Toyota made an impressive showing with its e-Palette concept vehicle, which casts off many of the traditional aspects of car design for a radically utilitarian look. The e-Palette is essentially a box with wheels, and Toyota characterizes it as “a fully-automated, next-generation battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) businesses.”
The scalable aspect is crucial. The e-Palette is big and largely empty, by default, and companies can easily modify the design to suit their business model. A company like Amazon could use it as a delivery vehicle, stuffed with boxes, while a clothing retailer might use it as a mobile shop, with racks of clothes lining the interior.
Ridesharing companies like Lyft have been at the forefront of autonomous driving research, and the company partnered with tech company Aptiv for a special showcase at CES. The partners provided attendees with driverless rides to 20 locations around Las Vegas, and Digital Trends found the experience remarkably ordinary — a good sign for a technology that faces a lot of skepticism and worry.
One of the most surprising automotive revelations at CES came from a company not normally associated with cars: Graphics card manufacturer Nvidia. The company showed off its highly anticipated Drive Xavier, a processor built for autonomous vehicles. To test the capabilities of Xavier, Nvidia created a virtual world in which artificial intelligence can pilot virtual cars, demonstrating their driving abilities.
It’s a bold move, but Nvidia already has companies eager to collaborate, including a self-driving car startup called Aurora, and Volkswagen, a titan of the auto industry.
Government and the industry will still need to work out all the details of how autonomous cars will function safely in society, but as CES 2018 shows, the tech is developing quickly.
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