This month’s CES show reflected the seismic shift which is driving change in the automotive sector on the journey from selling metal to sustainable mobility.

The traditional product development process controlled by the vehicle brand from design concept through to the end customer delivery is evolving in response to challenges from suppliers, both traditional and new. The challenge is driven by the technology which is essential for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and needs expertise beyond the automotive sector including (amongst others) telco, AI, VR, data, gaming and cyber security.

I observed three themes relevant to sustainable mobility from my visit and group them as follows (i) mobility not product; (ii) society and safety (iii) collaboration not control and here’s my take:

Mobility Not Product

Zenzic: CES and CAVs [what happened in Vegas and why it matters to us..]

Ford’s keynote speech by CEO Jim Hackett presented a future where technology solves the tension between personal freedom of vehicle ownership and the impact on communities in towns and cities caused by road and parking challenges. Their ‘Living Street’ open platform offers a V2X approach for the world’s 12 million app developers to collaborate on solutions. Ford’s global mobility solutions (which will of course have Ford products underneath) include the new London premises for Mobility Solutions office for Ford in Europe located next to Meridian’s Stratford facility. The takeaway from this session was ‘it’s about the service of mobility in society, not the sale of the car’.  [worth taking the time to watch Jim Hackett’s speech – you’ll need an hour]

Toyota unveiled several vehicles including the Concept-i (friendly CAV. Moving past the ‘pod’ approach) and the e-Palette Alliance, the multimode transport platform providing mobility-as-a-service for future business applications also leveraging the V2X approach. (Link here for the full 30 minutes presentation). Many other brands introduced new approaches including Nissan’s Brain to Vehicle Technology focused on HMI; Jaguar Land Rover showcased 5G, safety and personalisation; start-up Byton revealed an all-new connected, electric car at $45,000 due on sale in 2019. You can find a full review of all car tech, curated by Autocar here.

Worth noting that at a ‘traditional’ car show these brands would have talked about the product, performance, price points, sales volumes and brand. At CES it was all about mobility as a service enabled by technology.

CES was also an opportunity for traditional suppliers to position themselves as mobility providers, challenging the role as providers of components within someone else’s branded vehicle. Look no further than ZF now offering Car eWallet using Blockchain technology for mobile payment provision. They also announced their Dream Car level 4 autonomous vehicle along with news of their work with Baidu and NVIDIA on a platform for the Chinese market. ZF’s Chief Digital Officer Mamatha Chamarthi explained what the next year holds. Similar news from Visteon with their DriveCore platform, Continental with their Safety Domain Control for autonomous vehicles and partnership with HERE technologies. You can see the conference here. Qualcomm presented multiple programmes on communications, mobility and connectivity with partners from Ford to BYD, Google to Microsoft with V2X capability leveraging their Snapdragon platform. See the full conference here.

Zenzic: CES Vegas

Electric and Safe

‘Zero emissions, zero accidents’ is the ZF vision with electric vehicles connected to each other and the infrastructure to reduce accidents. With 94% of car accidents caused by driver error according to the NHTSA, CAVs offer the potential to dramatically reduce injuries and related costs. At CES the two elements were combined as a recurring theme during most announcements from vehicle manufacturers, supplies and tech companies.

Key takeaway here is that the public positioning of CAVs focuses on societal benefits of the technology integrating with infrastructure and not the traditional product features, lifestyle and benefits of vehicles.

Collaboration Not Control

The past century of vehicle development has largely (but not exclusively) been a process controlled by the brand owner managing its contracted suppliers through cost and direct control to produce a vehicle carrying the brand badge, with varying degrees of acknowledgement of the supplier input. At CES, former suppliers of components (eg Continental tyres, ZF gearboxes, Visteon components) put down their markers for the opportunity to shift position from supplier to partner as providers of mobility solutions and be highly visible in their own right.

The complexity of technological integration required for CAVs mean that traditional automotive businesses are in the ‘double hit’ phase having to face the costs of developing existing and legacy products with today’s technology, whilst also investing to re-shape for the emerging opportunities. These often highly geared businesses must either invest significant resources to bring the skills and capabilities in-house which range from telecoms, AI, robotics, data and connectivity or develop new relationships with third parties to acquire access to them.

At CES it was clear to see how globally recognised brands (Bosch, Hella, Toyota, ZF, Visteon, Ford, Nissan for example) are creating collaborations with both new and existing companies to bridge the gap to the future. Aurora, Baidu, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Verizon and others will continue to step forward and be more visible in the new way of developing mobility solutions, whilst new brands such as Byton face the uncertain challenge of bringing a new offer to market, but are free of the legacy costs and investments in older technology.

At a regional, national and international level, the UK is playing a leading role in developing collaboration with other countries and regions to share learning and activate opportunities for mutual cooperation. At CES we met with CAV testbed facility providers from the USA and across the world to explore areas of potential activity.

So how does this help CAV development and testing in the UK?

CES may well be the ultimate showcase for technology, due to its size and scale with all sectors represented under not one roof, but several roofs across Las Vegas in multiple venues. Visitors and exhibitiors from start-ups through to the world’s biggest companies look, listen, shout and sell, and from what I heard and saw the UK is well placed in the global race to answer the challenges from the three themes which emerged.

Meridian has been created to make the UK the world leader in the development of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) and their environment. We’re connecting existing facilities and capabilities and, along with a programme of matched investment, will create a more comprehensive testing and development environment addressing all aspects of CAV systems.

We have invested in four Testbeds which are a part of the national network of capabilities in the UK and with facilities in Coventry and London we’re open for business to support organisations as they develop sustainable mobility thereby contributing to the country’s social and economic prosperity.

If you’re working in this space and would like to know more about our work, or share news of your activities so that we can showcase them, please get in touch.

Al Clarke
21 January 2017