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This is a continuation of my travelog of my CES experiences. If you missed it, be sure to read Part I!
Today I explored the North Hall, the automotive and 3D printing areas, not even stopping at the Cadence booth. Oooh, my aching feet! The displays were about more than just what new cars will look like in the future; there were a ton of exhibits on sound systems, components, sensors, and sensing systems. The difference between today and yesterday is the whizz-bang factor. Today, it was huge.
With the advent of autonomous and electric cars, the electronic game has restarted: the mature automotive industry of our parents’ generation has been reborn into a new one, changing the literal landscape and the social landscape and the economic landscape of transportation, challenging even what our definition of what a community is—or can be.
Because my son is a car enthusiast, I took more photos of these displays than others.
Mercedes’ AMG EQ Power Coupe, probably the most expensive car I have ever seen in person. This concept car is based on their Formula One racing car. I think it should be called “Jaws”.
A zero-emission and autonomous crossover for the masses, dubbed “a realistic peek into the future of … Intelligent Mobility”, with both driving and autonomous modes.
The Toyota Concept-I, also called Yui, the “future of mobility”, with AI that allows everything from autonomy to driving down a dark desert highway, with a team-oriented approach to the UX. One of their taglines is “Less of a machine. More of a pal.” Consider me skeptical!
This is NVIDIA’s autonomous racing car, putting the Drive PX 2 AI supercomputer into cars to compete in the new Roborace Championship. This is part of the new Formula E ePrix electric racing series. If it works, then rock on!
The Ford “Street”
The Ford Street is my favorite booth, not just because they have live “street” performances (over the course of the day, I have seen professional jump roping, street musicians, and dancers), not just because they gave away ice cream cones, and not because they are showing their take on the autonomous vehicle (complete with spinning lidar units on the roof)—it is my favorite because it went one step further in not only what the future technology will be, but also how that technology will fit into our lives.
Can you see in the photo where the booth ends and the rear projection on the giant screen begins? That backdrop shows how the streets themselves will be changing, showing little vignettes into different scenarios that highlight what is possible: A man having a medical emergency while driving (first responders being routed to the site), a couple coordinating schedules to meet up with friends at the last minute while ordering a celebratory cake (using rides on demand and drones delivering the cake), and a farmers’ market.
This concept incorporated pushing the technology into the background so it became invisible (the theme I saw yesterday) with the added whizz-bang of all that is possible, the theme I saw in the automotive wing today. With these fully connected cities, the street itself can adjust to the needs of the community at the drop of a hat, whether it be rush hour, time for a farmers’ market, Fourth of July parade, or an emergency.
One of the taglines on the back of the booth was “Roads are for driving. Streets are for living.” On one of the walls of the exhibit, people were encouraged to respond to the question “What does a ‘Living Street’ mean to you? All the usual suspects were listed—community, safety, human connection, access for all, breathable air—but there were some neat new ideas, like potholes that mend themselves, or “ever-changing landscapes” (I assume they mean more than changing with the seasons).
I can’t help but wonder about the accessibility of the future. This idealized world presented here by Ford looks great, but without the inclusion of all income levels of the city’s inhabitants, it will never become a reality. It needs to include more than just open-source platforms. To truly make this Star Trek future, the challenges facing cities now must be addressed: income disparity (from CEOs to the homeless), gentrification, education, substance abuse, transportation, accessibility to tech… the list goes on and becomes exponentially more complicated.
The last day of CES. I’m exhausted, having spent the morning looking at some of the exhibits outside of the convention center, as well as exploring the Smart Cities hall.
The HyperLoop One was fascinating; they had a full-sized outdoor exhibit with the actual HyperLoop pod gracing the front of the exhibit. I still had the questions about the idealized and connected city of the future that they had on display in the exhibit (a fully connected and smart Dubai, complete with HyperLoop), but the concept (remember, everything is proof of concept these days) looked straight out of the cities shown in Star Trek.
The question is, do the doors make that shwick-schwick sound like in The Enterprise?
Another of the outdoor exhibits showed the zero-emissions long-distance trucking vehicles in development. To my eyes, it looked like any other big truck, but that it is zero emissions made it very interesting to me. And you heard it here first, if there is going to be one industry most affected by zero-emission and autonomous vehicles, it is going to be long-distance trucking.
Big zero-emission truck. Note the blue sky! The rain that plagued the show is completely gone.
At this point in the show, I am full. I am whizz-banged out.
CES is a combination of the World’s Fair and Disneyland for adults, with the added bonus of being in Las Vegas. I have all the bright lights, thumping bass, and very earnest booth staff that I could take, and was ready to head back to the desert, to the same place we had stayed on the way to the show.
We got back to Sandy Valley Ranch around 2:00pm; before dark I had enough time to catch a trail ride on Luna, one of the ranch horses. (I rode horses in college, English-style, and my butt has not touched a horse since then. The horses at Sandy Valley are Western style, and I know that my legs are going to be sore tomorrow.)
Luna, my mount for the afternoon. Once we got to an understanding and I figured out how to translate my English style into Western, we fit well together!
After the trail ride, we had supper (no “dinner” here!), followed by some quality time around a campfire with some marshmallows. (True story: I am writing this longhand in my notebook, only to be transcribed to the computer when I have a plug to plug it into!—Ed. Done!) There is no wind and the sky is completely clear. It’s chilly, but warm near the fire, and when I put my back to the light and warm my tush, the brilliant sky completely overshadows the bright lights of Vegas, stretching from horizon to horizon with the Milky Way bisecting the sky.
It is a poignant finale to the last few days of being overwhelmed by looking towards the future by relaxing into the past. One of the biggest challenges to the future, I think, may be how to preserve places like this, amid the futures that were modeled at CES. How are we going to ensure that everyone who wants access to all available technology will have it while allowing those who don’t want to be part of this connected future to live long and prosper? There may need to be some code-switching to be learned by those who wish to reside in both camps.