CARS.COM — The Consumer Electronics Show — a technology mecca that saw the launch of everything from camcorders to satellite radio — has taken an increasing automotive tilt in recent years. A decade ago, the show witnessed the beginnings of smartphone apps for certain vehicle functions. Five years later, it saw the advance of self-driving programs from Lexus and Audi. And at the 2016 show, GM introduced the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Car-related announcements should remain in force at CES 2018, which rolls into Las Vegas from Jan. 7-12 (well, technically into the wee hours of Jan. 13). Here are four things to look for:
1. News From Automakers
It’s always hard to predict which automakers will make a splash at CES, but we’ve seen everything from an autonomous sub-brand from Kia in 2016 to a zany Toyota concept in 2017. What’s on the docket now? The list of exhibitors at this year’s show includes nearly every major automaker, and the conference schedule has more than a dozen automotive discussions.
We asked all major automakers about their CES plans, and many responded. Volkswagen said it had “some announcements,” while Hyundai promised the debut of a next-gen voice-recognition platform plus undisclosed “other news.” Nissan promises a “very interesting future technology regarding vehicle control,” while Honda plans to unveil a quartet of robot concepts ranging from an autonomous off-roader to a wheelchair of sorts.
2. More Driverless Technology
Self-driving cars for the masses aren’t here quite yet, and technologies that promise situational autonomy either hang considerable responsibility on the driver or remain in legal discussions altogether. Still, research firm IHS Markit predicts the U.S. will see the world’s first sales of self-driving cars as early as 2019 — initially through mobility fleets, then to consumers a couple of years after that. The movement is “kind of happening in fits and starts right now,” said Colin Bird, a senior analyst at the firm. “Similar to how it was with fuel-cell vehicles, they probably don’t want full ownership yet because these [vehicles] are sort of still testing it out in the field in real time.”
Given CES’ recent history of all things self-driving, expect announcements aplenty at next week’s show.
3. Cybersecurity Efforts
Panelists at CES will discuss automotive cybersecurity, a topic that’s made headlines in recent years even among cars with minimal self-driving technology. Expect dialogue on current efforts to protect vehicles against hackers, a growing threat as cars become more automated. It remains to be seen how that translates to cybersecurity announcements at the show, but the rollout of such technology is inexorable. IHS Markit sees basic cybersecurity firewalls (or something equivalent) reaching some 68 million cars worldwide by 2024, Bird said.
4. Augmented Reality, Biometrics and More
Augmented reality — that is, where screens mix virtual images on a real-world backdrop — has made its way to owner’s manuals. Will it make greater inroads in the car? CES panelists will discuss that and much more. A panel on future transportation will touch on everything from AR to biometric vehicle access and even flying cars. The chances of another flying car (hardly a new gambit) are low, but Bird expects announcements on three-dimensional instrument clusters and augmented-reality windshield displays — where cars overlay turn-by-turn navigation or pedestrian alerts on the screen. All of that could work with fewer bugs. Many cars today have 60 to 100 electronic control units, IHS said, but the industry is fast consolidating that to reduce complexity. That, in turn, could iron out “some of the kinks you see with consumer satisfaction [studies] with these systems in the car,” Bird added. Those kinks are a big factor in reliability ratings.
Stay tuned for announcements out of next week’s show. We’ll cover anything of automotive importance right here.
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.