Day 1 at CES saw a return to the hustle and bustle we’ve previously associated with the event, as tens of thousands of people descended on the exhibition to try out the latest innovations.
We’ve already identified almost 130 automotive-related announcements from over 50 companies. One of our key roles at CES is to go beyond the press releases and evaluate how ready a solution is (now, near or far?), and understand what kind of impact it will have (incremental or disruptive?) In today’s daily wrap-up we focus in on some of the consumer experiences we were able to test out, and provide an initial assessment of readiness and impact:
Are immersive in-car experiences immersive enough? Massive edge-to-edge displays and using their abilities to keep occupants entertained has carried across from 2021/2022 as a big trend at CES. NVIDIA has announced partnerships with Polestar, BYD and Hyundai to enable in-car gaming, while GM and Microsoft are jointly showcasing a car racing game (concept only) that incorporates the vehicle steering wheel. In parallel, video streaming in vehicles is becoming the next ‘me-too’ connected car feature.
Both Mercedes-Benz and GM are clearly putting their new graphics engines (Unity and Unreal respectively) to use – with the quality and responsiveness of their graphics clearly on display (no pun intended). But the overall user experience isn’t quite there yet: the driving game had the controller responsiveness of an old arcade game, while the in-car streaming lacked some of the immersive ‘movie theatre’ experience previous concepts had promised. Without addressing some of these issues, the natural tendency for many consumers will be to rely more heavily on their smartphone or tablet for in-car gaming or movies.
A more focused approach to selling in-vehicle features
Over the last few years the industry has made big promises of how much revenue it expects to generate from selling software and Features-as-a-Service (FaaS). BMW recently showed how difficult these promises are to keep, following a huge press-led backlash on its plans to charge a subscription for heated seats.
However, it would be a mistake to assume early missteps mean there are no opportunities - it just means that those opportunities may be more modest, and potentially tougher, to realize. One company showcasing their vision of FaaS at CES 2023 is Harman. In one of their demo vehicles, occupants can upgrade to a range of premium audio add-ons, including the ability to personalize their audio experience (e.g. based on your age and hearing abilities) or change the audio environment (e.g. listen to Mozart as if you were sitting in the Symphony Hall in Boston).
This approach to ‘focused FaaS’ has its merits: we were able to trial and compare the audio upgrades to understand the value, and the purchase process was quick and seamless. The demo also felt real – money was exchanged with each transaction. Will it deliver the billions in revenue that OEMs have promised? Probably not, but it would certainly appeal to music aficionados.
Two very different visions for the Robotaxi
Although the overall profile of L4 autonomy has dropped significantly at CES compared to 5 years ago, this year there are still plenty of robotaxis and AV shuttles on display. The most futuristic concepts came from Toyota Boshoku (built on Toyota’s ePallette platform) and Hyundai Mobis called the (M Vision). Both were packed with an impressive amount of immersive technology, but left us wondering how operators could ever build a robotaxi business case for supporting such a feature-rich vehicle.
Zoox also showed off its robotaxi, which seems to offer a much more pragmatic balance of comfort and simplicity (and a much greater reliance on the user’s smartphone rather than in-vehicle displays). Zoox also shared some of the design considerations built into the vehicle – while the objective has been to remove the driver, the company ensured users don’t feel abandoned by making it very easy to talk to a real human at the touch of a button (or voice prompt). The service isn’t yet available to the public, but we were assured it’s coming very soon.
Stay tuned for our Day 2 wrap-up and click below to view our CES 2023 Day 0 Insight Article.