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Frost & Sullivan CES 2018 Roundup – War of Digital Assistants and Autonomous Shuttles

by Praveen Chandrasekar 15 Jan 2018
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The two-hour power shutdown hogged all the headlines this past week at CES 2018, still there were many interesting developments and announcements from Vegas pertaining to the automotive world. Most of these were pertaining to the world of autonomous driving and its implications on areas like user experience, infotainment/entertainment. There were a few other across the board trends that would impact the market in near term like Alexa integration and a few others. Here are the ten most crucial observations from the Frost & Sullivan team

1.       Digital Assistant is good, but Assistants are a problem – Team Alexa from Amazon had a whale of a show announcing over 20 partners across PC, Smart home, speakers, automotive and other segments. From the automotive side integration announcements came from Panasonic, Garmin, Toyota, Elektrobit, etc. Similar announcements more on the aftermarket head unit side came from Google (and Kia) but the trend that worried was the native digital assistant integration by Mercedes (Hey Mercedes), Hyundai, Mobi (Hyundai Mobis).  Most of these are developed in partnership with Nuance except for the Hyundai solution developed by SoundHound and dubbed as IPA (intelligent personal assistant) that can predict our needs. Panasonic showcased offline Alexa capabilities and its ability to be used besides the smart home and native Amazon side to control vehicle features like HVAC fan speed, etc., this was also showcased by Amazon in its booth. To differentiate OEMs are trying to develop native assistants with AI capabilities but again missing the point of how near to impossible it is to replicate what Amazon and Google have done with their assistants (the amount of data they can generate). The only down side to Amazon Alexa (if it can be considered that) is Amazon’s unwillingness to make it a white label platform for OEMs. In conclusion the key here is these OEM branded digital assistants shouldn’t become a app store like effort.  

2.       Integrated Cockpits for Manual and Automated Driving Modes – Mostly supported by single SOC’s or integrated domain controllers, many suppliers and OEMs showcased an integrated cockpit concept. Ranging from Harman to Melco to Continental the idea was to show digital displays across the cluster, central display and passenger side that can share information and prioritize information using eye/gaze tracking cameras and intelligent gestures. Whilst this is not much different from what was showcased in 2017, the interesting bit is the scalability of the Harman digital cockpit solution into an entry level one with one touch high resolution display supported by steering wheel buttons with haptic feedback, etc. The idea that several suppliers wanted to drive home in this trend is the use of medium range processors to power these integrated cockpit solutions, a factor that will be deciding for volume makers.

3.       Mercedes Integrates Touch, finally – One must give ten on ten to Mercedes Benz, Harman and Luxoft for the performance of the MB UX system (especially the touch aspect), it is by no means a pathbreaker. In many ways the system is a delayed response to the reversing trends at competition especially Audi and BMW who have embraced the touch philosophy after being against it for years. It was very interesting to note the reaction of a few other luxury car representatives as they hovered around the MB UX system especially on the form factor that integrates both the cluster and central display into one long panel offered in two configurations – 7” and 7” or 7” and 10”. Including a natively built digital assistant and machine learning/AI capabilities that can store seven profiles and learn the preferences associated with each, the system also has clunky steering wheel buttons, touch sensitive buttons on the steering wheel and a touchpad that offers complete haptic feedback (very useful). While the overall UX language is still primary touch, it will be interesting to see the feedback of the UX specialists given that reachability was already discussed as an issue (given the screen placement).

4.       Automated Driving Domain Controllers – if there is one master trend that matters for the autonomous driving world it’s the trend of moving towards high performance central computing platforms (From distributed ECU’s) or integrated domain controllers. The trend first unveiled by Audi a few years ago is fast catching up across other OEMs and suppliers. Central computing platforms were on showcase from suppliers such as Autoliv (offering two variants including the high end including a NVIDIA option) to Continental to new players like Samsung DRVline (after Harman introduction) and stars of the show like NVIDIA who had the Xavier that can do 30 trillion operations per second consuming 30 watts of power. While this AI behemoth is the best thing that could have happened to L5 aspirers (VW and Uber announced as customers) Samsung showed a more practical scalable hardware and software platform developed in conjunction with TTTech and the newly developed front facing cameras. Essentially the DRVline is a scalable compute platform that can support todays ADAS applications and move fast into the highly and fully automated zone. This platform in conjunction with the 5G TCU, OTA framework and cellular V2X showcased by Harman together is a very interesting offer to enable and update personally owned and fleet vehicles with autonomous and connected technology. Mobileye will also up its game with the EyeQ4 launch on the aftermarket side very soon and later in the year with three OEMs and get into the high-end game with the EyeQ5 in the future to be used on the BMW project. While it is going to be delayed in comparison with the NVIDIA Xavier which will start shipping soon, it remains to be to what difference the EyeQ5 can bring in given the recent statements by the company around it.

5.       LIDAR is still a confusing game – is the industry close enough to the $100 solid-state LIDAR, the answer might be maybe soon. From LeddarTech to Innoviz to Continental to Quanergy to Cepton to Luminar to established ones like Pioneer and Velodyne there were a lot of different type of LIDARs on display with different field of views, ranges and photonics. LeddarTech with its SOC approach claims a very good range at an affordable price point to Innoviz that claims a range of 150 meters for its high-resolution LIDAR. The industry might be very close to breaking the code on this product that everyone barring Tesla is testing right now its in advanced automated driving programs. Cepton is the new kid on the block featuring ex Velodyne and Quanergy folks entering with 200 meters range using laser emission and a sensing array with higher performance and resolution at lower cost. Cepton has signed an agreement with autonomous shuttle company May Mobility based in Detroit.

