AutoMatters & More: CES 2018 – The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas

CES – more commonly known to the world as the Consumer Electronics Show – is where to find latest innovations and breakthroughs in consumer technologies. CES attracts companies large and small, filling almost every convention center space, hotel room and suite, in Las Vegas for the better part of a week in early January each year. Considering the enormous variety and quantity of products, services and technologies, as well as the difficulty in getting around to the various venues in the often gridlocked Las Vegas traffic, there is not nearly enough time to see and do everything.

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Lyft app requesting ride with self-driving car Jan Wagner

Added to the challenge this year was a massive power failure in the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), following two straight days of steady, relentless rain. Trash cans appeared throughout the LVCC, in an only partially successful effort to collect the rainwater leaking through its aging roof. Sufficient moisture found its way in by the next day to cause the power failure that led to the evacuation of the LVCC’s Central Hall.

Several events provide opportunities for members of the media to meet with a variety of companies and their representatives, and see some of their products and services, gathered together at one time in large ballrooms around Las Vegas. These include CES Unveiled, Pepcom’s Digital Experience! and ShowStoppers.

BMW Lyft
Aptiv-equipped self-driving BMW Lyft car Jan Wagner

I approached CES with two objectives: to try to get an overview of this year’s emerging trends, technologies, products and services, and to focus on a few of particular interest and importance, in part by requesting several products for review. These will be covered here in the coming weeks and months.

In recent years, autonomous vehicles and technology have been featured at CES. The major automakers have had an ever-increasing presence at CES, as have a myriad of tech companies that many consumers may never have even heard of. The sheer volume of computer code that must be written to process the massive amount of data required for autonomous vehicles and their infrastructure is truly mind-boggling.

Hey Google
”Hey Google” campaign for Google Assistant at CES Jan Wagner

One such company is Aptiv (spun off from Delphi), self-described as “a global technology company that develops safer, greener and more connected solutions, which enable the future of mobility.” For CES they built an entire (temporary) building, within which they presented and explained some of the key hardware, software and processes of their autonomous vehicle technologies.

Of particular interest was Aptiv’s partnership with BMW and Lyft – the ridesharing company. To showcase that collaboration, showgoers could choose a special choice in the Lyft app to request a ride in an Aptiv-modified BMW sedan to one of several destinations in Las Vegas. This required driving in real-world, heavy traffic, complete with unexpected events – such as a pedestrian crossing in front of the path of my BMW, which prompted it to stop suddenly. Thankfully it did so safely, with no drama. It was like having a professional driver at the wheel.

While at CES I had several opportunities to speak with showgoers about autonomous vehicles. It seemed like the younger people who I spoke to were less inclined to embrace this technology. Reflecting back, at one time I was not too keen about the thought of relegating driving to a vehicle either, but as I get older I realize that at some point my ability to drive will become more limited. Autonomous vehicles will provide an aging population with the ability to not become prisoners of their homes in the suburbs, or be forced to move. When I shared this thought with younger adults, many told me that they had not considered that, and that they could now see how it could be extremely beneficial. Of course autonomous vehicles offer much more, from driverless buses to shuttle people around college and business campuses, and urban centers; to the ability to be productive or rest while your vehicle safely and efficiently takes you where you want to go.

Google had a major presence at this year’s CES. Scattered throughout Las Vegas were opportunities for showgoers to experience the Google Assistant and try their luck at winning one of several prizes.

Check back again to find out more about what was at CES 2018.

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Copyright © 2018 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #524