Weekly Brief: Fewer People but Just as Many Cars at CES 2022

The crowds stayed home but the cars showed up.

Most media coverage in the build-up to CES 2022 focused on which big-name presenters had pulled out owing to the surge of the omicron variant of COVID-19. From an automotive perspective, those presenters included General Motors, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which put a damper on the event even before it got started.

However, in the end, those carmakers and more still presented vehicles in the exhibition halls. Tech giants like Google and Amazon had auto-related services on display as well. Attendance was down from pre-pandemic norms (the show used to attract close to 200,000 people to Las Vegas) yet 40,000 visitors from 190 countries still attended this year, plus a large contingent of virtual attendees. Organizers hadn’t released numbers for the latter before we went to press. No matter the final count, CES 2022 presented a compelling snapshot of where the auto industry is headed in the coming year.

Electric trucks

GM unveiled its hotly anticipated Chevy Silverado EV. The initial specs look great. The truck gets a claimed 400 miles per charge, 664hp and 780ft-lbs of torque. The truck is big and brawny with towing capacity up to 10,000 pounds but has sleek lines that is likely to make it a formidable competitor for the Ford F-150 Lightning. It comes with Google apps integrated through Android Automotive.

GM said that the retail starting will be $39,900… eventually. The first Silverado EVs won’t ship until the end of next year and will cost closer to $100,000 for top-end features. The arrival of the Silverado EV, in addition to the Ford F-150 Lightning, the Tesla Cybertruck, and the Rivian R1T, heralds the dawn of a new era for EVs. They started out as cute little hybrids. Tesla turned them into fancy sports cars. Now they’re rough and tumble trucks.

Voice-controlled vehicles

When the Silverado EV hits the market, drivers will be able to control apps on the dashboard by talking to the Google Assistant. Volvo went a step further at the show, announcing a partnership with Google to integrate Google Home into future Volvo vehicles. Drivers will soon be able to communicate with their vehicles by way of the devices in their homes or offices.

“Hello Google, will you warm up my car?” “Hello Google, what’s the current charge on my Volvo?” “Hello Google, lock my car please!” This is what the future of the human-car relationship sounds like, starting now. Amazon also had a strong automotive presence with BMW, Ford, Chrysler, Jeep and Stellantis all announcing plans to integrate digital streaming platform Amazon Fire TV into future vehicles. Fire TV will come with Alexa voice commands. “Alexa, play Sing 2 in the backseat for my kids!” “Alexa, my doorbell just rang, show me who’s at my front door!” For more on Amazon’s new partnership with Stellantis, read here.

Digital displays

In a world in which people are glued to screens, such as smartphones, tablets, TVs, watches, etc., it follows that consumers will buy cars based on the size, power and capability of their in-car screens. This clearly hasn’t been lost on BMW.

The carmaker introduced the Theater Screen, an ultrawide, 31-inch, 8K display screen that it hails as the “in-car entertainment of the future”. The screen is so big it largely blocks a driver’s view out the back window but ,hey, who cares if humans won’t be driving in the future?

Also, the Theater Screen retracts up into the roof of the vehicle when not in use. It comes integrated with Amazon Fire TV. It also features automatic ambient lighting controls and stereo surround sound. BMW said the Theater Screen will be entering production soon.

Similarly, Cadillac showed off an Interspace Autonomous Concept vehicle that looks like a capsule set for a cross-galaxy trip. On your flight you’ll enjoy a large, immersive and panoramic SMD LED display, which allows passengers to select from augmented reality engagement, entertainment and wellness recovery themes for their drive.

Far-ranging BEVS

The more mainstream EVs become, the farther people want them to go. An EV with a range of 200 miles is fine for local driving but, set out on a road trip, and it becomes limiting very quickly. Enter Mercedes-Benz, which announced at CES 2022 an EQXX Concept with a claimed range of 620 miles per charge. That may sound like a fairytale but Mercedes claims that it’s close to market ready. Paul Myles has the full details.

BMW made one of the biggest splashes of the event with a car that changes colors, theoretically to allow vehicles to get even more range. The BMW iX Flow concept comes wrapped in “E Ink,” an electrophoretic technology that’s similar to the screen of an Amazon Kindle, only here it’s buttered around the contours of the car. BMW says the feature will allow drivers to change the color of their EVs whenever they please; an exciting prospect, although currently the feature only works in rather pedestrian white, gray and black. BMW also contends that E Ink will allow BEVs to be more efficient and maximize range by absorbing heat on cold days or reflecting heat on hot days. We shall see.

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