This blog post provides a summary of IDC Manufacturing Insights' attendance at Automobili-D and the Press Days for the currently running North American International Auto Show, held in Detroit, Michigan from January 8 -22, 2017.
The North American International Auto Show, which runs annually in Detroit, Michigan, is a massive gathering of more than 5,000 international members of the press, 35,000 automotive professionals and analysts, and a visiting public that topped 800,000 last year during the two-week series of events. On display are more than 750 vehicles and numerous interactive demonstrations. It presents an opportunity to appreciate the newest vehicle models while learning the latest technology innovations the industry is putting forth in this dynamic industry.
This year marked the inaugural technology exposition, Automobili-D, a dedicated show within NAIAS focused on more than 100 companies actively contributing to the evolving mobility landscape. Companies range from automakers to tier one suppliers and technology start-ups. Demonstrations in the Automobili-D spanned from VR safety to heads-up displays to an autonomous vehicle "track" inside and outside the exhibition center.
Among the interesting sessions, displays, and meetings I experienced during the event are the following highlights:
- John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, launched the Automobili-D event with a press conference on Sunday that highlighted the company's vision for autonomous vehicles. Waymo is the recently spun-out division of Alphabet's Google that is focused on self-driving technology. On the stage with Krafcik was a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid equipped with Waymo's new fully-integrated hardware and software suite that includes LiDar, a Vision System, and Radar developed in-house and deeply integrated with Waymo's AI Compute Platform. The first of these highly-equipped vehicles will be on public roads in Arizona and California by the end of this month.
- An Automotive Cybersecurity Fireside Chat included several cybersecurity experts from General Motors, Uber, and Jeff Moss, founder of Black Hat and Def Con. The session addressed many of the issues around security, privacy and sharing of information. The group discussed the imperative for not treating cybersecurity as a competitive advantage but rather a collaborative, cross-industry effort to quickly identify security vulnerabilities and act on them to promote a trustworthy, secure connected vehicle ecosystem. Additionally, there was a call for transparency to the customer about what data is collected and how and with whom it is being shared over the course of driving and traveling in connected vehicles.
- Denso Corporation, a global automotive components manufacturer, demonstrated its Driver Assist System's safety capabilities through an interactive Virtual Reality experience that placed visitors in the cockpit of an autonomous vehicle and drove it through a busy city, showcasing its ability to avoid obstacles and make smart decisions without driver intervention. The demonstration highlights a trend that IDC Manufacturing Insights sees in manufacturers using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to assist with marketing and selling complex products.
- A panel on the future of the vehicle customer interface featured several forward-thinking designs from technology vendors and design firms. At the crux of the discussion was how to make increasingly complex systems and capabilities within the cockpit of connected cars transparent and intuitive. Speakers focused on building trust with the occupant, monitoring driver wellness, preparing for new experience scenarios within the autonomous vehicle, and smoothing the transition from being an active driver to a passive passenger. The topics highlighted the reality that autonomous driving technology will be ready before user adoption is.
Repeatedly throughout the event, the complexities of the entire connected car ecosystem were revealed through panel discussions, interviews, and conversations I had at the technology vendors' booths. At the highest level, it is an ecosystem with many moving parts that are at opposing cadences. Consider that it takes an average of four years to move a vehicle from concept to mass production. Juxtapose this against agile technology development that can iterate on applications or systems in months. And, sprinkle in a fair amount of regulatory oversight on everything from emissions to transportation services, varying considerably among states, regions, and countries. Then, don't forget about the crumbling infrastructure in many of these regions that needs substantial upgrades to support connected cars. The result is an intricate web of inter-dependent constraints that hamper mass adoption.
The best takeaway from the show was the numerous examples of partners from all these different segments talking collaboration and the need to work together for success. All acknowledge the formidable challenges ahead, and yet are strongly optimistic that they can be overcome and connected cars will ultimately deliver the benefits they have promised.