News In Context

CES Highlights Plans To Turn EVs Into Entertainment Centers On Wheels

Cadillac concept car

This week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES)  in Last Vegas highlighted how audio and entertainment systems are increasingly a focus for next generation electric vehicles so it is not surprising that Japan’s Sony Group, looking to harness its strengths in entertainment and sensors to play a bigger role in next-generation mobility, said it is “exploring a commercial launch” of its own electric vehicles.

“With our imaging and sensing, cloud, 5G and entertainment technologies combined with our contents mastery, we believe Sony is well positioned as a creative entertainment company to redefine mobility,”  Sony chairman and president Kenichiro Yoshida told a news conference. Sony, which is creating a new company called Sony Mobility, has an arsenal of sophisticated technology in areas such as sensors critical to autonomous driving and owns prominent video game and movie franchises, making it  one of the world’s biggest entertainment companies.

U.S. automaker GM, Germany’s BMW and Sweden’s Volvo revealed their own plans for turning EVs into entertainment centers during the annual trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association in Las Vegas.

GM displayed a two-passenger electric and autonomous luxury Cadillac designed to give riders immersive experiences. AI-driven biometric input and interfaces, accessible via a large, immersive and panoramic SMD LED (Surface-Mount-Device, Light-Emitting-Diode) display, allow passengers to select from Augmented Reality Engagement, Entertainment and Wellness Recovery themes for their drive. (see photo). The car company said Cadillac engineers and authorized third parties will be able to innovate additional themes and features that can be added over the air.

“Electrification and autonomous driving will fundamentally change the role of vehicles and the experiences customers have with them,” Bryan Nesbitt, GM executive Director, Global Advanced Design and Global Architecture Studio, said in a statement. “We’re exploring where that will go with these innovative concepts, envisioning mobility as an ally of wellness, giving customers the ultimate luxury, more personal time.”  

Germany’s BMW unveiled the next step in its in-car entertainment story: a 31-inch 8K smart TV with support for Amazon’s Fire TV service  and a country-specific streaming service for China. This new 32:9 “My Mode Theatre” screen for rear passengers, combined with a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System, is meant to give passengers a cinema-like experience while they cruise down the highway.

“We develop immersive, digital experiences for sheer driving pleasure,” Frank Weber, member of the board of management of BMW AG Development, said in a statement. “In Theatre Mode, the rear of the interior is transformed into a private cinema lounge. With the 31-inch display, 5G connectivity, 8K resolution, surround sound and individual streaming program, an unprecedented experience is created that sets new standards for in-car entertainment.”

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Volvo Cars announced this week that it plans to launch a direct integration with the Google Home ecosystem in the coming months. The integration should allow car owners to turn their car on and off, control the temperature and get car information like battery life by issuing voice commands to Google Assistant-enabled home and mobile devices. Once customers pair their Volvo car to their Google account, they also can talk directly to Google while in their car.

In addition, because newer Volvo car models have Google built-in, they will soon be able to serve as a platform on which to download YouTube videos, enabling video streaming in cars, according to the automaker. YouTube will be available via Qualcomm’s Snapdragon digital cockpit infotainment system, which Volvo announced would be implemented into its upcoming electric SUV.

“Allowing our customers to watch videos while charging or when waiting to pick up their children from school is part of our promise to make their lives better and more enjoyable,”  Henrik Green, chief product officer at Volvo Cars, said in a statement. “With YouTube and other major streaming services coming soon, our customers can enjoy their charging break instead of seeing it as just a hassle — making electric car ownership that bit easier.”



BMW Introduces The First Color-Changing Car

German carmaker BMW  unveiled the world’s first “color-changing” car at the Consumer Electronics Show  in Las Vegas. The concept car, called the BMW iX Flow, uses electronic ink technology normally found in e-readers to transform the car’s exterior into a variety of patterns in gray and white.When stimulated by electrical signals controlled by a phone app, the material brings different pigments to the surface, causing the car to take on a different shade or design, such as racing stripes.

Mobileye, Zeekr Aim For Self-Driving Car in China in 2024.

Intel Corp’s autonomous driving unit Mobileye said it plans to work with Geely Holding-backed  Zeekr to launch a mostly self-driving car in China in 2024. The two companies said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that the car will have what automotive engineers call level 4 autonomy, meaning that it will still have a steering wheel and require a licensed driver but will be able to drive itself in many situations. It will use six of Mobileye’s “EyeQ 5” chips and also employ Mobileye’s road-mapping data.


