drive them yet. The news went beyond Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a big trend to implement support for Amazon’s Alexa inside tomorrow’s transit to provide a glimpse at the kinds of vehicles we’ll see on our roads in a few years’ time.

IHS Markit estimates 33 million autonomous vehicles will be sold in 2040, up from only 51,000 in 2021.

“The automotive world will be changing in the next 5-10-years,” Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Herbert Diess told CES as he announced use of Nvidia’s image recognition system in his company’s ID Buzz (set to ship in 2022). Nvidia also surprised everyone with its Drive Xavier autonomous vehicles processor.

Ford announced plans to ship its own autonomous vehicles by 2021. Meanwhile, China’s Baidu announced Apollo 2.0, the latest iteration of its own autonomous vehicle driving platform. Telling us that “future car is software-defined.”

Smart public transport

Autonomous public transport may be among the first self-driving vehicle systems we can expect, with a range of solutions on offer at the show. Many of these will be car-as-service; IHS Markit predicts that there will be an average of 12 mobility-as-a-service users per car.

Nissan is working with NASA to develop a solution to manage fleets of autonomous vehicles in unpredictable urban environments, such as ride-sharing, public transport or logistics services.

Lyft and Aptiv offered show attendees driverless vehicle transportation to 20 Las Vegas locations. They had competition: French manufacturer Navya had its self-driving shuttle buses chugging around the city.

Cepton Technologies showed work on its 3D LiDAR system and also announced a partnership with May Mobility, under which self-driving public transport becomes even more likely, following a successful pilot scheme in Detroit in 2017.

Technology providers

Samsung subsidiary, auto speaker company Harman, demonstrated its Harman Shield Solution. Developed as a reaction to predictions that hackers will attempt to undermine these connected vehicles, the system aims to protect autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles from cyberattacks and “sensor spoofing” incidents, such as fake or vandalized road signs.

Mitsubishi took time to demonstrate a range of vehicle-focused solutions, including human machine interfaces, biometric authentication, map and position tools, payments and car/smart home integrations. It also demonstrated its EMIRAI 4 concept vehicle for the first time in the U.S.

Better maps

Mapping technologies were also extensively discussed. Smart vehicles will need near-real time insight into road status in order to avoid accident scenes, congestion and road maintenance scenes. To help build an infrastructure to provide this, Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich told CES that around two million vehicles from BMW, Nissan and Volkswagen will use its Mobileye unit’s EyeQ4 system to crowdsource road mapping data.

TomTom also announced a range of new partnerships (including with Zenuity) and mapping technologies as well as its new MotionQ predictive driving concept, which was used in the Rinspeed Snap robo-taxi concept vehicle on display at the show. Zenuity expects to have its first driver assistance products on sale in 2019 with autonomous driving solutions following soon after.

CES 2018 demonstrated that autonomous cars are attracting interest from across the technology and manufacturing industries, but as Apple CEO Tim Cook says, “It’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.” The ecosystem is coming together, but it will be a few years before smart vehicles hit the road in quantity.

Glenn Le Santo
Glenn Le Santo

Editor in Chief, International, at Orange Business. I'm in charge of our International website and the English language blogs at Orange Business. In my spare time I'm literally captain of my own ship, spending my time on the wonderful rivers and canals of England.