Toyota, Ford, Aptiv, Baidu Lead Crowd Pushing Mobility at CES
In the past, the tech conference CES has primarily highlighted consumer electronics and other cool gadgets, but as automakers continue their quest to be taken seriously by the tech industry, the Las Vegas show held every January has increasingly become the venue of choice for car companies that want to show off their latest autonomous and electric vehicle developments.
This year, the mobility sector had its largest presence at CES yet. Self-driving tech was well-represented in the CES innovation awards, and news announcements from the sector were plentiful. Here, we’ve rounded up five of the most significant mobility advances from the show; expect more self-driving news next week at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.
An entire atrium at the Detroit show has been devoted to AutoMobili-D, an exhibit where 57 mobility startups will display their work and mingle with potential partners and funders. At NAIAS 2018, we’ll also see a big push by Michigan politicos and industry boosters to reframe the Motor City as the Mobility City.
Here are some of the biggest autonomous vehicle announcements so far from CES, in no particular order:
—Toyota unveils new partnerships and mobility services: The Japanese automaker has been working steadily to bolster its self-driving offerings, and the company outlined what TechCrunch called “a major shift in business.”
Like other carmakers in the industry, Toyota has decided to go all in on mobility services instead of trying to create a separate entity to develop autonomous tech. At the show, Toyota debuted the e-Palette concept car, a “small shuttle with a modular interior that can be changed depending on whether it’s used for ride-hailing, small cargo transport and on-demand delivery, or any other mobility uses.” (Black Mirror fans might recognize the dystopian version of a similar vehicle in the new season of the show. In the episode “Crocodile,” an autonomous pizza delivery van bumps into a pedestrian, setting off a horrific chain of events. The spooky part is that the new season of Black Mirror debuted mere days before Toyota’s announcement.) The company said it will begin testing the e-Palette for potential U.S. market viability in the early 2020s.
Toyota also announced it would partner with a number of companies, including Uber, Amazon, and Pizza Hut, on the e-Palette Alliance, a consortium that will help guide Toyota’s transition to a mobility services company and direct how it makes use of the e-Palette platform.
—Ford announces new Transportation Mobility Cloud and upcoming autonomous demos: Ford had a big footprint at CES, with CEO Jim Hackett delivering one of the event’s keynote speeches.
Marcy Klevorn, the company’s mobility manager, outlined the details of Ford’s new open, cloud-based mobility platform in a blog post. In it, she asks the reader to imagine a New York couple that has just purchased a large area rug and now must figure out how to get it home. “Now, what if this couple had the ability to hail a ride that will fit their purchase? Or what if the store’s delivery service was able to assess real-time traffic issues to reach their home at the same time they arrive, having reserved and paid for curbside parking through wireless transactions—all while avoiding any negative impact on other road users and residents?”