The marquee Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2023 – the “most influential tech event in the world” – was back in full strength this year. Held from January 5-8th in Las Vegas, US, it featured all the heavy hitters from the consumer electronics and automotive industry.

From flying cars and color changing cars to new electric vehicle (EV) offerings, advances in autonomous driving (AD) and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to innovative connectivity-driven offerings, it was yet another reminder of how dramatically the automotive industry is transforming into an era defined by electrification and software.

Our Top Picks

  • From Walkman to Wheels

Sony Honda Mobility Inc. spotlighted its self-driving EV sedan prototype, Afeela (a riff on the FEEL evoked by a car). A software defined vehicle (SDV) on speed, Afeela is gearing up to face auto giants: 45 sensors and cameras; Epic Games’ Unreal Engine to support enhanced visual communication, safety, and entertainment; and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Digital Chassis to enable streamlined updates. Another novel feature:  a “media bar” on the front fender “which allows intelligent mobility to express itself to surrounding people using light, enabling interactive communication between mobility and people.”  These smart EVs are set to be available in Japan and North America from 2026.

  • Charging All the Way

Even the sporty, sleek long-range Vision EQXX concept EV sedan could not distract from Mercedes-Benz’s plans to set up its own high-speed EV charging networks in collaboration with ChargePoint and MN8 Energy.  The scope of the plan is ambitious – building up its North American network to 2,500 EV chargers within the next 4-5 years as a prelude to expanding to 10,000 chargers in key markets, including North America, Europe, and China. In addition to improving the overall experience of Mercedes-Benz EV owners, the chargers will also be available for use to compatible competing EV brands. This could challenge Tesla which, last year, began opening up its Supercharger network to non-Tesla EVs.

The German automaker also made some noise with the installation of the Dolby Atmos® in its Maybach and S-class. Talk about an immersive, in-vehicle audio experience: 31 loudspeakers, eight sound transducers or “exciters”, two amplifiers, and 1750 watts of power.  Could this be the melodious future of an autonomous commute – listening to a Brahms symphony as your car drives itself?

  • Chameleon Cars

BMW unwrapped its dazzling new concept BMW i Vision Dee with Dee, shorthand for digital emotional experience. Each of the 240 E Inks on the electric sedan’s exterior can be individually controlled to achieve an almost limitless permutation of colors, shades, and patterns. Add to the mix, a digital assistant (‘Dee’, conceived as a digital buddy) and an advanced heads-up display (HUD) that spans the entire windshield with mixed reality/metaverse features that support enhanced flexibility in terms of the amount of digital content the driver wants displayed, ranging from basic vehicle information to entire virtual worlds. The concept of digital paint with color changing capabilities, like that of Volkswagen’s ID.7 – and more of that later – reflects the rising demand for personalization.

  • Future Forward

Global automotive giant Stellantis whose brands include Chrysler, Peugeot, and Ram was on overdrive. Chrysler exhibited a new cockpit design – Synthesis – for self-driving cars. This two-seater, steering wheel and pedal-free demonstrator uses advanced AI technology platforms, supports Level 3 autonomous driving, and offers navigation, route planning, charging and parking assistance, synching with calendars on personal mobile and smart home devices, e-commerce and infotainment services, and much, much more. Bonus points for the use of sustainable materials in the cockpit’s design, including an instrument panel composed of recycled ocean plastics.

Peugeot displayed an electric concept sedan – Inception. Powered by Stellantis’ new, AI driven STLA battery platform, it has a 100-kWh battery pack with an almost 500-mile range, and 800-volt architecture. The futuristic cockpit spotlighted an unusual, rectangular shaped, almost game console like, infotainment and control unit dubbed the Hypersquare.

