Bulletins

CES announcements show the road ahead for the car industry

Automakers are prioritizing driver comfort while they're not actually driving.

BMW Digital Art Mode

BMW announced Digital Art Mode, available for cars in production this year.

Photo: BMW

Amid the endless stream of gadget announcements at CES, auto companies are breaking new ground with their trade show debuts.


New car concepts and features announced by automakers like BMW, Volvo and Cadillac at CES prove that the industry is headed in a direction that prioritizes the comfort of the drivers and passengers while they're not in motion. That includes upgrades to in-car entertainment systems, self-driving capabilities and lively art displays. But there was more than aesthetics on display at CES.

Here are a few key takeaways from CES about the future of the car industry.

Everyone is hopping on the EV bandwagon.

The prospects of the electric vehicle sector are drawing in some new players. GM announced plans for an entirely electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck on Wednesday, the first pickup of its kind by Chevy, which should be available in 2024 and will have a six-figure price tag.

Sony also unveiled plans to launch an electric car company called "Sony Mobility Inc.” Plans for the subsidiary’s first car, an SUV called the the Vision-S 02, include self-driving features and gaming on-the-go capabilities for passengers who connect to PlayStation consoles at home.

“With our imaging and sensing, cloud, 5G and entertainment technologies combined with our content mastery, we believe Sony is well positioned as a creative entertainment company to redefine mobility," Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said during the company’s CES presentation.

On-the-go entertainment is growing.

In addition to Sony's in-car gaming announcement, BMW and Volvo also plan to enhance their entertainment offerings. BMW will add 31-inch retractable 8K smart TVs that support Amazon Fire TV and have 5G connection for rear passengers to its vehicles.

And Volvo announced a partnership with YouTube, which will make the app available to download on their cars’ infotainment systems, but didn’t give a specific timeline. The app will enable drivers and passengers to watch videos in their cars, though not while the car is in motion. The partnership was a natural step for Volvo, as the car company works with YouTube parent company Google to power its in-car computer systems.

AVs are picking up steam and attracting new players.

Cadillac announced its concept for a two-passenger, electric “fully-autonomous” vehicle, called the Cadillac InnerSpace. The InnerSpace is the third of Cadillac’s “Halo” concepts; the company introduced the six-seater SocialSpace and the single-seat PersonalSpace AVs at CES last year.

But not all AV concepts are for luxury. John Deere debuted its autonomous tractor, a 44,000-pound piece of equipment that can be controlled from a smartphone. Though John Deere tractors have long been capable of steering themselves, they’ve always required someone to physically be in the driver's seat.

Things may get a bit flashy.

As if a massive back-seat TV wasn’t enough panache, BMW is making its cars a statement, too. The company debuted its color-changing iX Flow, which uses electrophoretic technology to change its exterior colors on a whim — though only to black, white and gray. BMW also introduced digital art for the inside of cars. The Digital Art Mode will show digital pieces on the curved display above the iX dashboard; activating this feature changes the lights and adds ambient sound within the car. Digital Art Mode will be available for cars in production this year.

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