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Automotive suppliers on the CASE at CES 

Some of last year's eye-catching innovations at CES included Audi and Disney's virtual reality (VR) technology, and an autonomous, battery-electric Toyota e-Palette concept vehicle. This year's event didn't disappoint with exhibitors taking up some 300,000 square feet to showcase their latest products and ideas in AVs, concept cars and connectivity. 

Automotive suppliers on the CASE at CES 

US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao used a keynote address at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to reveal an initiative entitled: 'Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0'. The guidelines are intended to unify efforts across 38 federal departments and agencies that are working to advance the safe use of such vehicles.  As the Trump administration signals strong support for AVs, an increasing number of suppliers worldwide are taking a keen interest in serving the self-driving market.  We turn a Vegas spotlight on some of those who exhibited CASE (Connectivity, Autonomous, Sharing/Subscription and Electrification) technologies at the CES in January. 

Some of last year's eye-catching innovations at CES included Audi and Disney's virtual reality (VR) technology, and an autonomous, battery-electric Toyota e-Palette concept vehicle. This year's event didn't disappoint with exhibitors taking up some 300,000 square feet to showcase their latest products and ideas in AVs, concept cars and connectivity. 

Sony was among those that basked in the media spotlight in January when it revealed its Vision S, an electric car concept put together with a little help from the likes of Bosch, Blackberry, Nvidia and Qualcomm. The Vision S bristles with 33 sensors to not only spot hazards, but also detect driver fatigue. Not surprisingly, the car also shows off Sony's in-car entertainment technologies. 

HERE Technologies, an Amsterdam-based location data and technology platform, made a number of announcements, including that its software-as-a-solution, HERE Navigation On-Demand is now available for integration in automakers infotainment systems. It means that manufacturers can monitor the software after it's instalment and send updates over-the-air. Ultimately, this should help reduce the complexity and cost of building AVs.

CASE mobility solutions need sensors. Lots of them. Israel-based Innoviz develops and manufactures solid-state LiDAR (which stands for Light Detection and Ranging) sensors and perception software that enable the mass-production of AVs. The company demonstrated its automotive-grade solid-state LiDAR, InnovizOne, for the first time at CES 2020.

Headquartered in Silicon Valley, privately-owned Quanergy develops solid-state LiDAR sensors and smart sensing solutions. The fast-growing global LiDAR market is estimated to reach $10B by 2025, and, throughout the past year, Quanergy strengthened its financial performance and expanded in target markets including Smart Spaces, Security, Industrial and 3D mapping. The company let it be known just before the show opened that it has been selected as a LiDAR partner for Geely Automotive Group. The pair will collaborate on the development and commercialisation of solutions for the broad deployment of smart city and autonomous vehicle systems.

REV-1 is the name given to a food delivery robot developed by US-based Refraction. The start-up is solving the last mile challenge by making low-cost, lightweight autonomous delivery robots that can operate in both the bike lane and on the roadway.

While gesture recognition is used in consumer electronics, it is gradually creeping into vehicles. Given that prodding and pinching at a touchscreen while driving can be distracting, using hand gestures and even eye movements to control climate and switch radio channels is seen as the next best thing. For its part, Cerence showed off an improved version of its Drive platform. The multimodal upgrades relate to technologies such as gaze detection, head tracking and voice and gesture recognition. It means drivers will have greater ability to control various elements of the vehicle without the need to press any buttons.

Given that prodding and pinching at a touchscreen while driving can be distracting, using hand gestures and even eye movements to control climate and switch radio channels is seen as the next best thing.

Saint-Gobain Sekurit presented a second version of its connected windscreen prototype. The French group is working on integrating Cerence's voice and gesture recognition technologies to improve the device alongside on an autonomous bus concept with the German manufacturer e.GO.

While in-car augmented reality (AR) head-up-displays (HUD) are installed on few car models, they offer limited performance. Beijing-based Futurus Technology aims to raise the bar. The company revealed the world's first mixed reality light field display interactive windscreen. By marrying real world environments and hazards with contextual information regarding a vehicle's status, performance and surroundings, the interactive windscreen has two independent layers - one to detect potential hazards ahead for the driver; the other to allow passengers to watch movies and/or TV without distracting the driver.

