Another CES has come and gone and transportation was still one of the central actors on one of the world’s largest tech stages. It wasn’t just electric cars either that captured our attention at CES 2024.
Companies and startups focused on automated driving, EV charging, software (and more specifically AI), sensors, aviation, boats, drones, micromobility — you name it — were there. And luckily, so was TechCrunch.
Here are some of the tech themes that stood out to us at CES 2024.
The Big Three U.S. automakers — GM, Ford and Stellantis — may not have had splashy displays and product reveals, but numerous others were there helping cement CES as a major auto show. Honda, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Sony, Turkey’s Togg and Vinfast all showed off electric concepts and production cars at the event.
It wasn’t just large established automakers that had a presence at CES 2024 either. Electrification has seeped into every corner of transportation from motorcycles and e-bikes to go karts, big rigs, boats and aircraft.
For instance, Segway revealed two electric scooters, the E2 Pro and Superscooter ST1, two e-bikes called the Segway Xafari and the Segway Xyber as well as a Segway GoKart Pro 2 that can be connected to a PC and used for playing racing games like Forza.
Startups were also in full force and could be found at a variety of CES-related events such as Pepcom and Unveiled. Cleveland, Ohio-based startup Land Energy was back with its sporty e-bike that has a swappable battery, while Finland’s Verge Motorcycles showed off its Verge TS Ultra, an electric motorcycle with a hubless ring design, advanced driver assist tech and a powertrain that produces an eye-popping 201 horsepower and 885 pound-feet of torque. Over in Eureka Park, where hundreds of startups set up shop, electrification was also present. One startup that caught my eye was Solar Buggy, a company that has developed an electric urban mobility vehicle that looks like an enclosed golf cart.
And of course, there were the electric aircraft and drones. On the startup front, Pivotal opened up online orders for its personal electric aircraft the Helix while autonomous on-demand drone companies Zipline and Wing landed a huge deal with Walmart. Hyundai’s advanced air mobility unit Supernal revealed its production-intent electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and Xpeng Aeroht, the subsidiary of Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng Motors, showed off a new concept and announced that deliveries for its Land Aircraft Carrier would start in late 2025.
With so many electric vehicles, it might not surprise folks to learn that EV charging companies were also there en masse. Outside of the better-known charging infrastructure companies, we found startups focused on EV charging software as well as those showing off novel approaches like WiTricity’s wireless charging tech.
Before even stepping foot on the show floor, TechCrunch staff were forecasting that AI would dominate CES 2024. We weren’t wrong. AI was everywhere, including in transportation from cars and e-bikes to scooters and electric aviation.
There were loads of companies touting AI. While there was certainly plenty of vaporware, many companies demonstrated how software is increasingly incorporating AI to offer (hopefully) more capable products, including vehicle sensors, voice assistants in cars and autonomous driving systems.
There was also lot of chatter around generative AI, and more specifically, ChatGPT, the AI-powered chatbot functions by using by large deep learning models that have been trained on vast datasets. I checked out two ChatGPT demos: one with BMW and another from a collaboration with software company Cerence and Volkswagen.
Volkswagen announced plans to add an AI-powered chatbot into all Volkswagen models equipped with its IDA voice assistant.
Meanwhile, BMW and partner Amazon showed off a development project that uses generative AI, powered by the Alexa LLM, to give the automaker’s voice assistant greater capability and deliver information in a more human, conversational manner.
Hydrogen power isn’t new, however, it’s taken a bit of a backseat lately to more traditional battery electric vehicles. Don’t tell anyone at CES 2024, though, as this year’s show floor was littered with vehicles of all sizes that are hydrogen-powered.
Hyundai, which has a growing portfolio of battery-powered electric vehicles, came to CES to talk about hydrogen fuel cells and its vision for the alternative fuel. Nikola finally showed off one of its first U.S.-built hydrogen trucks that it’s starting to ship to customers and Bosch, which already makes hydrogen fuel cells (like the one Nikola uses in its truck), announced it will make an engine that can combust hydrogen. Truck maker PACCAR also showed off a hydrogen-powered truck.
We also ran into other hydrogen-focused startups that were walking the halls to meet with media, potential investors and industry folks. Croft Motors was one we came across. The startup is developing “rugged” hydrogen-powered vehicles, starting with a three-row, prototype SUV with an “anticipated 1,000 miles of driving range.
In-cabin hardware meets software
Automakers, automotive suppliers and even some startups, showed off their respective vision for the inside of the car. Yes, there were plenty of touchscreens, including the popular curved design.
In-car tech stretched well beyond that though into areas of safety, health assessments and entertainment. Eye-tracking tech was everywhere. For instance, Harman showed off its branded Ready Care system, which can measure a driver’s eye activity, cognitive load and vital signs to determine the level of focus and attention on the road ahead.
A number of companies also showcased how hardware such as cameras and other sensors once used for safety are now being leveraged for other more comfort-focused services. Bosch showed how eye-tracking tech could be used during your drive to figure out what points of interest you’re looking at, and the car could offer contextual information.
Meanwhile, Mercedes presented a whole package of features that when combined creates a full experience for the driver and passengers, including an upgraded voice assistant, in-car gaming, immersive audio and an app developed by will.i.am’s new company Sound Drive that matches the throttle, brakes and steering to a sort of intelligent multichannel mixer that influences songs playing in the car.
My takeaway: companies understand that drivers and passengers are a captured audience, so to speak. And they’re all working on ways to bring all the tech we have on our phones and homes into the car.