The annual CES (formerly called the Consumer Electronics Show) technology show in Las Vegas, one of the largest on the calendar, sets up the year ahead with plenty of announcements and previews. The show began on 9 January and will conclude on 12 January.
Like other areas at CES, there were some key announcements in the world of automobile and car technology. With Kia returning after a five-year hiatus, and AI dominating press conferences, we take a look at everything from the world of cars at CES 2024.
Honda’s press conference was probably the biggest and most significant among the automakers that have come to Las Vegas this year. The company announced two - Space-Hub and Saloon - Honda 0 Series EV concepts. While there is no confirmation about the Space-Hub, the Saloon (which looks like it’s Cyberpunk-inspired) is being targeted for a 2026 production model by Honda. The Saloon will be the first production model for the new 0 Series.
The Saloon is a wedged-shaped sporty car. The taller and more van-like design is the Space-Hub. Both these concepts are based on a thin battery design that helps boost interior space. The height of the vehicle is also relatively low. Altogether, it is part of the new design approach “man-maximum/machine-minimum”. There’s the e-Axle setup that combines an inverter, motor and a gearbox. Honda even goes as far as saying that the cars should provide lightning-quick charge times by the late 2020s. The 0 Series models, according to Honda, will go from 15 to 85 percent power in just under 15 minutes.
The company is also developing its very own operating system (OS) and will rely heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) integration.
Kia came to the CES show floor with a new type of EV (in production). It was part of the company’s “Platform Beyond Vehicle”. The company’s ultimate goal? To put a fleet of autonomous vans on the streets.
Kia says that the vehicles can go from "a taxi during the day, to a delivery van at night, and a personal recreational vehicle on the weekends." The vehicle can also be used as a living room, an office, or even a pop-up shop.
The Kia Concept PV5 is a modular van with many different use cases, including ride-sharing and caters to different types of users -- including those with disabilities. The concept car features a universal chassis with a series of interchangeable modules that can be reconnected in various combinations. Kia says it will “allow for the quick and simple in-field transformation” and reduce the environmental footprint as the base remains the same.
There’s also the PV1 and PV7. The PV5 has three different versions. So, in total, Kia announced five options. It’s competing with companies like Waymo and Zoox. Additionally, the company wants to evolve and incorporate AI features at some point.
Hyundai and XPeng showed off their flying taxis on the show floor. Hyundai came armed to Las Vegas with the Supernal S-A2 electric vehicle takeoff and landing (eVTOL) craft. SA-1 debuted in 2020 but never made it to production. The S0A2 seats five passengers (including the pilot) and can fly at a speed of 120 mph at 1,500 feet. The range is anywhere from 20 to 40 miles. It is powered by electricity, and noise has been cut down to match that of a dishwasher.
XPeng AEROHT is a flying car concept with eight carbon fibre whirring blades. The blades fold into the body, making the car ready for you to drive on the roads. The “dual-mode cockpit” can seat only two people.
Pre-orders for AEROHT begin in Q4 of 2024. The company plans to start mass production by the end of the year, and if everything goes smoothly, this will become the first mass-produced detachable flying car for individual consumers.
Mercedes came to CES to showcase their latest tech, integrated into their MBUX infotainment system (that features on wall-to-wall Hyperscreen displays). The MB.OS was showcased inside the Concept CLA Class (making its North American debut). The three components of the new tech are: MBUX Virtual Assistant, MBUX Surround Navigation and MBUX Superscreen. There’s also a feature called MBUX Collectibles.
The virtual assistant uses a more sophisticated AI to move towards more natural interactions. It can now deliver more empathetic responses and inflexions. According to Mercedes, it is even capable of sarcasm. The virtual assistant can also learn the driver’s routine, calendar and suggest taking conference calls from the car itself if the user is running late for a meeting.
The MBUX Surround Navigation combines Google Maps with Level 3 autonomous assistance, projecting through a high-quality graphic display. It’s reliant on visual communication and presents a real-world view of the surroundings.
The MBUX Superscreen integrates three displays into a dash-to-dash architecture (powered by an Nvidia chip). There are four kinds of controls and information: infotainment, automated driving, comfort and charging.
MBUX Collectibles is the company’s first in-car app that showcases digital art and collectables (based on NFTs). It’s a private art gallery connected to NFT wallets.
Let’s also briefly run through what else was announced at CES 2024 in the world of auto:
- VinFast showcased an electric pickup truck (mid-size pickup category) concept but didn’t disclose the timeframe nor expected driving range.
- Volkswagen presented some of its first vehicles with a ChatGPT integrated voice assistant.
- Crystal Center Display (a collaboration between Continental and Swarovski Mobility) is a display surrounded by crystals. It’s being billed as the ‘world-first 10-inch display’ based on microLED technology.
- Bosch and Cariad (the software company owned by Volkswagen) hope to put a new spin on an old idea. They want to mix automated parking with automated electric vehicle charging. The two envision a system that “guides electric vehicles driverlessly to an unoccupied parking space furnished with a charge spot, where a charging robot recharges them automatically”.
- Hyundai is doubling down on hydrogen. The company is working to transform pollutants into clean hydrogen via Waste-to-Hydrogen (W2H) and Plastic-to-Hydrogen (P2H). Hyundai wants to introduce hydrogen solutions beyond cars, trucks and buses and into trams, ships, power generators, and planes.
- BMW is also getting a voice assistant upgrade with the help of Amazon’s Alexa Large Language Model.
- XREAL teamed up with BMW (and others) to show off its new XREAL Air 2 AR driving glasses. The glasses will provide an overlay of many things such as navigation instructions, hazard warnings, and even visual parking instructions when a space has been found.
- LG moved beyond the home and into the passenger seat. The company redefined future cars as a “personalised digital cave”. With them, they brought the Alpha-able, a concept car, to the show floor. The future mobility concept delivers unique customer experiences based on three distinct themes: exporable, relaxable and transformable. Alpha-able also has cutting-edge display technologies (rollable, flexible and transparent displays).
- LG Display announced a “Switchable Privacy Mode (SPM), which keeps the driver’s focus on the road by preventing them from seeing the passenger’s display. There’s also a 7-inch Foldable OLED designed for RSE (Rear Seat Entertainment) and an 18-inch Slidable OLED, hidden in the ceiling.
- Sony and Honda have a new concept EV called Afeela. Nothing is known about it, but Sony did drive it on the CES 2024 stage with a PlayStation DualSense controller.
- Google will offer vehicles, with select automakers (Nissan, Ford, Lincoln and Ford), to have Google apps (namely Google Maps, Assistant and Play Store among others) pre-installed.
- Google Chrome is coming to those using Android Auto phone mirroring feature in their cars. It will first come to certain Volvo and Polestar vehicles before expanding to others.
- Android Auto will also have greater integration with Google Maps. Google Maps will now be able to see EV battery levels and tell you about where you can next charge your vehicle.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist.