CES show returns to realism after self-driving bubble bursts

As automakers shift their focus from self-driving to electrification, the age of adventure is giving way to the realm of reality in automotive displays at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year.

When the show opens on January 5, CES will spotlight transportation technologies that are here today, including self-driving tractors and electric vehicles.

The focus at this year’s CES is on profits, not potential, after high-profile bankruptcies of Argo AI, the former self-driving arm of Ford Motor and Volkswagen Group, in October.

Auto companies and start-ups alike will present technology that they hope will bring a short-term return on investment, rather than a vague tomorrow that may never come.

The show is still full of eye-catching products. At least 274 automotive and mobility exhibitors will cover his 400,000 square feet (equivalent to seven football fields), according to the Consumer Technology Association, which hosts the show, with floor space dropping to levels last year due to the pandemic. 70% increase from

But at a more sober CES, practicality and profit will be the buzzwords.

“There has definitely been a change,” CTA president Gary Shapiro said in an interview.

And transit exhibitors are doing the same. There’s Stellantis’ electric Ram pickup truck concept that’s set to take on Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Rivian’s R1T, and Tesla’s upcoming Cybertruck.

Electric truck startup Lordstown Motors will showcase the Endurance plug-in pickup. BMW unveils concept car for digital services. General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are also set to unveil new EVs.

As for autonomy, instead of robotic vehicles meant to take us everywhere, the show’s protagonist promises to ease the burden on farmers by plowing fields until the cows get home. , could be John Deere’s self-driving tractor.

“This is sexy realism,” says Gary Silberg, global partner and head of automotive at consultancy KPMG. “There are great toys out there, and they’re going to be great, but you have to be realistic about how you use them.”

Automakers are beginning to reallocate capital spent on self-driving research to automation features that promise faster returns.

After writing down Argo for $2.7 billion, Ford is shifting its focus to semi-autonomous driving capabilities. For example, car buyers are now willing to pay for their purchase of the Blue Cruise hands-free driving system.

Automakers “are asking, ‘Where can we make money?'” says Abuelsamid. A system that allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel on highways “knows we can sell it, and costs a lot less to develop” than fully self-driving cars.

Automakers are now turning inward and trying to revolutionize the cockpit with technology that drivers can download into their cars’ modems.

Automakers are looking to offer an a la carte menu of features such as horsepower upgrades and dashboard gaming systems. They say such a feature could produce double-digit margins.

Stellantis and e-commerce giant Amazon.com will each have exhibits at CES showing how connected cars will transform the in-car experience.

Volvo and chipmaker Qualcomm show how they’re jointly revolutionizing the cockpit with infotainment and safety systems.

Many of the changes coming to car interiors began with technology tested in fully self-driving car prototypes, such as sensors that detect occupants inside the car.

Abuelsamid says: “The big step is that a lot of the technology we have seen at the show over the years is moving into the realm of what is becoming real products that will be launched in the next few years.”

Pushing pragmatism is the pile of money the automaker promised to compete with Tesla in the emerging electric car market. KPMG estimates that global automakers are investing his $5 trillion in electric vehicles.

faster returns

With this kind of funding at stake, there isn’t much of an incentive to pour billions of dollars into self-driving cars each year, with little prospect of immediate payoff.

Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for e-mobility at consultant Guidehouse Insights, said: “It’s almost certain that we won’t be profitable in 10 years.”

After facing the reality of battery shortages and rising raw material costs, auto industry executives have even scaled back their hopes for electric vehicles.

According to a new survey of 500 global auto industry executives by KPMG, electric vehicles are expected to account for just over a third of global car sales by 2030, down nearly a third from the previous year. Decreased from 2. And a third of his auto industry leaders don’t believe self-driving cars will be commercially available in his decade.

With limited money to spend, auto industry executives are devoting resources to EVs at the expense of AVs.

About 64% of U.S. auto owners say they are very or very likely to sell non-strategic parts of their business in the next few years to finance their EV investments.

KPMG’s Silberg said: “But now it’s no longer theoretical, you can see this realism.”

Private funding is also becoming a reality. Abuelsamid said the days of attracting his capitalists to well-funded ventures are over with a great show at CES.

“We are past the point where VC funding is easy to come by,” he said. “The investment community has decided not to invest further in self-driving cars.”

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