CES 2019: More Show Floor Favorites


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Also, 5G and its very high speed and throughput will go a long way toward enabling safe autonomous transportation as will advances in AI, and, of course, machine learning. On this topic, I forecast that some of the safety issues recently getting attention—such as the collision between two autonomous vehicles in Vegas at CES (the headline on this one and the buzz at the show was that “no humans were hurt”)—as well as the general lack of confidence by the average person will slow down the march toward autonomous transportation. However, there can be little doubt that once the bugs are worked out, 5G becomes widespread, and people begin to see autonomous delivery vehicles become more commonplace, the rate of acceptance will accelerate rapidly. Over the last 10 years, the enabling technology for this as well as other technology segments (think XR, medical electronics, additive manufacturing, etc.) has made great revolutionary progress. Now, we are about to see the effect of revolutionary technology with rapid evolutionary progress in many areas. CTA states, “A self-driving car makes split-second decisions dependent on data transfer with zero latency (5G is needed for this to happen reliably). Through edge computing, your car becomes its own data center, computing intensive decisions locally without reliance on communication to a central server. Imagine the possibilities.” 

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Okay, enough with the opinion and forecasting; let’s look at a few of the coolest vehicles. The one that I found most sci-fi based on my 1950s–60s upbringing is the Hyundai Elevate. This is a concept car but is seemingly well on the way to reality. This concept car can drive normally, but when necessary, it can use its extendable robot legs to walk or climb over obstacles.

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The chassis goes from a shrunk-down driving mode to the legs-extended mode for climbing or walking. We are told that it can climb a five-foot vertical wall or walk across over a five-foot divide while keeping passengers level. This Transformers-like electric car, which mixes robotics and transportation, looks like an interplanetary explorer. (Who knows? It may become just that eventually, but for now, it is destined for use right here on Earth.)

Another concept car, but perhaps one that is much closer to availability, is the BMW Vision iNEXT. This all-electric vehicle seems to be a step towards an emissions-free future.

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BMW offered visitors the ability to experience the iNEXT, showing the way you will use it in the not too distant future. This is where disruptive technologies start to merge, and the value of XR becomes apparent. Thanks to a virtual test drive, this vehicle was shown using a sophisticated XR (a form of mixed-reality) setup that provides a virtual and immersive impression of what it is like to drive—or ride—autonomously in the BMW Vision iNEXT.

There were also advanced luxury vehicles and more concept cars from Mercedes-Benz and Nissan, and new electric car startup Byton that showed only part of their upcoming vehicle, but there were so many more.

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My allocated half day in the automotive hall allowed me to see and report on only a modest fraction of what was being shown. One concept that seems to be very close to the real world was the Mercedes autonomous SUV. I expect there will be more details on these and other models available at the Detroit Auto show this week, and I forecast that many of the concept vehicles will become working prototypes by next year’s CES.

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