CES, the world's largest gathering of consumer technology products, keepscreating closer ties between different industries, with artificial intelligence increasingly as the common denominator. In the end, it seems that, contrary to what science fiction movies anticipated in 1970s, it will not be green aliens full of antennas that will take our planet by storm, but robots in which we improved what allowed the human being to impose over the rest of the animal species: intelligence.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) invades "the City of Sin" as always in the first days of each new year (in 2018 from January 9 to 12), when still many Americans are licking the "wounds" left by the excesses committed during the end-of-year mega concerts by Bruno Mars, Maroon 5 and the farewell of resident Britney Spears, among many others who always help to create a special glamor to New Year's Eve in Las Vegas (this year with slightly more contained celebrations and, above all, with more surveillance - due to the recent massive murder of more than 50 people during a live concert at the foot of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which is the most important center of press presentations during this event - around the most important consumer electronics fair in the world.
The variety of inventions that emerge at CES continue to grow and now include over 20 product categories, from 3D printing to drones, from health and biotechnology to smart houses and smart cities, from video games to augmented reality, from automotive technology to wearable devices, from televisions and intelligent voice control systems to robotics.
This year the main topic evolved around everything that had to do with Artificial Intelligence (AI), highlighting its impact on life on our planet, to a point that even raises some questions about the role of human beings in the long term future. The fast speed of 5G data transmission will arrive in 2018 (and with an umbilical link to AI) and will resonate across society in the same way other technological advances will, such as augmented reality (AG), virtual reality (VR), voice as the main tool to command all the devices we deal with, digital therapies (DT) will make it possible for smart cities to thrive in the most developed countries in the world. Robotics are making more and more headlines because precisely the faster data transmission and the more powerful processors and sensors are generating robots with a constantly evolving intelligence, to an extent that some of the world's most prestigious scientists - with eminent Stephen Hawking leading the pack - concerned that humanity may well be in the process of creating a potential enemy that could lead to its extinction. Not only they can fall into and be controlled by criminal hands, but also at the highest level (3) of Artificial Intelligence the "creation" may even decide to exterminate its "creator". Just like in the movies...
Mobility has always obsessed Man and all the technological developments in evidence at CES will completely change the interaction between the human being and the individual means of transportation at his disposal, many of which will increasingly become giant "smart devices on wheels" and an extension of our digital and connected lives.
The on-going invasion of technology that will increasingly allow us to surf the Internet, listen to our own music, research all kinds of information and give instructions through voice commands, communicate with other cars and with the infrastructure, listen to e- mails, make it possible for the car to be parked/driven autonomously or even warn the driver about upcoming road hazards or mechanical problems - among many other possibilities – is a clear indication that this is the sector of the automotive industry with the most potential growth. In times like these, when the planet's increasing urban population (which went from 1/3 of humanity in 1960 to half today and with a prospect of reaching 2/3 in 2050) spends a great deal of time behind the wheel in more or less gigantic traffic jams, when speed controls are increasingly restrictive and where the limits of hardware technological progress (chassis, drivetrains) may not have that much ground to evolve, it is expected that it will be the software progress to make the difference. Two years ago, Accenture conducted a study in the US that revealed that for 39% of US citizens who had just purchased a new car the type of "connected" content had already been more important than any other factor influencing their decision (car color, design, brand or engine included). Today this trend has intensified and this is just the beginning.
This explains why, apart from the journalists - who are responsible for ensuring that, during CES, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas - the visitor to the "Automotive Technology" area is different from the hard core "car guy" which traditionally packs any motor show around the world for over a century. It is a new dimension of the automobile that has already become an unstoppable and transversal trend, to the point that even the Detroit Motor Show (which starts every year just a few days after CES closes) recognized it and, since last year, created the time and the space dedicated to this "new word" (under the all-encompassing concept Automobili-D) to give room for the connected car, autonomous driving, electric mobility, mobility services and urban mobility.
I could not conclude without mentioning the CES visitor shuttle service in autonomous driven vehicles, in an association between Aptiv (former Delphi and in charge of autonomous technology) and Lyft (software/app) as a way to give the impression that taxi-robots are just around the corner. The several BMW 5-series loaded with sensors, cameras and the powerful Lidar super radar were part of a fleet of 60 of these Aptiv prototypes and could be called by an app on the mobile phone, getting to the user just a few minutes later with an engineer inside for any eventual issue (seated at the wheel and controlling the steering on the hotel driveways). No place in the world would be better suited for such experimental service as this is where the century-old automobile industry takes off its formalities to emerge hand in hand with laid-back Silicon Valley to jointly take steady steps towards the mobility of the future in our Planet . It is all happening now.
European Car of the Year Jury Member