It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not the holiday season. The annual Consumer Technology Association (CES) trade show, of course. Four glorious days where we tech-lovers gather in Las Vegas to check out the latest and greatest in new and emerging technology.
CES 2024 was a true reflection of our current moment in time with different participants or less staff than in 2023 due to budget cuts, strategy shifts, and new entrants challenging the status quo — and an unexpected snowstorm throwing a wrench into everybody’s meeting schedule. But even winter’s fury couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the event’s main draw: an exciting glimpse of the future. Our team saw impressive innovations in healthcare, security, home entertainment, appliances, and beyond, but one category stuck out more than most: mobility. Read on for the standouts from this year’s show.
What we saw
Mercedes Benz made a splash by showcasing the latest Mercedes Benz Operating System (MB.OS) to be used in their next generation in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system. For a luxury car maker, Mercedes Benz is remarkably open about which platforms underlie structure, which software stacks are being leveraged, and what is done in-house versus with partners. Their next IVI will run on the real time engine Unity, which allows Mercedes to visualize complex data from various sensors into a beautiful, easy-to-understand interface. By allowing the driver to see what the car understands in both the interior and exterior environment in real time, Mercedes Benz is building valuable consumer trust as we move into an all-autonomous future.
Kia returned to CES after a five-year hiatus with an immersive test ride experience for their latest consumer-facing EVs, but it was the commercial side that caught our team’s attention. The Korean automaker showcased a fleet of modular electric vehicles branded as “Platform Beyond Vehicles” (PBV). All five sample vehicles are utilitarian and purposeful, but it was their highly customizable that struck us most. All PBV models will have a fixed cab design, but the rest of the vehicle can be swapped out and secured using hybrid electromagnetic and mechanical couplings which make it possible to to change out the cargo capacity and even elongate the vehicle. These vehicles aren’t just a concept — Kia plans to bring them to market in 2025.
Not to be outshined, Honda presented two concept vehicles of their own: the Saloon and Space Hub. Both are part of the company’s new 0 Series, representing Honda’s vision for an electric future and featuring the brand’s new logo. The boldly-designed Space Hub aims to augment daily commutes into memorable mobility experiences thanks to its spacious shared interior, and huge glass panels that showcase the scenery along the journey. It’s yet to be determined if this ambitious vehicle will ever actually go into production, but the Saloon is estimated to be ready by 2026. Even if the Space Hub never joins the Saloon on the road, such an ambitious concept represents major automakers’ increasing interests in creating a mobility experience that goes far beyond just driving around town.
It wasn’t just the big name automakers who brought their A-game to this year’s conference. Several others proved that fantastic-looking concept vehicles can’t come to life without great software:
- Rightware gave us a hands-on demo of their Kanzi ONE human machine interface (HMI) solution. The browser-based product allows you to draw general, basic shapes of what your cluster should look like, add additional elements like a color palette, and hit ‘generate’ to create feature-rich visuals.
- QT showcased an AWS-based HMI simulating against multiple ARM hardware specs that are unique to each OEM/Tier 1 — allowing teams to test for multiple use cases across vehicle types and brands.
- Elektrobit’s impressive curved Build Up Cockpit caught our attention for its visual capabilities, and it came as no surprise that Unreal Engine (which we’re quite familiar with) is being leveraged here. The unit is controlled via touch, voice, and companion apps, and Elektrobit is taking the user experience one step further by leveraging GenAI to further personalize the unit’s visual appearance. I expect we will see more AI and personalization-driven mobility innovations moving forward.
Shifting to two wheels, Verge Motorcycles attended with Starmatter, the advanced and intelligent software platform that powers all of their vehicles and is visualized via Unreal Engine. The platform has expanded with their new flagship bike, the TS Ultra, which is equipped with radar sensors and cameras to provide motorcyclists greater understanding of their surroundings and tremendously enhancing their safety.
Traditional automakers weren’t the only ones introducing mobility solutions at this year’s conference, and that came as a pleasant surprise. LG, who are best known for their consumer electronics and home appliances, showcased two vehicles of their own at CES 2024: the high-luxury LG αble (Alpha-ble) and the Bon Voyage trailer. Both bring together display technology and consumer life products, which are the areas LG is trusted for and excels in. The LG αble is designed for the era of autonomous driving, but you can still unfold a steering wheel and drive it yourself. Unlike other concepts we’ve seen, the αble’s core idea is “togetherness” and is designed more like a living room than a passenger vehicle. All the seats can rotate to face each other, and passengers can enjoy fresh food from the in-build refrigerator, sip a hot brewed coffee, or play some video games together. I doubt anyone’s children would ask “Are we there yet?” while on a road trip in a car like this!
The Bon Voyage offers similar luxurious amenities but for the outdoors. The trailer is tricked out with the best of LG’s technology, including an electric stove, fridge, coffee maker, shower sanitizer, LED battery lights, and smart trailer controls with a beautiful touchscreen display. LG is not a mobility company and has never claimed to be, but their CES 2024 presentation was a strong example of how business in any industry can use mobility to showcase their value in new contexts, expand their business into new markets, and create new brand ambassadors.
With all those amazing electric vehicles on display, alternative energy sources were naturally a major focus of this year’s conference. LG, Electric Outdoors, Anker Home Electric Storage, EcoFlow, and many others showcased some really interesting solutions, and we can’t wait to see what CES 2025 has in store as the sustainability conversation continues.
No discussion of the “vehicles of the future” would be complete without a flying car, but don’t worry, we saw one of those, too. EV maker XPeng brought their AeroHT Flying Car Concept vehicle to CES 2024 and for the first time, the idea of seeing such a vehicle on the road didn’t feel like such a distant future.
What was missing
While our team was delighted by what we saw, we couldn’t help but identify a gap that we didn’t see filled at this year’s conference. All of the concept vehicles we saw focused on vehicle design and lifestyle utilities, but left us wondering how software will bring more value to the concept and the end user.
In general, we saw a great adoption of real-time engines such as Unreal and Unity, and Amazon showcased how their software stack offers solutions for every automotive touchpoint. But overall, it was not clearly demonstrated how these ambitious new concept vehicles play a part in a bigger ecosystem. Kia’s PVB fleet was the exception, but even here it was unclear if Kia is building their own dedicated software stack and telematic or turning to commercial software or infrastructure integration (V2X).
All in all, we were really impressed by the ambitious strides many businesses have taken to make mobility an experience, rather than merely a line item on the to-do list. We’re big believers in the business power of mobility for all companies, and we’re excited by what these concepts imply about what lies ahead.
By the time CES 2025 rolls around, that next great idea or solution could belong to your business. We can help you get there, guiding your organization through concept development straight through to validation and growth and helping you go from vision to victory. Let’s talk about what’s next for your business.