the biggest show in the calendar, CES has always been a tough event to build a
clear narrative around. This year it’s even harder, with COVID forcing the
exhibition to go virtual. Walking around halls, testing new technologies and talking to
representatives has been replaced with watching marketing videos and reading
care and attention is therefore required to effectively separate out meaningful innovations from aspirational claims. We’ve enlisted a battalion of SBD experts to give greater context on
what announcements mean and how they’re likely to influence the direction of
the automotive industry.
today’s wrap-up we’ll give you a high-level view of the key automotive and mobility trends we’ve spotted so far. Tomorrow we’ll be asking our experts to go deeper into specific
announcements. For Thursday’s article we’ll look beyond the car to explore other trends that could
eventually shape the future of the automotive industry.
start with what we’ve learned on Day 2 of the exhibition:
last two years have seen a gradual decline in the quantity and impact of automotive announcements at CES, as the industry has shifted gear from showcasing visions and concepts, to developing them.
far CES 2021 is seeing a continuation of this trend, with most of the
announcements representing an evolution rather than a revolution in automotive technologies and mobility experiences.
will invariably have contributed towards making this a quieter CES, as R&D budget freezes (particularly among suppliers) have slowed down the pace of innovation over the last nine months. Companies
may also be feeling less competitive pressure to showcase their innovations at
CES, with many preferring instead to host their own virtual events or wait
until later in the year.
was an inflection year for Electric Vehicles (EVs) as many regions saw record sales and share prices of
EV companies rocketed. So in many ways it was natural that
electrification would become a central theme of CES 2021.
even changed its logo to reinforce its commitment to EVs, and Mary Barra
(CEO) confirmed its planned investment of $27 Billion to launch 30 new electrified models by 2025. While
much of the press focus has been on its HUMMER EV and Ultium platform, an equally promising development is its efforts to create a ‘Unifying CX Platform’ for its electric vehicles. This
initiative spans the full ownership experience, from purchase, charging,
personalisation and updating of EVs.
parallel, NIO announced an expansion into Europe and North America, as well as
an impressive 150kW solid state battery that could provide up to 1,000 km range. Solid state batteries offer much higher energy
density (360 kWh/kg in this case) and are expected to be more environmentally friendly, safer, and
smaller. NIO has an ambitious plan to launch its solid state battery by Q4 2022 – while possible, it’s worth noting that many larger companies have
failed to meet their previously stated timing goals for launching solid state
industry as a whole has slowed down its rush towards autonomous vehicles, partly as COVID has forced companies to make hard investment choices (e.g. prioritizing electrification over automation), and partly out of a recognition that many of the challenges associated with delivering high levels of
autonomy for passenger vehicles won’t be resolved in the short or medium term.
fewer high profile AV announcements, CES 2021 is seeing a continued emphasis on
improved and affordable sensing solutions. MobilEye is developing its own Radar and Lidar solution, marking a shift away from its previous
vision-only strategy and an acknowledgement that sensor fusion is a
prerequisite for robustness.
the meantime, Magna has announced plans to introduce the first radar imaging solution on the Fisker Ocean SUV – a collaborative development that allows it to trial out this new
technology on a low-volume/low-risk program ahead of the expected adoption by high-volume OEMs.
only major announcement so far relating to higher levels of autonomy (L4) has
come from Caterpillar mega trucks – a niche use case in which the value of autonomy can more than justify the cost required to deliver a robust level of
Robotaxis, on the other hand, face a tougher uphill battle to
scale up into commercially-viable services (as witnessed by Uber’s recent sale of Aurora). We don’t expect many Robotaxi announcements at CES this year, but we do expect 2021 to become an acid test on whether services like Waymo and Zoox can become a credible replacement to conventional taxi services
within the next decade.
2021 is likely to be recognized as the year of the Display. Consumer
Electronics (CE) brands have rolled out bigger and better displays for a range of use cases, and this trend
has also extended into the car.
most prominent of these has been Mercedes-Benz, showcasing a 56” display that stretches from the driver to the passenger side. BMW and GM also announced next-gen IVI platforms and displays, while CE players like Samsung and LG showcased their own visions of
how displays could take over the car.
hidden behind these massive displays are improvements in UX management and GUI
design that are equally (if not more) impactful. Mercedes-Benz, for example,
has implemented a much more proactive level of AI-supported personalisation
than has been available on most IVI systems. GM, on the other hand, announced it has leveraged Unreal Engine for GUI development of its new IVI platform – a departure from traditional automotive design tools and towards tools more commonly used by the gaming sector. As highlighted in SBD’s recent report on Intelligent Cockpits, these trends represent the beginnings of a new era for IVI, in which car makers develop much stickier
experiences by designing graphically-powerful experiences that sense, react and adapt in real-time.
a quiet CES is a busy CES. Our experts will be spending the next two days
digging deeper into every announcement to understand what they mean to the
Join us again tomorrow for another wrap-up of the latest CES trends.