CES 2024 – Autotech and Mobility Highlights
For the eighth time in a row, I am happy to report the mobility and autotech highlights from CES in Las Vegas, the most influential technology show— see here for reports since the 2017 edition.
The 2024 edition featured 4,300+ exhibitors and was visited by about 135,000 attendees over four days. A total of 1,400 startups filled up the packed Eureka Park (below). These metrics are significantly up vs. 2023 though still far the peak in 2019 when CES hosted 180,000 attendees.
Following is a summary of the four days and 60 km I spent visiting many of the 600 or so established or emerging automotive and mobility companies, i.e., OEMs, suppliers, tech majors and of course startups at various levels of maturity.
The major trends at CES 2024 in the mobility and autotech space addressed software (essentially software-defined vehicle and components), AI including GenAI, as well as user experience (including displays, lighting, AR). Autonomous driving in general (vehicle, Lidar, SW stack) has receded somewhat, the focus shifting to ADAS. Electric vehicles being a given at CES, there was more focus on charging and less on batteries. Lastly, the hydrogen ecosystem was more present than in previous editions though remained marginal.
Limited Presence of Automotive OEMs
Many major OEMs were noticeably absent, namely Toyota, VW Group, Stellantis, GM, Ford, Nissan, or Volvo — for some a likely consequence of the multi-week strike and significant salary increase granted to US hourly employees in 2023.
Nevertheless, the Hyundai Group had a very significant presence including a range of small electric LCVs with interchangeable bodies (Kia branded, above). Its Supernal division presented its second generation eVTOL and a vertiport with plans to start a commercial service in 2028. For memory, another major OEMs is also heavily engaged in eVTOL, i.e., Stellantis with US-based Archer.
Mercedes presented its integration of OpenAI’s ChatGPT for in-car voice interaction as introduced in the USA mid-2023. The solution not only provides context-based suggestions but will also engages in a dialogue with users, applying different emotions in its voice. Mercedes also presented a new A-Class concept (below), one among a handful of concept vehicles on the floor.
BMW's presence was underwhelming. The focus was essentially on in-cabin content and gaming with the use of AR glasses. The company also announced an extended partnership with Amazon’s Alexa to deploy LLMs in voice interactions.
Honda’s message is that they are getting serious about electrification. They now plan to have 30 EVs by 2030. Two concept EVs on display — featuring an unusual, Countach-like design — were meant to introduce “0 Series”, a range of products expected to launch in 2026 (below). However, their commitment to full electric (BEV or FCEV) is announced for 2040, ten or more years later than European OEMs.
Sony Honda Mobility, a 50-50 JV formed in 2022, presented their Afeela-branded battery electric sedan with little evolution vs. 2023. It will share the same underpinnings as future “0 Series” vehicles. The Afeela’s positioning is clearly focused on AI and gaming, part of Sony’s contribution to a BEV that is scheduled to hit the market in 2026.
Emerging Chinese OEM Xpeng, which sold ~140k BEVs in 2023, presented its flying car (below) with plans to launch in 2025. For memory, the VW Group invested $700m in Xpeng for a 5% stake and essentially access to its platform for China-bound BEVs.
Turkey-based Togg presented a fastback concept. This will be the company’s second BEV, after the T10X SUV which started in production last March — 14k had been delivered by end November, at home only so far.
Vietnam’s VinFast, which had a very significant presence at CES 2023, presented a pickup concept and a small SUV. The young company sold 35k vehicles in 2023, essentially at home, and has had very limited success in the USA with just a few hundred vehicles since its launched in early 2023.
Software and AI Dominate
Software is clearly at the core of automotive now. At CES 2024, the software-defined vehicle came up in most discussions. Whereas SDV means different things for different people, one thing is clear: it enables a profound transformation of how a vehicle is designed, engineered, and operates. A new layer was added this year with several companies communicating on SW-defined components, i.e., reconfigurable, updatable sensors and actuators. Sonatusis a leading startup at the heart of this transformation.
Everything AI/ML was omnipresent though mostly as layers embedded in businesses across most domains rather than stand-alone companies. Applications visible at CES were generally related to user experience though many exhibitors are deploying AI in their operations, e.g., in the design and engineering functions.
One set of AI use cases visible at CES consists in improving user experience, leveraging the in-cabin camera mandated for Driver Monitoring Systems. Eye gaze could be used to activate displays / functions, toggle buttons where the driver is looking, or adjust physical rear view mirrors.
