Image: shutterstock.com

CES 2020 – an autonomous driving round-up

Technology and Business

Phil Brown

Phil Brown

30-01-2020

       

Missed the coverage of CES 2020? Here’s our round up of the most important autonomous driving announcements and unveils.

 

Hyundai and Uber’s flying taxi
Image: Designboom.com

Hyundai and Uber’s flying taxi


Flying cars have been a sci-fi staple for probably 100 years now, but the long-imagined concept seems to be gaining traction as we aim for three-dimensional travel that doesn’t involve spending hours in traffic in the back of a taxi.


Hyundai is working on lots of weird stuff right now, so a flying taxi concept that piggy-backs the world’s leading taxi-less taxi company felt par for the course. The idea is to use a fully-electric air taxi to whizz passengers from the out-of-town business park, airport concourse or train station and straight to the central business district, regional airport etc.


It seems like a great idea, but the whole flying taxi thing has already been tackled by German start-up Lilium, who have already tested a fully-working electric air taxi which they hope to make fully-automated by around 2030. In all honesty, it feels like both Hyundai and Uber have ‘borrowed’ Lilium’s much more serious concept to try and get some airtime at CES this year, so we’ll be ‘blown away’ if this one goes anywhere.

Vision S Autonomous car
Image: shutterstock.com

Enter Sony

Iconic electronics are Sony’s bread and butter, so its foray into the world of electric driverless vehicles was arguably overdue. CES 2020 saw the Japanese tech veteran announce the Vision S, an electric AV that still boasts a frankly uninspiring and decidedly old-fashioned steering wheel alongside 33 sensors that analyse the road around the vehicle. There are also names like Bosch, Blackberry, Nvidia and Qualcomm that have been tacked onto the Vision S brochure, but their individual contributions feel more like an advertising ploy than a genuine attempt to translate specialised experience into individual components.


But the bigger issue is that Sony is going head-to-head with manufacturers who have devoted vast swathes of their business and resources into their autonomous vehicle concepts and solutions. Sony, although powerful, has never created a car before, never mind a viable competitor to the electric AVs that are creeping into the market each quarter. If Sony can get the ‘car’ part nailed, then the tech that goes with it shouldn’t be such a big worry.

bmw Autonomous internal design
Image:https://www.press.bmwgroup.com

BMW goes rogue

For BMW’s CES 2020 presence, they couldn’t even be bothered with wheels. The carmaker ditched the idea of bringing an actual car to the world’s biggest tech event, instead bringing a mocked-up cabin of their BMW i Interaction Ease.


The cabin is designed to showcase what can be achieved once the steering wheels, pedals, gear sticks and other imminently redundant inputs are cleared out of the way, with lie-flat seats, multimedia screens and an impressive HMI that watches what you’re looking out of the window at and throws up a ton of information. We see this being especially handy if you’re trying to figure out whether there are enough fried food choices at the next motorway rest stop.

Yandex Uber Autonomous taxi
Image: shutterstock.com

Russia’s Google made a bold statement

Yandex (don’t worry, we hadn’t heard of them either) is apparently Russia’s answer to the world’s most ubiquitous search-engine-turned-tech-giant. And with that association, Yandex is also mirroring Google’s Waymo with their own autonomous vehicles.


Despite having only one million hours of human-free driving under their belts, Yandex rocked up to Las Vegas a full two weeks before CES to map out a very busy, very not-closed-off route around the city, before letting its fleet of driverless Toyota Prius’ loose. Nothing new I hear you cry, but the eyebrow-raiser here is the lack of human in the driving seat to act as a safety net. Yandex’s cars reached 40mph and breached busy intersections with ease, with only a tech assistant in the passenger seat to make sure nothing broke. Impressive.


There were a few other autonomous driving rumblings at CES, including a peculiar next-gen lie-down Segway that has collision avoidance capabilities, and Qualcomm’s creepy driver-facing camera that shouts at you if you aren’t paying attention, but 2020 showed that it’s much of the same – some amazing work being done by autonomous driving experts, but also the token products that were blatantly just billboards for the brands piggybacking the tech event.

 

What do you make of this year’s announcements? Do you think CES 2020 was a game-changer, or did it fall flat? Get involved at 2025AD.

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