6.       True Autonomous Mobility, for the Impaired – a personal favorite at the show was all the autonomous shuttle concepts on display ranging from Accessible Olli to Navya Keolis Autonom autonomous cab to the Toyota e-Palette. While the Accessible Olli is a personal favorite from the conception in its ability to support customers with different forms of disability or impairment and how from the pre-boarding to the connected bus stop to the actual electric connected autonomous shuttle (3D printed prototype), the Toyota e-Palette is a concept that Toyota aims to bring to the market working in partnership with a good list of companies such as Amazon, Uber, Mazda, Pizza Hut (Ford is working with Dominos), and Didi Chuxing. Interestingly Local Motors (the makers of Olli) are aiming to put about 50 of those to test in different locations in 2018 and are working right now to get regulatory approval as a low speed autonomous vehicle. With many use cases ranging from universities, city downtowns, to hospitals and micro last mile transit options, it will be interesting to see the business models behind these models (subscription, freemium or pay per use)

7.       Integrated Mobility Marketplace (Aka Mobility as a Service) – HERE could be that company that stood out for most announcements at the show. Ranging from its map maintenance (HD maps updates using real-time sensor data) to smart city applications and its newest OEM programs, the star of its show was the Open Mobility Marketplace. This effort being spearheaded in Israel is an integrated mobility platform that HERE envisions selling to airports to cities to malls to any customer base that will require multimodal transport options. While HERE is not building any of the mobility solutions or in other words not aspiring to becoming a mobility service provider the idea is another use case for its open location platform and collaboration with different partners providing Car sharing to ridesharing to carpooling services. The idea of the platform is to create another channel to amplify mobility supply and give customers the comfort of another mobility solution. This solution could in parts compete with Daimler and its integrated mobility brand called moovel and with startups like MaaS Global who are taking a similar concept to cities. Simple conclusion to draw here will be that the mobility marketplace will continue to be fragmented because of domestic and city/region specific needs and availabilities.

8.       Mapping for an Autonomous Future – TomTom showcased Autostream, a feature that will allow users to download the most updated maps for a specific route keeping bandwidth requirements to the minimum. HERE showcased its sensor ingested map maintenance product ensuring always updated HD maps for autonomous driving covering lane level, road attributes, incident and other relevant data. Civil Maps showcased its Fingerprint Base Map technology that offers a compact sized HD map that can be easily updated over 4G and 3G data. Mobileye promises that EyeQ4 deployments on aftermarket fleets starting very soon will allow them to collect 10X the volume of data. Clearly HD maps continues to be a showcase in the path to highly and fully autonomous driving and a feature that is drawing different startup approaches from Civil Maps to DeepMap (showed at the Honda booth)

9.       Cybersecurity emerging from the shadows – At the NNG booth in Venetian the company showcased its cybersecurity portfolio through Arilou the Israeli company focusing on an integrated hardware/software security solution that eliminates false positives and goes beyond detection in preventing false messages from hitting ECUs. The Parallel Intrusion Prevention System (PIPS) that can be integrated anywhere in the network ensures full protection across the network and can stop threats before it gets to a respective ECU. Besides this Irdeto the other emerging cybersecurity company showcased its Keystone Technology developed with Conjure that uses a mobile device and a companion app (eliminating physical keys) to provide a safe vehicle access experience in personally owned and fleet (car sharing, ridesharing) context. Argus was seen at the Elektrobit booth where interestingly it became evident that the company’s solution is going to be integrated into the EB software stack, it will also be allowed to pursue independent business much like what Continental has done with EB.  This market is for sure headed for a consolidation at either the tier 1 level or at the silicon level.

10.   And finally, data monetization is the real buzz word  - Voyomotive a relative newcomer to the OBDII aftermarket telematics game showcased several interesting use cases emerging from its solution tapping into the vehicle network (claiming the ability to tap into more data from across the network and multiple sensors than other companies because of multiple reasons) ranging from real odometer and fuel readings, OEM diagnostic codes, local weather, vehicle alerts that can run into several ones, next generation insurance, FNOL with predictive modeling, package delivery, preventing unauthorized access, smart city applications and much more. Clearly Voyomotive is setting itself up nicely for fleet applications that can be anyone from commercially operated trucks to rental fleets to carsharing or ridesharing fleets. Ford in its vision for the city announced the Transportation Mobility Cloud, an open platform developed with Autonomic and Qualcomm utilizing cellular V2everything technology. What aims to be an open platform (but showcased all Ford solutions) is a new way for cities and vehicles to co-exist in a congestion and pollution limited environment and one where self-driving vehicles will deliver our pizza and food. A closer look will reveal that for such a platform to flourish the amount of data that needs to flow into Ford from the city or what it can generate will be extremely interesting. Besides all these what was interesting was most companies just using the phrase “data monetization” in extremely abstract ways just as they did with shared mobility two years ago at the show.

Besides the above mentioned key trends several other showcases were worthy – from Phantom Auto’s teleoperated vehicles that until regulatory approval arrives is a good valet parking or extreme last mile transportation option to Ridecell’s autonomous end to end shared mobility platforms to several AI startups showing interesting use cases to flying cars. Overall the entire show in many ways was a continuation of last year’s themes and trends with a few minor exceptions like autonomous shuttles, digital assistants and integrated mobility platforms.

Praveen Chandrasekar is a Consulting Director in Frost & Sullivan’s Automotive, Transportation and Mobility team based in Detroit, Michigan. This blog was authored with support from Franck Leveque, Niranjan Manohar and Ajit Chander from our team. Frost & Sullivan will soon be publishing an exhaustive report capturing the key trends and showcases emerging from CES2018.

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