GenAI quickly gained traction in the industry as seen above for Mercedes. Similarly, Stellantis’ DS started a limited GenAI deployment with OpenAI in 2023. During CES 2024, VW Group announced they would also introduce a solution in partnership with OpenAI and Cerence, and Sony Honda Mobility indicated they were working with OpenAI. These applications of LLM-based GenAI are mostly related to voice assistants and smart (e.g., activity- or range-based) routing.
Lastly, these SW and AI applications are increasingly ported on domain and/or zonal computers which were visible at several tier 1 suppliers, e.g., Valeo and Bosch. They are progressively making their way into production vehicles. In addition, the migration from semiconductors / processors to system-on-chip (SoC) as a way to simplify product design and engineering was on the agenda.
Larger Displays, Lighting Innovation and Improved Passenger Experience
Lighting continues to receive an increasing amount of attention. Front lighting benefits from ever higher resolution (e.g., up to 25,000 LEDs per chip at Forvia), enabling for instance the projection of messages on the road (e.g., alert other users). Lighting modules gets smaller and thinner for improved styling and aerodynamics. Since EVs do not need an air intake for cooling, front-end fascia can integrate — potentially body-wide — LED panels as shown by Valeo on a Zeekr 007.
Emerging rear lighting technologies will integrate displays that can communicate important information to the following vehicle, e.g., alert of a pedestrian crossing detected by a front camera or radar as shown with the Plastic Omnium - Sonatus demo. Other potential use cases include a customized signature, a welcome message the vehicle’s owner, or a signal to the ride-hailing customer that this is their ride, etc.
Inside the cabin, display surface areas continue to increase on new vehicles. Several pillar-to-pillar solutions were shown, some immersive as presented by Forvia for instance (below). However, the growth of physical displays will likely peak earlier than anticipated. BMW started to talk about this at CES 2023.
Solutions are emerging to replace physical displays such as projection, invisible surfaces reflecting images from hidden displays, or innovative displays, e.g., with double layers for depth perception).
Augmented reality (AR) and holographic head-up displays are emerging, allowing to communicate key information to the driver, such as navigation instructions or ADAS information (e.g., pedestrian crossing, lane markings, etc.). For instance, Basemark recently introduced an AR solution at BMW.
Lastly, new user interfaces were presented. UI is evolving at a fast pace to provide more design leeway as well as the ability to modify functions overtime by SW updates. Solid-state controls inside and outside the cabin are increasingly common, e.g., UltraSense going in series production with Genesis and FAW. Such a technology enables “shytech” — controls are invisible until activated — thus cleaner cabins.
Autonomous Driving Gives Way to ADAS
The mass deployment of robotaxis and autonomous trucking remains arduous and very expensive. Many emerging players in this space have seen their valuation collapse and their runway dwindle. As a result, very few autonomous driving players were present at CES. Amazon-owned Zoox displayed their bespoke vehicle as they did in 2023 and finally announced their robotaxi commercial launch: 2024 in Las Vegas. WeRide demonstrated a Robobus on the streets of Las Vegas though a safety operator was present behind a steering wheel added for the demo.
For the same reason, much fewer lidar startups exhibited at CES. Those that did (essentially Aeva, Hesai, Innoviz, Luminar, Robosens) had for the most part much smaller booths. The party is over! The industry focus has clearly shifted towards ADAS — Levels 2/2+ and 3. CES 2024 made room for providers of such SW solutions (e.g., perception), radars (mostly 4D-imaging), or lidars with smaller packaging and lower cost, as well as development tools such as verification & validation.
Electrification and Hydrogen
If the few vehicles on display were all BEVs, the electrification of mobility was largely exemplified by the charging equipment suppliers, i.e., EVSE. Two major Tier1 suppliers presented hands-free charging solutions, one wireless by Valeo (with a 90%+ efficiency) and one conductive jointly developed by Bosch and VW’s Cariad, in addition to French startup Gulplug. Innovation in the battery space was limited with the relative exception of immersive cooling solutions.
Hydrogen made its way into CES this year. Plastic Omnium and Forvia presented fuel cells and H2 vessels. Bosch announced a H2-fueled internal combustion engine, and Hyundai introduced their H2 strategy addressing the value chain from steel processing to cars and heavy trucks.
As for previous editions of CES, it was an opportunity for me to scout for startups and technologies of interest. This further enriches my proprietary repository with curated information on 4200+ companies (over 90% startups) located across the globe. They address most of the domains that are relevant to innovation in mobility and autotech. Feel free to reach out for scouting services, industry analyses or other related services.
Managing Director, Orsay Consulting
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