Continental shared its vision of the mobility of the future along the megatrends of networking and automated driving. The supplier's focus is on the connected car and "the entire living space of mobility in the intelligent city of tomorrow." The supplier demonstrated how the user will be able to book an autonomous shuttle bus and reserve their seat via an app. The location of the bus can be tracked, of course, and a personalized welcome message will greet the user on arrival.

Continuing the shared mobility theme, Aisin Group brought its i-mobility TYPE-C20 concept, an automated, bus-like ride-sharing vehicle equipped with CASE technologies. On the connectivity front, it can detect passengers through its in-cabin monitoring system. The onscreen graphics displayed inside the vehicle change and respond according to rider interest and local attractions.

Harman, a unit of Samsung Electronics, had a big presence at the CES, taking over a slice of the Hard Rock Hotel to display some of its latest cloud-based technologies. They included updates to its connected car technologies to enhance the driver experience, a suite of technologies to improve the EV-specific audio experience and boost range, and a system that operates on 5G networks making streets safer for pedestrians. For instance, range anxiety continues to be a barrier for EV adoption. This, in turn, has made the inclusion of popular in-car features that require a power draw, including infotainment, especially challenging when engineering for an EV environment. In addressing these concerns, Harman has developed EV Plus+ Solutions that delivers an audio performance using less power and half the parts of traditional systems. It also introduces on-demand delivery of software-based premium experiences.

Mitsubishi Electric was also among those suppliers taking up prominent space at CES, setting out its vision of MaaS (mobility as a service) in society. Its booth featured an in-vehicle infotainment demonstration platform, the FLEXConnect.MaaS. Working with Qualcomm Technologies, Mitsubishi Electric developed the demonstration based on the third generation Qualcomm Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms. FLEXConnect.MaaS shows a variety of customizable infotainment options automakers can use to differentiate their vehicles and provide rich and immersive in-vehicle experiences.

Visteon has transitioned from a multi-product, Ford spin-off to a supplier focused on the development and production of a full line of cockpit electronics, including audio/infotainment systems. Its range of infotainment solutions includes the Phoenix audio display and embedded infotainment platform and Android-embedded open-source infotainment systems. Increasingly, the company is focused on developing connected car and assisted and autonomous driving systems. Its key growth product, on display at the CES, is the SmartCore domain controller and the DriveCore autonomous driving controller.

Last but not least, ZF remains excited about automated driving. However, the challenge will require more time and effort to fully realize. The supplier, therefore, sees two distinct paths: Level 2+ for passenger cars, which will take a longer, perhaps more winding road to achieve; and cargo and people movers in defined geo-fenced areas utilizing Level 4 and 5 technologies. ZF used CES to explain its future plans for Automated Driving under the banner – Automating Next Generation Mobility. This highlights the company's efforts for personal passenger vehicles where the company is concentrating on Level2+ systems. In addition, ZF continues to develop Level 4 systems for applications like commercial vehicles, people movers and robo-taxis where there is a nearer-term business case. Its approach to autonomy is to invest in technologies that will have near term benefits for the public in terms of personal mobility and goods delivery.

Connectivity is king

The use of superfast 5G is set to play a pivotal role as automakers seek to integrate vehicles into the Internet of Things. But it also represents a paradigm shift for V2X (vehicle-to-everything) technologies on the road to autonomous driving.

During an early morning CES press conference, BMW revealed plans to introduce its iNEXT in 2021. The automaker said it will be the first car in the world to be equipped with the 5G technology from Samsung and Harman. And at last year's event, Ford let it be known that it will begin deploying C-V2X communications in all its new cars as from 2022. The carmaker has since revealed plans to apply it in new cars in China from next year.

The show further demonstrated how connectivity between the vehicle, passengers and outside world has become a key priority for new car buyers. While the typical considerations of fuel consumption, performance and cabin comfort are still uppermost, staying connected while driving is moving up their list of priorities. 

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