Automakers Go High-Tech at CES

The merger of two American passions: cars and technology.

I’ve been attending trade shows and conventions for more than three decades and the one constant in every industry has been change, much of it driven by technology. I attended my first trade shows while working for a manufacturer in the screen printing industry.

The Screen Printing Association held an annual SPAI convention at various locations around the country from Houston to L.A. to Atlanta and elsewhere. As the digital world expanded, this association had to change as well and became the Screen Graphics Association with its annual convention called the SGAI.

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While with AMSOIL I attended the Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas each year from 1986 till my semi-retirement in 2017. SEMA is an association of companies in the automotive aftermarket. The first shows were held in the basement of the Los Angeles Dodger baseball stadium. Eventually they outgrew this space and moved to Las Vegas where it continued to flourish, becoming the third largest event in this city that never sleeps.

When SEMA is in full bloom every hotel is occupied as more than 160,000 people come into town. 3300 members of the media show up from countries all over the world to see what’s new from the 2400 exhibiting companies showcasing their wares on 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space.

The big daddy of Las Vegas conventions, however, is CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. I remember once being on a bus in Vegas during SEMA and having someone ask me, “Is CES in town?” The man asked because the city was bursting with people and he knew CES was always a massive disruption. I replied that CES is at the beginning of January, that “this week is SEMA.”

THE BIG EVOLUTION in the auto industry is how much technology is embedded in cars these days. As result, we have automakers attending the CES show in order to show off the inroads they’ve made incorporating consumer electronics into their new and future designs.

We’ve been hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT) for a while now. If you were at CES this week, you’d have a chance to see just how far this brave new world has come.

According to a story at Seeking Alpha, here are the four main themes related to auto-tech development:

— Automated driving today and Autonomous mobility of the future
Data monetization and the transformation of the Connected Car
Evolution of in-vehicle user experience, from software to virtual assistants
Architecture transformation from ECUs to servers on wheels

These cars ain’t what they used to be. They know what you want even before you know.

One paragraph in the story concerned me, though. Advertisers will be zeroing in on you car as another way to send you marketing messages. It’s one thing to get ad-blocking for your TV and you iPhone. Do we now have to buy and download ad-blocking services for our car dashboards now, too?

I’m curious about a few other issues, such as how often we’ll be stuck somewhere because our car is updating its software or running checks on its operating system (OS).

At least 10 automakers are at CES in Vegas this week. Here are the first four listed in an Automotive News story.

BMW will tease an interior concept for its i3 EV. The “BMW i3 Urban Suite,” said to have the “relaxed feel of a boutique hotel,” features a large seat with footrest, a screen that flips down from the headliner and a “personal Sound Zone.”

Fisker will debut the Ocean all-electric crossover, powered by an 80-kWh lithium ion battery pack and with an expected range of up to 300 miles. Production should begin at the end of 2021.

Ford will show its 2021 Mustang Mach-E crossover. The highly anticipated mass-market EV, with a 300-mile range, is Ford’s answer to Tesla, General Motors and others that beat it to the electric market with long-range EVs.

GM will demo integration of Amazon’s Alexa Auto voice-controlled virtual assistant in a new Cadillac CT5. “Alexa. Find me the nearest public bathroom.”

Other manufacturers with cool goodies at this show include Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, Nissan, Renault and Toyota.

“Alexa. Fetch my car and take me to the river.”

Related Link

Green Car Report
A small catalog of Car Quotes

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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