Whether it’s using AI to converse with the driver or digital connectivity to allow vehicles to share electrical power back-and-forth with a domicile, auto brands are treating CES 2017 as a platform for demonstrating just how much more their future vehicles will be able to do than get occupants from point A to point B.
Self-driving vehicles are still a huge focus of CES and, of course, of the auto industry as a whole, with several automakers rushing to put out truly autonomous vehicles, within governments’ safety and regulatory structure, in the coming years.
At CES 2017, BMW, Intel and Mobileye announced plans to deploy a fleet of about 450 autonomous BMW cars by the second half of this year, a group of 7-Series test cars that will be deployed in the US and Europe.
In fact, much of what was on display at CES this week was a preparation for an era of autonomous driving in which automakers want to make their vehicles much more inviting, interesting places for people to spend commuting time that even these days must be mainly devoted to operating the car and piloting it safely to its destination.
In Hyundai’s vision of future mobility, this next generation of convergent technologies focuses on linking cars to customer’s lives, through intelligent autonomous driving, smart hyper-connectivity solutions and innovations to promote wellness in mobility.
— Hyundai USA (@Hyundai) January 5, 2017
Another big theme for auto brands at CES 2017: giving cars of the future a persona or at least a voice via a “virtual assistant.” Ford announced it’s bringing Amazon’s Alexa voice-command software into its vehicles for remotely starting the engine and locking car doors at first, soon with added capabilities to search for addresses or add products to an Amazon shopping list.
Nissan-Renault demonstrated how Microsoft’s Cortana voice-assistant technology could help drivers predict tasks such as recommending routes to appointments. A concept minivan from Fiat Chrysler features as many as eight docking stations for portable devices, and the Portal vehicle will be able to learn each user’s profile based on facial recognition and voice biometrics.
— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) January 6, 2017
Toyota, for its part, debuted Concept-i, its vision of a car with a voice-activated AI interface called Yui that appears in various places inside the vehicle and communicates with lights, sounds and touch. “We want it to basically form a bond with you, it becomes a partner,” Ian Cartabiano, studio chief designer at Toyota’s Calty Design Research, told the Wall Street Journal.
— Autoblog (@therealautoblog) January 6, 2017
As Bob Carter, senior vice president of Toyota’s US unit, said at a CES press conference, “The most important question is what is the relationship between those new vehicles of the future and the people who use them?”