Autonomous vehicles take center stage

Prototype FiA Formula E Roboracer (autonomous racecar).

CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – is where to find latest innovations and breakthroughs in consumer technologies. CES attracts companies large and small, filling almost every convention center space, hotel room and suite, in Las Vegas for the better part of a week in early January each year.

Iconic Paris, Las Vegas.

Massive crowd of international press at the SAMSUNG press conference.

Old school note taking.

The Nissan IMx concept.

Nikon with a robotic camera at CES.


Considering the enormous variety and quantity of products, services and technologies, as well as the difficulty in getting around to the various venues in the often gridlocked Las Vegas traffic, there is not nearly enough time to see and do everything.

Navigating the busy Las Vegas streets.

This air taxi concept might come in handy for getting around Las Vegas.

Attending to the business of doing business.

Added to the challenge this year was a massive power failure in the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), following two straight days of steady, relentless rain. Trashcans appeared throughout the LVCC, in an only partially successful effort to collect the rainwater leaking through its aging roof. Sufficient moisture found its way in by the next day to cause the power failure that led to the evacuation of the LVCC’s Central Hall. Many of us wasted precious time waiting to be let back in.

The international press cooling their heels as they waited for the power to come back on.

Several events provide opportunities for members of the media to meet with a variety of companies and their representatives, and see some of their products and services, gathered together at one time in large ballrooms around Las Vegas. These include CES Unveiled, Pepcom’s Digital Experience! and ShowStoppers.

Jan with the Aflac duck at ShowStoppers.

Robotics was a hot topic at this year’s CES.

Sony’s Aibo — a robotic puppy that you can buy.

I approached CES with two objectives: to try to get an overview of this year’s emerging trends, technologies, products and services; and to focus on a few of particular interest and importance, in part by requesting several products for review. These will be covered here in the coming weeks and months.

Even NASA was at CES!

The LINQ, Las Vegas.

In recent years, autonomous vehicles and technology have been featured at CES. The major automakers have had an ever-increasing presence at CES, as have a myriad of tech companies that many consumers may never have even heard of. The sheer volume of computer code that must be written to process the massive amount of data required for autonomous vehicles and their infrastructure is truly mind-boggling.

One such company is Aptiv (spun off from Delphi), self-described as “a global technology company that develops safer, greener and more connected solutions, which enable the future of mobility.” For CES they built an entire (temporary) building, within which they presented and explained some of the key hardware, software and processes of their autonomous vehicle technologies.

Autonomous BMWs with Aptiv technology.

Of particular interest was Aptiv’s partnership with BMW and Lyft – the ridesharing company. To showcase that collaboration, showgoers could choose a special choice in the Lyft app to request a ride in an Aptiv-modified BMW sedan to one of several destinations in Las Vegas.

Hailing an autonomous BMW, with Aptiv technology, on the Lyft app.

This required driving in real-world, heavy traffic, complete with unexpected events – such as a pedestrian crossing in front of the path of my BMW, which prompted it to stop suddenly. Thankfully it did so safely, with no drama. It was like having a professional driver at the wheel.

While at CES I had several opportunities to speak with showgoers about autonomous vehicles. It seemed like the younger people who I spoke to were less inclined to embrace this technology. Reflecting back, at one time I was not too keen about the thought of relegating driving to a vehicle either, but as I get older I realize that at some point my ability to drive will become more limited. Autonomous vehicles will provide an aging population with the ability to not become prisoners of their homes in the suburbs, or be forced to move. When I shared this thought with younger adults, many told me that they had not considered that, and that they could now see how it could be extremely beneficial. Of course autonomous vehicles offer much more, from driverless buses to shuttle people around college and business campuses, and urban centers; to the ability to be productive or rest while your vehicle safely and efficiently takes you where you want to go.

Rock guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith entertained at this year’s MONSTER CES concert.

“Head Monster” Noel Lee.

Rock guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith and friends entertain at the MONSTER CES 2018 concert (at Brooklyn Bowl, Las Vegas).

Brooklyn Bowl at The LINQ, Las Vegas.

Rock guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith at the CES 2018 MONSTER concert (at Brooklyn Bowl, Las Vegas).

“Head Monster” Noel Lee introduced new audio products and the new MONSTER Concept R VW Golf.

“Head Monster” Noel Lee proudly reveals the new MONSTER Concept R VW Golf at CES 2018.

Inside the new MONSTER Concept R VW Golf at CES 2018.

Showgoers experienced the Google Assistant as they tried to win prizes.

Attendees waited for hours to try to score a Google prize.

Check back again for more coverage of CES 2018, as we take a ride through busy Las Vegas streets in an autonomous BMW with Aptiv technology.

Autonomous BMW with Aptiv technology.


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Jan Wagner

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