CES 2018: Automotive innovations


Las Vegas tech trade show CES has become a key event for car companies as they look to showcase their visions of the future. Taking place just before the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, CES now steals much of that car show’s thunder, and has been breaking news around autonomous driving since the tech started making headlines several years ago.

For car makers, CES is a wider showcase that allows them to sketch out future brand strategies that don’t even necessarily revolve around cars, let alone driving. Announcements made at CES reach the whole technology industry as well as multitudes of tech-minded consumers, breaking out of the confines of the auto industry.

At this year’s show, the focus has expanded beyond the idea of self-driving cars to tackle more of the specifics: what autonomy does to our lifestyles, and how it works. Product launches propel the possibilities of personal mobility, while stand designs explore what the future of city design looks like when cars take on a very different role in our lives.

Here are three big ideas to take note of.

Brain-to-vehicle interfaces

Nissan’s headline-grabbing announcement was that the brand’s research division has been exploring the possibilities of brain-to-vehicle technology. Essentially, this means that drivers wear a chic brainwave-reading cap that can anticipate their reactions and decisions 0.2-0.5 seconds ahead of them performing the action – such as turning the steering wheel, or adjusting the aircon. This tiny reduction in reaction time could have vital consequences for road safety, and could also help to make car environments more intuitive to user needs.


The self-driving city

Ford’s booth, which vaguely resembles the leafy city-square design of an Apple store, is all about encouraging attendees to wander around the smart city of the future, considering how the brand’s new mobility concepts could slot into, and even shape, future lifestyles. Projects include an autonomous pizza delivery vehicle, a self-driving car that speaks using light, and a man dressed up as a car seat (to observe people’s reactions to a seemingly self-driving car as they see it driving around their neighbourhood).


Transport as multiple choice

Many automotive brands are busy expanding into full mobility-as-a-service brands at the moment, which means that new product concepts often feature multi-tasking designs and highly flexible and modular components. Toyota’s Concept-i car comes with a scooter to hop on to for the last mile of the journey, while the brand’s new e-Palette system enables a number of different pods with different uses (delivery vehicles, workspaces, ride-shares, on-the-road retail) to be built on one versatile base.


Honda, meanwhile, puts the ‘personal’ into ‘personal mobility’ with its highly experimental 3E robotics range, which includes an off-road buggy and a perch-on-top wheelchair.


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WGSN subscribers will be able to access all of our coverage from CES shortly after the show wraps, and can already access our First View report here.

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