LAS VEGAS (dpa) – Technology is on the move – but at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, it’s carmakers who are behind the wheel.
This year’s CES – which is actually supposed to be about consumer electronics – has turned out to be a milestone for carmakers. The auto industry has crashed the show with its self-driving cars, and as they cruise on to centre stage, the gadgets are scattering.
It started with Jack – the nickname for Audi’s self-driving A7 sedan, which took itself on a two-day, 900-kilometre road trip from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, where it arrived at CES Monday afternoon.
Then on Tuesday, Audi electronics boss Ricky Hudi showed off the new Prologue concept car, which one-ups Jack with its ability to “learn” from its environment, courtesy of a new Nvidia chip.
The auto industry is sending a message: unlike many of the Internet-equipped gewgaws at CES, automotive autonomy is not a passing fad.
Daimler’s Mercedes F015 prototype, presented Monday evening by Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche, was designed for autonomy from the ground up.
The car watches out for pedestrians, and even communicates with them via a light panel, making sure they know who’s in charge.
From a design perspective, Daimler’s luxury sedan may be the opposite of the best-known self-driving car on the road, Google’s minimalist two-seater, which is designed purely for transportation – and looks it.
But Zetsche said the roomy Mercedes had a philosophical raison d’etre: “access to the single most important luxury goods of the 21st century: private space and quality time.”
As the car purred quietly on the stage of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, its windshield dusted with desert sand, what had seemed like science fiction was suddenly real. And as crowds descended on the F105 for a round of selfies, it was clear that the Robo-Mercedes, in prototype at least, was a hit.
All the buzz may be good news for an industry that could use some. Younger generations see owning their own cars as less and less important. But the novelty of self-driving cars could give them a market boost.