While traditionally the auto season is kicked off by Detroit’s NAIAS, this January an unlikely venue highlighted the changing habits and form of the industry – the CES in Las Vegas.
Well known for cool TVs, household appliances or smartphones and video games, the International Consumer Electronics Show has turned an unlikely venue for the automakers. The Silicon Valley tech companies and the carmaker converged in Las Vegas as they race to define the car of the future. While the race has been kicked in high gear lately, may of the players involved still have trouble agreeing on the “form and factor” of that upcoming car. The yet unborn autonomous vehicle technology sector is in a morphing stage that can be compared to the old CD vs DVD battles – just take a look at the contrasting visions of the automotive future perspiring from the CES speeches of Mark Fields and Dieter Zetsche, the chief executives of Ford and Daimler, respectively.
Fields says Ford will initially focus on connecting the car and driver to the web (also called the Internet of Things), while introducing step by step more sensors and software to eventually enable full self-driving features during the 2020 – 2030 decade. Akin to the philosophy behind founder Henry Ford’s Model T, the company wants to bring affordable features to the broad market. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz has a different take on the autonomous segment, which is also light years from what Google Inc. envisions – a fully self-driving city car. The premium automaker showcased a luxurious and futuristic prototype that would put self-driving into a category to set aside the upcoming premium rides from the mass-market models.