CES 2018: Auto Brands Drive Innovation and Mobility Goals Forward

When attendees look forward to CES each year, they’re just as likely to think about the advances and ideas being showcased by automakers as they are by consumer electronics companies or the startups disrupting everyone’s business—or enhancing, as Postmates is doing for Ford, as they partner to study self-driving technology.

Space dedicated to vehicle technology at CES has increased almost 25% over last year’s CES, while the number of auto-related exhibitors has risen by 19%, to 172, over the same period.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett on Tuesday expounded in a keynote on how driverless vehicles and mobility services might allow citizens to “bring our streets into the sharing era and the sharing economy. New mobility technologies, created with people at the center, can help us share our streets in new ways, more equitably, providing more access, for more people, to everything our cities have to offer,” said the man who’s been Ford’s chief for just several months—and who faces immense pressure to move Ford to at least the perceived cutting edge in mobility services.

“With the power of AI and the rise of autonomous and connected vehicles,” Hackett added, “we have technology capable of a complete disruption and redesign of the surface transportation system for the first time in a century.”

Ford rival Toyota, meanwhile, is at CES to promote that it’s integrating Amazon Alexa voice capabilities in select models and to showcase its new Global Mobility Services Platform that will develop services for business applications.

CES 2018 Toyota e-palette concept vehicle

It’s also debuting  its e-Palette concept vehicle, a fully autonomous EV (above) with open-control interface to allow partners to install their own automated-driving systems.

Pizza Hut® and Toyota® forge global partnership to explore the future of pizza delivery, beginning with the development of Toyota's e-Palette autonomous concept vehicle unveiled Jan. 8 at CES 2018

One of Toyota’s initial partners in e-Palette is Pizza Hut, which wants to explore how Toyota’s mobility platform could lend itself to self-driven pizza-delivery vehicles and perhaps “serve as a mobile kitchen in areas of the world where such an experience would match consumer interests,” Pizza Hut said in a press release. (Ford and Domino’s are also working on an autonomous pizza delivery vehicle system.)

Jeep Wrangler CES 2018

Elsewhere at CES 2018, Jeep is showcasing its all-new 2018 Wrangler not for its off-road capabilities or even its classically unique exterior design but for its chops as the most digitally connected Jeep ever, and for a new app that helps Wrangler buyers configure their vehicle in advance.

It’s loaded with high tech features including “the award-winning fourth-generation Uconnect system with an 8.4-inch display, 4G LTE connected services, enhanced processing power, multi-touch gestures, vivid imagery, sharper graphics and the ability to support smartphone integrations of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition, an all-new Jeep Adventure Reality app will debut for the 2018 Wrangler.”

The 2018 Jeep Cherokee Latitude Edition (above) also comes with a Tech Connect Package, which connects with Amazon’s Alexa.

Volkswagen Buzz I.D.

Volkswagen took the stage at Nvidia’s CES press conference to unveil a MicroBus “reimagined in electric-car form and infused with AI technology for the cockpit and self-driving,” according to a press release. Volkswagen is integrating Nvidia’s Drive IX platform into the I.D. Buzz, which will let it recognize people as they approach the car, unlocking the door for the owner or other trusted people, and tailor the in-car experience through personalization.

As a stop on the road to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, BMW is at CES to debut an in-vehicle virtual reality experience that is designed to enhance the retail experience, [email protected] Attendees can view and interact with the first-ever BMW X2 Sports Activity Vehicle to explore the interior and exterior as well as to customize key elements of the vehicle.

Given the growing relationships between automakers and digital-tech companies, and the concentration of brainpower in both industries now at CES, it’s not surprising to see companies use the platform to demonstrate thought leadership and their mobility visions as well as their latest technology wonders.

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