Features
8 Jan 20

Mobility of the future showcased at CES2020

A raft of futuristic transport and mobility concepts took centre stage at CES2020, from a sci-fi film inspired concept car, flying taxis and in-car apps that control your home to the more practical, such as clear sun visor. There was plenty to capture the imagination.

Mercedes brings the future of luxury transport to Hollywood

Arguably, the star of the show was Mercedes-Benz’s futuristic concept car Vision AVTR brought to the stage on opening night by Ola Källenius, head of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz.

Inspired by the futuristic film “Avatar” (and designed in consultation with its director James Cameron), the electric and fully autonomous vehicle is most certainly a visual feast. It can also move, crab-like sideways, has no steering wheel and features amphibian-like scales, vegan leather upholstery and a compostable battery.

The driver places their hand on a control unit, which recognises their heartbeat and breathing, and the car comes to life. The Vision AVTR is just a concept car but its purpose is to show what’s possible in terms of luxury and sustainability.

Sony launches itself onto the car market

Sony raised a few eyebrows on Monday by unveiling its new Vison-S concept car.

Designed in collaboration with Magna Steyr and Bosch, the vehicle incorporates imaging and sensing hardware, onboard AI software, telecoms, cloud computing and in-car entertainment. It is similar in shape to a Tesla and boasts a total of 33 internal and external sensors that detect and recognise people, objects and provide advanced driving support.

As is to be expected from Sony, the Vision-S also showcases the company’s mastery in audio entertainment. A 360 Reality Audio allegedly makes the car a high-end listening room.

Flying taxis will be here sooner than fully autonomous vehicles

Lots of announcements and exhibitors focused on the unmanned aerial transport segment at CES2020 and this was the message contained in a research note released on Monday from Morgan Stanley. It read:

“In our opinion, the go-to-market commercial momentum for flying cars is arguably stronger than for road-based fully autonomous vehicles”.

To that end, Uber has teamed up with Silicon Valley start-up Joby Aviation to work on launching a flying-taxi service in 2023.

Bell Textron, long associated with military helicopters, galvanised its intention to be the “Uber of the skies” by capturing the imagination of CES2019 attendees with a hybrid-electric air taxi. This time, the company unveiled a mobility-as-a-service software called AerOS, intended to be the backbone of its digital infrastructure. Bell predicts that 70% of the world’s population will inhabit urban areas by 2050 and says current infrastructure cannot keep pace with transport demand.

Control your home from your car

Previewing at the show, Renault and smart-home connectivity provider Otodo teamed up to develop a solution that enables automatic and secure communication and interaction between cars and connected objects in the home.

The system will be available in 2020 in all Renault cars that have the new Renault EASY LINK multimedia system, including the new ZOE, Clio and Captur.

Users can set it up to automate routine tasks using a simple smartphone app and once done, can simultaneously control various connected objects in their home from the vehicle’s dashboard.

Here comes the sun visor

Sun visors in vehicles have stayed the same for almost 100 years so it’s about time they had a makeover, which is exactly what engineers at Bosch have done.

Although they block the sun, conventional sun visors can also obscure a driver’s view. So, Bosch has created the “Virtual Visor”.

Incorporating a liquid crystal display, camera and facial recognition software, the Virtual Visor links an LCD panel with a camera that tracks the sun’s casted shadow on the driver’s face. Algorithms analyse the driver’s view and darkens only the section of display where light hits their eyes. The rest of the display remains transparent.

Bosch’s Virtual Visor has already been awarded Best of Innovation at CES2020.

“Alexa, pay for gas” - a new way for fleet drivers to pay for fuel

With a strong history of innovation at the pump, ExxonMobil has partnered with electronic payment provider Fiserv to offer payment-at-the-pump using Amazon’s Alexa voice control.

Available in the USA later this year, the partnership enables fleet drivers with Alexa, Echo Auto and other Alexa-enabled devices to say “Alexa, pay for gas”. The new experience will initially be available at 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations.

Transactions will be processed using Amazon Pay and powered by a digital commerce platform from Fiserv.

Reimagining urban and micro-transport

Segway brought two new micro-mobility products to CES2020, the Segway S-Pod (pictured on top) and Ninebot KickScooter Air T15.

The company claims the new scooter is the most compact, lightweight and energy-efficient introduced to navigate a city environment. It also features a regenerative braking system, which means energy produced from riding is collected and distributed when the rider needs a boost.

The S-Pod has been designed for closed campuses, such as airports, theme parks and shopping centres. It’s a self-balancing vehicle operated by intuitive assistive navigation panel.

New Lidar technology that sees better than the human eye

Naming its products after some of the most highly-sighted creatures on the planet, Cheetah and Jaguar, Lidar sensor maker Innovusion unveiled its most advanced Lidar yet. “Falcon” uses perception software so advanced it can surpass the capabilities of the human eye.

Innovusion’s Lidar systems are built by fusing together proprietary detector electronics, advanced optics and software algorithms but are still competitively priced for automotive ADAS systems already being used in level 3 autonomous vehicles.

Blackberry and Amazon team up to make smart cars smarter

Blackberry announced it has teamed up with Amazon to demonstrate a safe, secure and intelligent connected vehicle software platform for in-vehicle applications.

The platform combines the security of Blackberry’s QNX real-time operating system with AWS’ IoT services in the cloud and the car. Automotive OEMs can leverage the platform to quickly bring to market innovative, connected vehicle services. These may include cockpit personalisation, vehicle acoustic conditioning, vehicle health monitoring and ADAS solutions.

World’s first bidirectional EV charger

Smart charging company Wallbox introduced the first USA version of Quasar, the world’s first bidirectional EV charger for home use, claims the company. The product charges EVs but can also send electricity back to the grid or even power the user’s home.

Bidirectional charging points have previously only been available in expensive, large formats at fleet depots. Wallbox’s team of engineers has devised a way of making this highly efficient technology available to customers at a much lower price than was previously possible.

Quasar is also compatible with solar and battery storage systems and can be controlled with an app.

Authored by: Alison Pittaway