11 Jan 24

CES 2024: The future tech for 'software-defined-vehicles' unveiled

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2024 in Las Vegas, US, has unveiled many futuristic techs for the auto industry as expected, with artificial intelligence (AI) playing a much-dominating role through next-generation chips and the rise of a new field, the software-defined vehicles. 

CES 2024 is full of exciting future tech prepared for the auto industry, where tech companies and OEMs have unveiled their ambitions with next-generation products and software. 

Intel is good to start with, as Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger made their intentions regarding AI in 2023, declaring that "Intel is to put AI in every platform it will build". At CES, this ambition displayed itself as an AI chip, defined by the tech giant as "the first generation AI-enhanced software-defined vehicle system-on-chip." 

Like most tech communities, Intel believes that future cars will become a comprehensive software platform. The technology in the image below represents an AI personal computer (PC). The concept is based on security, as Intel believes AI is much better when run on a PC than the internet. The new chip will improve this platform, enhancing navigation, voice assistants and vehicle controls. Intel's first customer in the global auto sector is Geely-owned Zeekr, which is planning to apply Intel's AI chip later this year. 

Intel also announced at CES 2024 its plans to unveil a series of systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) designed explicitly for future software-defined vehicles (SDVs). But what is an SDV?

The rise of SDVs

In the era of connectivity, modern fleet cars are generally described as mobile data banks. The SDV trend is gaining momentum as innovative vehicles increasingly use software-run devices. This allows the capabilities of a car to be upgraded through software instead of changing particular physical parts. As connected technologies take the modern car to a new level, built-in or added software capabilities will play a crucial role in efficiency and safety in the future. 

TechCrunch says that SDV-defined cars will have a 'streamlined electronic architecture' compared to the current ones with around 100 electronic control units (ECUs). With one or two ECUs, all functions will work smoothly, and there will be no confusion wiring up the functions together in case of an update. 

Intel is one of the tech giants planning to shape the capabilities of an SDV, including better voice assistants, entertainment, working options such as video conferencing, and safety features such as driver monitoring systems. 

Rivalry is heating the competition 

NVIDIA, one major rival of Intel, has also been busy working on SDV-related AI tech and announced that Li Auto will be using NVIDIA DRIVE Thor centralised car computer in its next-generation cars. Additionally, Chinese brands Great Wall Motors, Zeekr, and Xiaomi (which unveiled its first EV last month) will use the NVIDIA DRIVE Orin platform for their intelligent automated driving systems. 

Polestar displays Polestar 3 at CES 2024, powered by the NVIDIA DRIVE Orin central core computer, which enables the driver monitoring system (DMS), the standard for Polestar 3. The advanced safety tech uses monitoring cameras and software developed by Smart Eye, which track even the eyelid movements of the driver and trigger warnings in case of risks. 

Mercedes-Benz has also unveiled software-driven new tech in various models, including the Concept CLA Class, using NVIDIA Drive Orin to improve SDV capabilities. Mercedes-Benz and NVIDIA started working together on next-generation computers for cars in 2020 to develop autonomous driving, Over-the-Air (OTA), and driver monitoring capabilities for SDVs. The term emerged in the 2010s and, after almost a decade, unleashed itself in the auto sector. From 2024, SDV tech is expected to build on connectivity and may turn mobile data banks into mobile smartphones.

Nvidia Drive THOR. Courtesy of Nvidia.

The main image shows Polestar 3 at the Brussels Autosalon European Motor Show, January 2023. Courtesy of Shutterstock, 2249386841.

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen