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Happy New Year (a few days late) and welcome back to The Station!, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.
I kicked off 2023 in the same fashion as I have for the better part of a decade: I went to Las Vegas for CES.
Every year I get asked the same questions: What really excited you this year? What stood out? And what does that mean for the future?
A few CES 2023 takeaways.
Lidar companies dominated the show floor in West Hall (where most of the automotive tech was located). Everywhere I turned there was another lidar company, including Hesai, Innovusion, Luminar and Ouster (to name a few). My lingering hot take: All of these companies cannot survive.
For all the talk about advanced driver assistance systems, there was a lot of autonomous vehicle technology on display. However, the vibe was different. I didn't get the same hype-y ROBOTAXIS WILL BE EVERYWHERE messaging. Instead, autonomous vehicle technology popped up in a lot of commercial and industrial applications.
Autonomous people movers and delivery vehicles shaped like giant toasters are still a thing. Holon, Hyundai Mobis and Zoox are just a few of the companies that displayed these kinds of vehicles.
EV charging and energy storage were sprinkled throughout the show from the crowded Eureka Park to North and West Halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Not to mention a few EV charging news announcements as well, like Mercedes' plan to launch a global charging network.
The car cabin continues to evolve into a digital, connected experience that includes augmented reality and even virtual reality from companies such as Holoride. BMW reimagined the head-up display, Chrysler gave its vision for your future car cabin, suppliers like Bosch, Forvia and Harman showed off in-car tech, and GM and Microsoft demoed a new video game called Dash Runner to showcase the kind of entertainment consumers might want to interact with while they're waiting for their new EV to charge.
EVs in every form. Stellantis had perhaps one of the splashiest press conferences with its reveal of the Peugeot concept and the Ram 1500 Revolution truck concept. But I found EVs in all forms, particularly bikes, motorcycles and three-wheelers. as well as obscure small off-roaders.
A bit unrelated to transportation, but I was surprised by how much robotics I encountered over at Eureka Park, the exhibition area for thousands of startups.
Micromobbin' at CES
Keeping on with the CES theme of this week's newsletter, here's a roundup of all the micromobility news and vehicles that were unveiled at the show this year:
It won't technically get you from Point A to B, but Acer debuted a new desk-bike that powers your devices as you pedal.
AtmosGear came to play with some electric rollerblades, and they only cost $500.
Italian bike-maker Bianchi used Ansys simulation software to create more efficient e-bike designs. A 70% reduction in frame prototyping sped up time to market and reduced development costs for Bianchi's E-Omnia e-bike.
Brightway, a micromobility tech company, launched its Navee V-series of electric scooters, the Navee e-bike and the Navee sharing scooter.
Cake launched the Åik utility bike, which starts at $6,470 and is expected to ship in May.
Davinci Motor showcased its futuristic DC100 electric motorcycle (and had a display where you could sit on them). It's a chunky-looking thing, but the company says it can compete against the performance of 1,000 cc combustion-powered motorcycles, making it from 0 to 60 in three seconds and a top speed of 124 miles per hour.
GreenStreet EV debuted at CES with the first prototype of its three-wheel electric Autocycle. The company plans to bring the little vehicle to market in 2024.
Heybike unveiled its folding e-bike made from a single piece of magnesium alloy.
Icoma unveiled the Tatamel Bike, a prototype for a folding bike that in classic Japanese style actually folds into a box that can be slipped under your desk at work. The exterior of the folded up moped can be customized in wood, fake grass or leather. It's a cool concept, but probably will remain a concept.
MoonBikes showed off an electric snow bike. While this wasn't a debut, it's still cool. Prices start at $8,900 for the snow bike -- removable batteries included. MoonBikes also launched its app at CES so riders can get real-time data on their performance.
RCA, a consumer electronics brand most well-known for inventing the VCR, rode into the micromobility space at CES with new e-bikes and e-scooters designed to handle everything from commuting to off-roading.
Verge launched a new electric superbike, the Verge TS, which features an electric motor integrated into the back wheel, which the company says transfers power straight to the road. It also creates more space in the middle for the battery pack. It's available for preorder now at $26,900, with U.S. deliveries planned in late 2023.
Yadea, one of China's biggest makers of electric two-wheelers, is making a push into the U.S. market. The manufacturer said it will begin launching a series of marketing campaigns and events geared at kickstarting the brand's growth in the U.S., and will open stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and work with 100 other brand dealers, in the first half of 2023.
Other notable CES moments
Here is a handy overview of some of the announcements we covered and stuff we saw at CES 2023.
Autonomous vehicle tech
Goodyear and Gatik say tire tech will unlock autonomous driving in winter conditions.
Indy Autonomous Challenge returned to CES 2023 and the Las Vegas Speedway. I had the chance to check out some of the competing cars and watch one make its way around the track at night (and with the lights out). It was a neat demonstration to show what sensors, compute and software can accomplish. The autonomous racing team from mOve research group of Politecnico di Milano were the winners of this year's competition.
Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua gave a talk on the company's near and long-term vision. Advanced driver assistance systems were a focus, but Shashua spent considerable time talking about the path to automated driving, including how future consumer AVs will come to market at scale by using its driver assist system, Mobileye SuperVision.
Advanced driver assistance systems
I took a short ride with Comma.ai founder George Hotz (who recently fired himself again as CEO and claims he is now a marketing intern) for a ride in a Kia EV6 equipped with its Comma 3 dev kit, which runs on openpilot, an open source advanced driver assistance system. The Comma 3 device, now priced at $1,499, works on more than 200 models. The hardware, which mounts by the rearview mirror, has three HDR cameras, two that watch the road and one night-vision camera to see inside the car. It's also equipped with cellular LTE, Wi-Fi, an IMU, high-precision GPS and microphones.
Openpilot has continued to evolve and improve, based on my personal experience. On this most recent drive at a location off the strip, the vehicle was able to recognize (and stop) for red lights, keep it centered in the lane, make assisted lane changes and keep a safe distance behind other cars and trucks. It was the smoothest ride I've had yet.
Electric vehicles, including eVTOLs
BMW revealed the i Vision Dee concept car, a four-door sedan that came out onstage in a crisp white, but later morphed into a variety of colors and patterns to show off Dee's E Ink technology.
Honda and Sony launch their new EV brand Afeela.
Stellantis debuted a futuristic (with a nod to the past) Peugeot Inception concept as well as the Ram 1500 Revolution EV truck concept. A production version of the truck is expected to be revealed later this year and come to market in 2024.
Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec
Stellantis also made a big eVTOL announcement. The automaker said it will mass produce electric aircraft for Archer in a $150 million deal.
Volkswagen unveiled the ID 7 outfitted with electroluminescent paint that lights up on command. But that wasn't the most interesting part of this upcoming vehicle (magic paint not included).
Amazon Alexa-enabled cars are now able to ask Alexa to find the nearest public EV charging spot.
Chrysler shares what future car cabins might look like.
Google announced an HD version of its vehicle mapping solution that is an additional layer of data that’s served to a vehicle’s L2+ or L3 assisted-driving systems through Google Automotive Services. Volvo and Polestar will be among the first automakers to have Google HD mapping.
Google also rolled out new Android Auto features that make it easier for drivers to navigate, play podcasts and music, and communicate while on the go. The new user experience design update features a split-screen layout that displays directions, music and texts at the same time.
Hesai landed a new design win with SAIC's electric vehicle brand, Rising Auto (also known as "Feifan" in China). The new model of Rising Auto will carry Hesai's long-range automotive lidar.
Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell provided an update on the company and how its acquisition of Civil Maps fits into its long-term vision.
Nvidia’s on-demand cloud gaming service, known as GeForce Now, is headed to select Hyundai, BYD and Polestar electric vehicles. Nvidia made a number of other announcements ahead of CES, including a partnership with Foxconn and that Mercedes will use its Omniverse Enterprise software platform to design, plan and optimize its factories in the metaverse.
Stellantis launched a new business unit called Mobilisights dedicated to turning all that vehicle data into marketable products — and revenue.
Bosch rolled out a security dashcam and accompanying support service designed for rideshare drivers.
Free2move, the mobility service brand under automaker Stellantis, plans to expand its car sharing, rental and subscription services in the U.S.