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Autos overshadow gadgets at CES tech show

Automakers have a noticeable presence at the tech showcase in Las Vegas


January 10, 2018
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

LAS VEGAS—The smartphones and other small machines that used to dominate the annual CES gadget show have been overshadowed in recent years by bigger mobile devices: namely, automobiles.

Auto companies typically save more practical announcements about new cars, trucks and SUVs for the upcoming Detroit auto show. But major automakers like Toyota, Kia, Hyundai and Ford have a noticeable presence at this week’s tech showcase in Las Vegas. CES is a chance for carmakers and suppliers of automotive parts and software to display their wilder and far-out ideas.

Some vehicle-related highlights from the show include:

Ford is partnering with Postmates, an on-demand delivery company, to study how merchants and customers might interact with self-driving delivery vehicles. The company’s president of global markets, Jim Farley, says self-driving vehicles must do more than just move people. He says they can cut down on traffic and parking hassles by allowing groceries, dry cleaners and other businesses to share delivery vehicles that are programmed to take the most efficient route. The research will build on what Ford learned last year in a partnership with Domino’s Pizza that sent semi-autonomous vehicles out to deliver pizzas. Postmates operates in 20 US cities—including Chicago, New York and Los Angeles—and has a fleet of 150,000 couriers.

Toyota says it’s developing self-driving mini-buses that can serve as bite-sized stores. These vehicles will drive themselves to places where potential buyers can try on clothes or shoes or pick through flea market items. The project is still in the conceptual stage, with testing expected in the 2020s. The company also says it will begin integrating Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into some of its vehicles, so drivers can tell their cars to play music or set a comfortable temperature at home before arriving. In choosing Alexa over rival Google Assistant, Toyota Connected CEO Zack Hicks says Amazon is the right partner as Toyota studies what future mobility might look like. The integration will start later this year. Toyota didn’t say which car models will have it. Ford and Hyundai are among the auto companies already supporting Alexa. Hicks says there’s nothing preventing Toyota from partnering with others in the future.

Automotive supplier Bosch wants to help guide drivers to vacant parking spots in as many as 20 US cities, including Los Angeles, Miami and Boston. The company says it will be working with automakers on the initiative but didn’t say which ones. As cars drive by, they will automatically recognize and measure gaps between parked cars and transmit that data to a digital map.