The Consumer Electronics Show is not a place for agoraphobics or the faint-of-heart. With over 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space and 170,000 attendees attempting to navigate the many venues, the event can easily overwhelm. There were scores of drones, super-thin TVs and mind-blowing Virtual Reality, but this year, car tech stole the show.
It’s hard to believe that just five years ago, there wasn’t an automotive presence at CES – maybe high-end stereos or ginormous speakers, but that was it. Now, we see our cars getting smarter and smarter. Whether it’s electrification, connectedness or autonomy, mobile workers will feel the effects sooner rather than later.
Automobile manufacturers now consider themselves technology companies, and Silicon Valley is producing vehicles. Who will win? Who knows? Perhaps both. What is clear, however, is that the line between mobile devices and car dashboards is beginning to blur. Apps that once lived solely in iTunes or Google Play are making their way to a vehicle near you.
The first apps to move were the obvious ones: entertainment and navigation; but other mobility solutions are quickly catching up. Soon you’ll be able to find nearby LinkedIn contacts or plan an optimized route based on your Salesforce pipeline. And you’ll be able to move from car to car, taking your “portable profile” with you.
Successful technology companies will have to develop solutions that are agnostic to the platform on which they live. Apps will need to span everything from simple GPS trackers to complex in-vehicle telematics, creating a seamless user experience.
CES 2016 had several partnership announcements that previewed the deepening, yet uneasy alliance between Detroit and Silicon Valley.
General Motors pumped $500 million into the ride-sharing company Lyft. While at first glance, the partnership may seem odd, upon deeper investigation, it looks like they know what they’re doing. As GM President Dan Ammann said in an interview, “We believe that the first large-scale deployment of autonomous vehicles will be in this kind of on-demand, ride-share platform.”
Ford announced support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with significant advances in their SYNC 3 service, including an official endorsement by Toyota. There were also rumors that Ford and Google would unveil a partnership at CES, but that didn’t happen (but stay tuned).
Microsoft announced partnerships with Volvo and Nissan, while NVIDIA prototyped a stunning “automotive cockpit computer” with Mercedes-Benz. Volkswagen said they will work with LG on connecting cars and home appliances, and Qualcomm has teamed up with Audi on supercharging the infotainment console.
Tech companies have been disrupting legacy industries for over two decades, but manufacturing and delivering safe, reliable cars is difficult and expensive, and automakers have been doing that for over a century. It’s clear that both sides will need each other for the foreseeable future. As Autotrader found, there is a lot work ahead to convince consumers to turn over complete control of our cars. In the meantime, I’m going to keep kicking the tires on what the future will bring.