“CES has become a major launch point for a lot of the big automakers,” said Mark Boyadjis, technology analyst for researcher IHS in Minnetonka, Minnesota. “CES is a way for them to get on a global stage for technology.”
The evolution of Ford’s CES exhibit tells the story of the automotive ascent at the trade show that attracts 140,000 visitors. Five years ago, Ford displayed its new Taurus on a 20-foot-by-20-foot piece of carpet. This year, Ford has a two-story display with five vehicles, a wall of digital screens and private offices for conducting business.
Competing on Computing
Drivers are demanding their cars keep them constantly connected like a smartphone on wheels. In-vehicle technology is the top selling point for 39 percent of car buyers, more than twice the 14 percent who care most about horsepower and handling, according to a survey last year from the Accenture consulting firm. The number of cars connected to the Internet worldwide will grow more than fourfold to 152 million by 2020 from 36 million today, according to IHS.
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Even traditional technology exhibitors are getting on the automotive bandwagon. Nvidia Corp. (NVDA), a Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker for video games and personal computers, has converted three-quarters of its stand this year to automotive, including displaying a new roadster and an electric supercar. The Consumer Electronics Association forecasts factory-installed vehicle technologies will increase 3 percent in 2015 to $11.3 billion. Nearly one-third of U.S. households now own a vehicle equipped with an electronic infotainment system, according to CEA.
This year, BMW is getting in on the wearable-technology craze that swept the show in recent years with products such as Google Glass and Fitbit. The luxury automaker will show a fully automated valet parking technology where the driver gets out of his car and issues a command through his smartwatch: “Go park yourself.” The car then finds an open space in a parking garage and parks itself until beckoned by the driver to return.
Some of the biggest buzz is building for Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s CarPlay and Google Inc.’s Android Auto systems that mimic the functions of an iPhone or an Android phone on a dashboard touchscreen. They are scheduled to go on sale early next year.