Fuel for Thought – January 2022 – Consumer Electronics Show Recap (2022)
Automotive Monthly Newsletter and Podcast
This month's theme: Consumer Electronics Show Recap (2022)
This year's CES was certainly unusual, between the numerous exhibitors "going virtual" at the last minute and the sheer variety of announcements that transpired. Yet mobility topics were front and center, with companies highlighting some of the innovations consumers will see in six months, and possibly even some they will see in six years.
Electrification continued as a central theme among the products, concepts, and innovations the industry showed this year. Starting off, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the VISION EQXX Concept. It is of course electric, but the main point was its efficiency. It is estimated to get 648 miles on a single charge, but that is not from a massive battery. It is from an efficient powertrain that is capable of more than 6 miles per kWh (roughly double the efficiency of the best EVs on the market today) coupled with a coefficient of drag (Cd) of 0.17 and a solar panel rooftop. The vehicle presents a "vision" of what the competition will be in the future. It will no longer just be about electrification, but about how one uses the electrons they have on-board.
Next came debuts from General Motors (GM) and BMW, both bringing production-ready EVs to CES. GM used CES to show the upcoming 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV. It offers some 400 miles of range, DC fast charging up to 350 kW, and 10,000 lbs towing capacity to make a serious contender defending GM's market share, as full-size pickups transition to electric drive in the near future. Coupled with other innovative features, such as a 17-inch free-form display, the capability to provide up to 10.2 kW of power to auxiliary devices, and a rather nifty multifunction tailgate and cargo area, and it will stand out from the Silverado internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts.
BMW, meanwhile, showed its iX M60, which will hit production lines soon, and illustrated a much more performance and excitement-oriented approach to electrification. With 610 hp, 811 lb-ft of torque, and 280 miles range, the iX will fit nicely among the competition from Mercedes and Audi on the market already. Plus, BMW used its new EV to showcase some interesting technologies - namely a concept exterior using E-ink displays that allows the vehicle to shift from black to white, and any shade of grey in between. While some see it as a party-trick, BMW is experimenting with how a color-changing exterior might help if a vehicle is lost in a parking lot, trying to communicate with pedestrians, or optimizing solar heating conditions in warm or cold environments.
More electrification came from myriad start-ups, most notably VinFast, who showed its VF8 and VF9 EV crossovers on the world stage. While the specs were competitive, it was its sales and marketing strategy that caught the most attention. VinFast has priced its VF8 and VF9 at USDS41,000 and USD56,000, respectively, and has opened them up for reservations. Interestingly, according to the company, reservation holders who make a deposit of USD200 today will receive many benefits for being an early reservation holder. They will get a USD3,000 of USD5,000 credit toward the purchase of a VF8 or VF9, in addition to a free mobile charger, access to the ADAS and connectivity services packages for life, a seven-day vacation in Vietnam, and the company will plant a tree. Is this what it takes to attract customers today in the EV marketplace?
While not technically a start-up, Sony used CES 2022 to debut its Vision-S 02 concept SUV, to follow on the original Vision-S sedan it showed in 2020. It will integrate countless Sony technologies from CMOS sensors, 5G connectivity, integrated video services, 360° audio, gaming experiences, and more. However, the more notable news is that Sony has officially founded Sony Mobility Inc. to explore the commercial launch of Sony's EVs to global markets. This marks yet another example of a technology firm jumping into mobility with an electric offering.
Electrification was next presented as an answer to everything commercial, especially in logistics and last-mile delivery. While Doosan Bobcat debuted an electric skid steer, it was the announcements from GM again that made the biggest news. BrightDrop—an entity of just over a year old—went from a concept and idea to production and deliveries in record time. However, at CES 2022, it brought its commercial customers FedEx and Walmart in to discuss their needs for electrification. FedEx has received 5 EV600s to date and has another 2,000 on order and potentially another 20,000 on top of that. Meanwhile, Walmart has 5,000 EV600s reserved, as it expects to bring its in-house last-mile delivery to 30 million households by the end of 2022.
Stellantis made commercial news at CES via an extended arrangement with Amazon, wherein the mega digital retailer will be the first recipient of the upcoming RAM ProMaster EVs. In addition, Amazon will provide other services to Stellantis products in the form of Alexa integration, the AWS cloud, and software development capacity. However, the company also used CES to promote its newly minted product and services strategy for the next 10 years. First, CEO Carlos Tavares announced the company would debut 8 more BEVs in the next 18 months. Second, the Stellantis executive team spent lots of time highlighting its 4 vehicle platforms and 3 tech platforms to bring vehicles to market across its 14 iconic brands. The most interesting part was the rather rapid move toward electronics consolidation with the STLA Brain platform. It will offer a 30-ECU architecture with complete OTA integration by 2024, which by automotive industry standards is lightning fast.
Diving deeper into E/E architecture topics, Qualcomm showed up in a big way at CES 2022, citing both near-term and long-term initiatives to help bring domain consolidation to market. The silicon vendor touted its growing list of OEMs using a variety of its products, including Honda, Volvo, and Renault in the coming months and years. It also described the Snapdragon Digital Chassis as a way to scale a digital platform in the same way OEMs have perfected scaling physical chassis across cars, trucks, SUVs, and more. The Digital Chassis will encompass car-to-cloud software and an integrated ride platform for ADAS, connectivity platform for 5G, and a cockpit platform for in-vehicle experiences.
Meanwhile, Intel focused on its automotive announcements with Mobileye. The company touted its milestone 100-million EyeQ SoC shipments and 41 new design wins with more than 30 OEMs, including several program wins with robo-taxi applications. In addition, it showed the next-generation EyeQ6 SoC family with chips applicable for Level 1 to Level 2 driving, Premium Level 2+ and Level 3 driving, and even a top-line Level 4-capable chip. This EyeQ ULTRA will offer 12 cores at 5 nanometer process and perform 4.2 TFLOPS using less than 100 watts of power. Ultimately, the story with Intel is the SoC capabilities will continue to meet or exceed the requirements from OEMs, as they gradually advance to the next stage in autonomy.
Beyond those already mentioned above, CES played host to debuts of many other component technologies that will come to new vehicles soon. Panasonic showed augmented reality heads-up displays (AR-HUDs) with a very compelling integration of Phiar navigation rendering. Marelli, LG, and Visteon touted some cutting-edge technologies on automotive displays, including large, curved, and pillar-to-pillar systems. Valeo debuted its third-generation lidar sensor, claiming no Level 3 vehicles will exist without lidar. Bosch illustrated its AI presence and cited by 2025 that all of its products would be equipped with or manufactured by AI.
In summary, CES 2022 was much less about the technologies available for purchase in the next one to two months and much more about those fundamental technological shifts that impact the whole industries. Clearly, the mobility industry theme for 2022 is electrification and all the subsequent effects it has on products, services, digitalization, and distribution.
Yet, the consumer electronics industry was looking beyond the physical and into the metaverse. Fundamental advances in AR and VR technologies, combined with the now omnipresent 5G connectivity, have spawned new focus on digital twin technologies in all sorts of applications. Most notably for the auto industry was Hyundai. It showed off its tech from the 2021 acquisition of Boston Dynamics, telling the story of how robotics will be a fundamental underpinning to the future of our existence in the metaverse. The Korean firm went so far as to coin the term, "meta-mobility" illustrating how its new tech can provide mobility solutions, in both the physical and the metaverse.
Whether you were in attendance or not, CES 2022 provided some foresight on where the mobility industry is headed next on a technical, theoretical, and commercial basis.