Ram’s all new, fully electric pick-up truck concept, the 1500 Revolution BEV is being developed as a direct competitor to Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Rivian’s R1T, the Chevrolet Silverado EV, and Tesla’s Cybertruck. From its all-wheel drive and steering to the ability to personalize interior settings (party mode, anyone?), from an AI assistant to its 800-volt architecture, the Ram is readying for battle.  Among other standout features: Shadow Mode which allows the truck to automatically follow its driver when they are working outside the car and a glass roof with electro-chromatic panels.

  • Electrification All the Way

Volkswagen unveiled an all-electric, mid-size, long-range sedan – the new ID.7. It is among the 10 new electric models that the company plans to introduce by 2026. Exhibiting an attractive digital camouflage exterior, the electromagnetic glow paint dazzled with color changing and illuminating characteristics. The concept car, which is believed to be close to production-ready had the usual accoutrements – an advanced HUD display and a generously proportioned, 15-inch infotainment screen. Other nifty features included the capability to detect the driver’s approach (courtesy the car keys) triggering an automatic adjustment of the vehicle’s interior temperature.

  • Fleet Action

A raft of technologies was on display that promised to help fleets achieve their holy grails of resource optimization, improved performance, driver safety, rationalized fleet management, and enhanced efficiencies. Case in point was Smart Eye’s driver monitoring system (DMS) for Polestar 3. Designed to promote driver safety, the DMS tracks the driver’s eye and head movements, issues auditory or message alerts, and can execute an emergency stop, when necessary. Another standout was Geotab which showcased how connected vehicle data intelligence can boost efficiencies and quantifiably improve safety.

  • Tech and Automotive Get Closer

Qualcomm’s demo vehicle was a side attraction with all eyes focused instead on the company’s automotive technology. While its Snapdragon Ride Platforms were in the spotlight for their role in creating safe, scalable, and updateable ADAS and AD solutions, its Snapdragon Ride Flex system-on-chip (SoC) was heralded as the automotive industry’s first scalable family of SoCs capable of simultaneously supporting both digital cockpit and ADAS.  Another announcement was the partnership between Qualcomm and CRM software company, Salesforce, to build an intelligent connected vehicle platform bringing together the Snapdragon Digital Chassis and the Salesforces Automotive Cloud. Among touted benefits for automakers and suppliers include monetization opportunities and the ability to create personalized and updateable customer experiences across the vehicle’s lifecycle, predicated on access to driver data and, by extension, a better understanding of customer behavior.

  • Strap Up for Improved Comfort and Range

Cold weather is the bane of EVs. It means channeling away battery power to warm vehicle interiors, more frequent recharges, lowered battery performance, and reduced range.  Heated seats and steering wheels have been viewed as being a better solution to the EV heating conundrum.

Automotive parts supplier, ZF’s heated seat belts – the Heat Belt – directly and uniformly warms occupants. Apart from keeping passengers warm, an additional benefit according to ZF is that, when used in conjunction with heated steering wheels and seats, the Heat Belt has the potential to boost EV range by nearly 15% on cold days by reducing the need for battery power consumed for heating.

  •  A Goodyear for Sustainable Tires

At CES, Goodyear showcased a “sustainable” tire, nearly 90% of which comprises bio-based, recyclable, renewable materials. The company claims that the tire has lower rolling resistance which translates to improved range and energy efficiencies. Simultaneously, it supports overall sustainability since the tires are made from reusable material.

  • Up and Away

With the tagline of “freedom to drive and fly,” Aska A5, a four-seater flying car, made its debut at CES 2023. Its makers claim that it is the world’s first four-seater EV that can travel on the road and fly up to 400 kms in the air on a single charge. Pending FAA approval, the A5 is likely to be pressed into ride-sharing services by 2026.

Meanwhile, Stellantis announced that it would provide expanded assistance to Archer Aviation to commercialize ‘Midnight’, its four-seater electric vehicle takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle.

