Record Number of Automakers at International CES

January 22, 2014  - By
Image: GPS World

It’s a daunting task — trying to find the big location story in a maze of 150,000 attendees and thousands of exhibitors at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Aside from every automaker touting their connected vehicle efforts, the big deal this year at CES is wearable technology (last year it was 3D printing? Yawn). Despite sore feet from walking football-field lengths of booths, CES is still a cool show, blaring stereos, walls of TV screens, robots…and connected cars. 

LAS VEGAS — Although the largest number of worldwide auto manufacturers attended this year’s International CES here, many industry experts believe that technology giants Google and Apple will swoop in and grab not only the market, but will control what will go into the connected automobile in the future.

“Leading IT, consumer electronics and Internet companies will marginalize specialist vendors. I’m worried that Internet companies will take over the [connected car] market — away from the auto manufacturers,” said Thilo Koslowski, Gartner vice president at the Consumer Telematics Show, held the day before CES

Koslowski’s fears have been partially validated as Google launched a partnership, called the Open Automotive Alliance, with automakers to bring the Android operating system into cars. The Google move comes after a similar announcement by Apple, which was launched to get its iOS platform into connected cars.

Initial Open Automotive Alliance members include Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia. Apple, in its group, has Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Ferrari, Nissan, Chevrolet, Infinity, Kia, Hyundai, Opel and Acura.

“We think [Google] is a strong content partner — the deal gives [you] perspective on where we as a company are heading. Same on the Apple side,” said Charles Koch, Honda manager, new business development, at the Consumer Telematics Show.

Despite standing room-only crowds at CES during most of the connected and automated car session, Koslowski said companies need to keep the right focus on the future. “[Connected vehicles] still are not a definite market, but we will see if it is in the next 3-4 years,” he said. “HMI and user interface will be biggest differentiators. Personalization will be important, but it will also be an expected feature.”

Koslowski said the Holy Grail for connected vehicles in the future is the transition to autonomous capability. “It’s progressing very quickly. Automakers have to avoid the gold rush mentality as it may not be the treasure trove,” he said.  “They have to meet expectations [about the the technology] and avoid the creepiness factor that you know too much about the consumer.”

Regardless of the future, Koslowski believes the connected vehicle is a disruptive opportunity.  “I can see carriers offering a car for free in exchange for lifetime data. Less dramatic would be with an eight-year data plan,” he said. “This would probably be a smaller, less expensive vehicle than a Ferrari or Audi.”

Overall, the telematics market has gone through several market changes in the past 10 years, said Kevin Link, senior vice president and general manager, China, for Verizon Telematics.  Link said that Telematics 1.0 included door unlock, navigation, automatic collision notification, call centers and navigation. “It all began with GM and Mercedes becoming springboards for the industry. Initially, there was low consumer awareness; now, it is something like 88 percent in the United States,” he said.

Outside the U.S., however, the consumer awareness for telematics drops into the single digits. “The business model, especially in the U.S., is a burden on the consumer. In China, it’s a business-to-business play, which is not a burden on the consumer, which also explains the high usage rate,” Link said.

At CES, a record nine automakers attended and exhibited:  Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes and Toyota.

AT&T Mobility Makes Big Announcements at CES

In a pre-CES press conference, General Motors announced its first LTE-enabled vehicles — in which AT&T Mobility is powering the LTE network for GM’s OnStar service. The first LTE-enabled vehicles, which will be available this summer, are Impala, Spark, Volt, Orlando, Spark RV, Silverado, Silverado HD, Malibu, Equinox and Corvette Stingray.

AT&T also announced it will provide connectivity for Ericsson Connected Vehicle Cloud which connects to the AT&T Drive platform for automakers

“We expect about 50 million cars to be connected by 2020. The car will be another device in your life,” said Glenn Lurie, AT&T president, emerging enterprises and partnerships. “LTE in a car will get another set of application developers involved — how will they differentiate the car?  It’s a global opportunity.”

Magellan and Navigation Solutions’ Nav System Features Proximity Capability

Navigation Solutions, owned by Hertz, said it is working with Magellan to offer the NeverLost 6 navigation device that features connected services — many of which offer a consumer choices based on businesses and attractions near their current location.

A number of new systems, including Magellan’s new models and Pioneer’s five NEX models, which consist of four navigation and an A/V receiver, feature connected services that allow access to navigation — even when the phone isn’t connected to a data source. This has been a sore subject for users of the free Google Maps on a phone — no Internet, no navigation.

Magellan also announced a new line of RoadMate Personal Navigation Device (PND) units featuring Easy Touch screens and an underlying Android OS to improve navigation capabilities and features.

In other CES news:

  • Broadcom continues to make strides in indoor and Wi-Fi position with several new product rollouts. The company also is rolling out its BCM47531 GNSS chip that can grab signals from five satellite constellations at the same time (GPS, GLONASS, QZSS, SBAS and BeiDou), said Mohamed Awad, Broadcom director, product marketing.
  • Alpine rolled out the aftermarket’s first 9-inch navigation system, which will cost $2,600 and be available in June.  The company is targeting used trucks and other vehicles as they are staying on the road longer, said Melvin Diaz, Alpine product planning manager.
  • In its press conference at CES, Kenwood said its navigation units are selling well.  Its flagship, a $1,500, 7-inch system, features INRIX traffic and Garmin navigation.
  • In the LBS Insider February blog, several industry experts will be interviewed about the future of the autonomous vehicle.

About the Author: Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.