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What really happened in Vegas

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The old saying "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" does not always apply. On the contrary, the Las Vegas-based Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a prime example of how technology showcased there often quickly finds its way around the globe, partly with the help of 130,000+ on-site attendees.


The photo is AI-generated.

Over the last few years, the mobility industry has grown into the largest segment of the show, and in early January, many of Drive Sweden’s partners were also there to learn about the latest trends while, of course, pitching their own offerings. So, what were the main takeaways from the mobility part of CES 2024?

More UX than AV

Even though the Detroit Big 3 (Ford, GM, Stellantis) chose not to exhibit this year, vendors associated with mobility still occupied significant floor space, approximately 1½ massive exhibition hall. A wide range of non-U.S. vehicle manufacturers, including many brands still unknown to the general public, exhibited their latest products, often in the form of concept vehicles.

What stood out this year compared to recent CES events was that the vehicle manufacturers spoke much less about autonomous (AV) features, at least in passenger cars. Instead, the show was almost an arms race for who could install the largest and most sophisticated displays in vehicles to feature an optimal user experience (UX). One example of how car manufacturers now are looking to consumer electronics for help was the first showing of an Afeela car, coming out of the new Honda/Sony joint venture.

The content on all these infotainment systems was of course also highlighted, and not surprisingly, AI was the key feature that no one could afford not to mention. Mercedes and Volkswagen were among the brands that boasted a generative AI feature as part of their integrated UX.  

The recent turbulence around deploying AV in the US may have been the reason for advanced AV features not being highlighted in cars, but that did not stop the suppliers. The halls were filled with sensors, software and other AV critical components from Tier 1 suppliers and downwards. Amazon, had significantly increased its presence in the mobility space with a Zoox vehicle being one of its featured products.

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Defined by Software or Hardware?

Many media reports from CES mentioned (and sometimes questioned) the latest automotive buzzword; software-defined vehicles (SDV). However, it was not easy to see in what way this really represents a new concept; after all, software has been a most critical component in new vehicles for decades.

Our observation was that there was another category of innovations that could rather be described as Hardware-Defined Vehicles. In the regular vehicles category, KIA showed the most talked-about example of this trend in its series of modular electric vehicles. The same principles also appeared in other types of vehicles, such as a modular skateboard architecture that could carry e.g. an automated street sweeper, or customizable robots performing anything between deliveries and street security surveillance.


What about other forms of mobility?

To gain recognition at CES, it seems a real-life, very cool-looking product is a prerequisite. This may be the reason why we didn’t really see anything related to shared mobility or anything MaaS-related. However, various variants of micromobility were present, and while we did not observe any major technology updates, it was interesting to see that you can now buy e-scooters from as diverse brands as Bugatti and Reebok.

Stay in Vegas – Please!

Finally, some things actually do stay in Vegas… During the show, CES published this historic list of failed innovations that never made it out of the “Sin City”. Somehow, we have a feeling that one of the most photographed ‘vehicles’ at CES 2024, the XPeng AeroHT, will end up on that same list in a couple of years. For sure, both the flying car and its sibling Land Aircraft Carrier' Modular Flying Car are very cool products that would fit very well into the opening scene of the next James Bond movie, but…

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