  • Mapping it Out

Google’s new Android Auto update, with its new design updates and capability improvements, was all about the troika of navigation, communication, and entertainment.  Android phones can be connected to the vehicle display to access multiple apps, including Whatsapp and Maps for navigation. The Maps are now conveniently placed closer to the driver’s seat for easy visibility. One of the new features is that it offers drivers “precise road details like lane markers, signs and road barriers to support automakers’ assisted and autonomous driving technology for safer, more hands-free driving on select roadways.”

  • Game On

Nvidia’s partnership with automakers like BYD, Hyundai and Polestar will see its cloud gaming service GeForce Now incorporated into some of their vehicles. This means occupants can play their favorite games (Fornite!) from within the comfort of their cars. Meanwhile, there are plans to integrate the Playstation 5 console into Afeela as it seeks to differentiate itself with superior entertainment and software offerings. Tesla itself announced in July 2022 that it planned to integrate online gaming platform Steam into its cars. In the same vein, GM and Microsoft have created a new video game called Dash Runner, while Audi’s Holoride uses a VR headset which, when connected to the vehicle, virtually recreates its movement.

These are all pointers to a future where AD frees up vehicle occupants to enjoy premium infotainment experiences within their car. Accordingly, it underlines the need to think differently about cars: not just as a means of transport but also as a vehicle for content consumption.

  • Infotainment and Autonomy Link Up

The agreement between LG Electronics and Magna targets a proof of concept that will create “executable infotainment-ADAS solutions to better meet carmakers’ vehicle programs.” By combining LG’s competencies in in-vehicle infotainment software and Magna’s in automotive parts manufacture and ADAS and AD technologies, the partners hope to entice automakers to adopt their infotainment/AD systems that support enhanced user experiences.

  • Harman’s AR Head-Up Display

Samsung subsidiary Harman’s visually immersive, machine learning and computer vision-driven Ready Vision AR HUD showed how driving could be made a safer experience. The immersive audio-visual AR HUD reduces driver distraction while providing optimal information, content, and visual detail. From object detection and collision warnings to directional audio alerts about possible hazards, pedestrian and vehicular alike, it improves navigation capabilities.

Our Verdict

The automotive industry is at inflection point where electrification and digital technologies are disrupting every aspect of the industry. And while there will always be gizmos, gimmicks, and splashy concepts, there is equally an understanding that the focus, ultimately, has to be on the brass tacks – building successful business models and solutions, churning out profits, and making consumers happy.

As importantly, as was demonstrated time and again – with Audi’s Holoride, Mercedes’ Dolby Atmos partnership, BMW’s HUD, Harman’s AR HUD, ZF’s heated seat belt, or Chrysler’s Cockpit, among others – is that the “life on board” concept is evolving. Consumers want cars to be extensions of their digital lifestyles. Automakers are having to reimagine the role of both vehicle and its occupants in an age of AD. The objective is to create in-vehicle experiences that are simultaneously engaging, stimulating, relaxing, immersive, and productive.

About Kamalesh Mohanarangam

Kamalesh Mohanarangam is a Program Manager within Frost & Sullivan's Mobility practice. With more than 10 years of experience in strategy consulting and market analysis, Mohanarangam covers the automotive industry with a focus on the chassis & safety and autonomous driving domains.

Kamalesh Mohanarangam

Kamalesh Mohanarangam is a Program Manager within Frost & Sullivan's Mobility practice. With more than 10 years of experience in strategy consulting and market analysis, Mohanarangam covers the automotive industry with a focus on the chassis & safety and autonomous driving domains.

Manish Menon

Manish Menon is a Program Manager within Frost & Sullivan's Mobility practice, leading a crack team of Connected Cars and Autonomous Driving market experts. With a background in automotive engineering, he brings with him over 10 years of automotive industry experience spread across research & development, strategy planning, market research and consulting, and technology incubation. Manish, a recipient of the Best Analyst of the Year Award for three consecutive years (2017-2019) and an inductee to the prestigious President’s Club for two consecutive years (2018-19), is known for his ability to tease out intrinsic market details to help clients with future areas of growth. 

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