Compostable Packaging Solutions Startup TIPA Raises Funds And Announces New Partnerships

Israeli flexible compostable packaging firm TIPA announced it has raised a $70 million Series C round, according to Globes. Founded in 2010, TIPA Corp offers biodegradable food packaging solutions and fully compostable flexible packaging that aims to deliver the durability, functionality, transparency, and sealability of conventional plastic. TIPA’s films biodegrade into soil nutrients within 180 days of disposal inside a compost system.The company has developed a range of packaging solutions for applications such as fresh produce, fresh bakery, dry food, and apparel packaging. Global brands and retailers in the food and fashion industry have embraced TIPA’s solutions including Waitrose,Woolworth and Riverford Organic Farmers. TIPA, a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, is also engaged in multiple strategic partnerships with industry leaders. It recently signed a partnership agreement with Amcor, the world’s largest plastic packaging manufacturer. The partnerships aim to provide compostable packaging solutions for the packaging market in Australia and New Zealand. For more on TIPA click to read this in-depth story in The Innovator.

Mercedes Benz Incorporates Components From Landfill-Destined Waste Into Its Cars

The bionic structure of the all-electric Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX’s body shell and interior structures such as headrests will be made from fully recyclable bio-based thermoplastic converted from 100% landfill-destined waste. Most automobiles use petroleum-based plastics for component production. Mercedes-Benz is using Israeli startup UBQ Materials’ bio-based thermoplastic to maximize the car’s sustainability. The openings in the car’s rear-floor casting were closed using patches made from UBQ produced on a 3D printer. These UBQ patches achieve weight savings compared to conventionally produced cast structures.  For more on UBQ read this in-depth story in The Innovator.


China’s Central Bank Digital Yuan Wallet Makes Its Debut On The Android And Apple App Stores

China’s central bank has launched its Central Bank Digital Coin (CBDC) wallet app on the Android and Apple app stores as it gears up for the forthcoming Winter Olympics. In development since 2014, the Digital Yuan wallet has undergone extensive field testing across the country, with the pilot run handling transactions worth $5.34 billion as of June 2021. The central bank states that the CBDC had been used for over 70 million payments across more than 1.3 million scenario. The wallet app has so far been available on an invitiation-only basis, but its arrival on the app stores signals the central bank’s determination to seed the technology across the population ahead of the showcase Winter Olympic games in Shanghai next month when it will compete for traction against the dominant commercial payment apps from Ant Group and Tencent.


John Deere Says Its Robo Tractors Are Ready To Till Fields

John Deere said it will start commercial delivery this year of technology that enables a tractor to till a field without an operator in the cab, a first for the top North American tractor manufacturer after years of effort to automate farm work. Deere plans a low-volume launch this year delivering systems for 12 to 20 machines, and then scaling up, Jahmy Hindman, Deere’s chief technology officer, told Reuters. The company is weighing whether to sell the technology, lease it, or offer it to farmers in a subscription package that could allow for upgrades as hardware and software evolve, he said.

Israeli Restaurant Chain Serves Up Personalized 3D-Printed Vegan Burgers

Just days before the world rang in the New Year, Israeli-based food tech firm SavorEat unveiled its 3D printing “robot chef” – which can whip up burgers and steaks in just six minutes – at popular Israeli food chain BBB in Herzliya. The robot chef is a 3D printer that resembles an oven and customizes burgers to a customer’s taste, with variations in protein, oil, texture, and ingredients. SavorEat develops plant-based meat alternatives using proprietary ingredients They are created to be as close as possible to meat in texture, flavor, and experience.


Trove Of Unique Health Data Sets Could Help AI Predict Medical Conditions Earlier

Ziad Obermeyer, a physician and machine learning scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, launched Nightingale Open Science — a treasure trove of unique medical data sets, each curated around an unsolved medical mystery that artificial intelligence could help to solve. The data sets, released after the project received $2 million of funding from former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, could help to train computer algorithms to predict medical conditions earlier, triage better and save lives. The data include 40 terabytes of medical imagery, such as X-rays, electrocardiogram waveforms and pathology specimens, from patients with a range of conditions, including high-risk breast cancer, sudden cardiac arrest, fractures and Covid-19. Each image is labelled with the patient’s medical outcomes, such as the stage of breast cancer and whether it resulted in death, or whether a Covid patient needed a ventilator.

Implantable Brain Computer Interface Enables First Direct Thought Tweet

A paralyzed man became the first person to tweet a message to the world using only direct thought. The feat was pulled off by Philip O’Keefe, a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, via a microchip implant that picked up his brain signals, according to Synchron, a brain computer interface company. Synchron’s flagship technology, the Stentrode, is an endovascular brain implant designed to enable patients to wirelessly control digital devices through thought and improve functional independence. Synchron’s foundational technology, a motor neuro-prosthesis, is implanted via the jugular vein using neurointerventional techniques commonly used to treat stroke, and does not require drilling into the skull or open brain surgery. The system is designed for patients suffering from paralysis as a result of a broad range of conditions, and aims to be user friendly and dependable for patients to use autonomously.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.