Tyler Suiters                      

This edition of CES Tech Talk is brought to you by Deloitte.

Hanish Patel                      

Hey Tech Talk listeners, it's Hanish Patel from Deloitte's User Friendly, the podcast where my guests and I explore the latest trends in tech, media, and telecom and turn them into something a little more user friendly. We just launched season four and I have some exciting topics coming up, from connectivity trends to sports, through to digital reality. If you enjoy CES Tech Talks, I highly recommend checking us out wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. Until then, happy listening.

Tyler Suiters                      

Hey everybody, for the Consumer Technology Association, I'm Tyler Suiters. We are the owners and producers of CES, the largest, the most influential tech event in the world. And all this week we are joining you from CES 2020 in Las Vegas, talking to you from the show floor itself. Conversations we're having with the media who cover CES. They get the backstage access, they get the insight, they have conversations with all the players here at CES. So we're talking to journalists today about vehicle technology. You know that CES is home to the leading auto manufacturers, to some of the biggest in the world. There are also emerging trends you'll find on the show floor here, concept cars that are getting covered internationally even before they hit the road, and also live self-driving vehicle demos at CES 2020. So today, a wide ranging conversation about the present and the future of vehicle technology. That's all here on CS Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                      

Good afternoon everybody. Welcome to day three of CES 2020, the largest, the most influential tech event on the planet. We are very happy you're here. Hope you're having a great show so far. I'm Tyler Suiters, with the Consumer Technology Association. We are the owners and producers of CES and we are thrilled to host you here at this year's event. Today is a media roundtable. We're talking specifically about vehicle technology here at CES with an esteemed panel of journalists from the media who cover CES, veterans of the show and the folks who really have their fingers on the pulse, not just of CES, but various product categories between talking to the innovators, the well-known brands, the startups here. These are attendees who attract the trends, not just at CES 2020, but years past and we certainly hope for years to come. So joining me today from my far, far left, Anthony Elio is associate editor of Innovation & Tech Today. Anthony, very glad to have you with us.

Anthony Elio                      

Thank you so much.

Tyler Suiters                      

And he has a band gig coming up once he leaves CES. We're not going to tax him too far. Our good friend Dana Wollman, who is editor at Engadget, joins us once again, a veteran of these panels. Dana, thanks for being here.

Dana Wollman                  

Yeah, hi everybody.

Tyler Suiters                      

And Matt Swider, I haven't seen you in three days but it feels like four weeks since we ran into each other on the show floor. Matt is managing editor of Tech Radar and is easy to spot because he's generally wearing his red kicks everywhere he goes at CES, knowing how many miles you put in.

Matt Swider                      

They're very comfortable. They get worn out very quickly, but it's great to be here.

Tyler Suiters                      

And your step challenge is going well.

Matt Swider                      

I am dominating, crushing all the competition right now, thanks to the Apple watch tracking me.

Tyler Suiters                      

Solid. So we're diving in today, as I said, about vehicle tech. We are, at CES, one of the largest standalone auto shows there are if you took just that one section, primarily North Hall, and set it alone. We're honored that USA Today has named us one of the top auto shows that there is. And from self-driving vehicles, to concept cars, to this year, EVs, and also some of the driver assist technologies, you really find the entire ecosystem here at CES. So just a general question starting off, and Matt, let's start with you. What do you see? What's caught your eye in vehicle tech so far this week?

Matt Swider                      

Well, you're absolutely right, it has turned into a car show in that North Hall, and every year it grows and grows. But it's not just the car companies. It's sometimes the technology companies that are showing concepts that will be integrated into the BMWs, and the Mercedes Benz' of the world. Sony has the Sony Vision-S concept car and it's decked out with Sony displays in every angle. Every time you turn around, you'll see a Sony display of different sorts. And it's a concept car that will never come to market, probably. But it'll probably be integrated into, other car manufacturers' technology or their offerings. So I found that really interesting in that it's kind of like a pitch by Sony to say, "Hey, use our products. We can design really nice displays to compete with Tesla and other car manufacturers out there." And I found that really rewarding because it's just the combination of great classic technology companies with classic car companies, and they're going to come together. CES is a place where deals get done, and you kind of see that in North Hall.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. What a surprise for Sony to unveil a concept car, so to speak.

Matt Swider                      

It was a huge surprise. A lot of times, you hear leaks, or things ahead of time and that was just something that hit us, and it was great breaking news to kind of put on the site.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. Yeah, it was fun. So Dana, I know you've spent roughly the last 24 hours surfing around vehicle technology. You've been on a mission. What have you seen so far?

Dana Wollman                  

So some of the stuff that the Engadget team is talking about is actually some of the less flashy stuff at the show. Of course, the concept cars are real showstoppers. But for instance, we're talking a lot on the team about the Wallbox Quasar. It's the first consumer bi-directional EV charger. So it can charge your EV, but then charger can also potentially charge your home, or you can sell the energy back to the grid. So that's not as flashy as, let's say, the Avatar-inspired at concept car from Mercedes Benz. But we think that technology has a lot of potential from a sustainability perspective. So it's stuff like that that we're really giving a double take and talking a lot about.

Tyler Suiters                      

For something like that, and you compare it to a car that may not ever hit market. I mean it's designed certainly for a powerful visual impact. But for something like the Quasar, what do you see for the run out for something like that? Like you said, it's not flashy, but boy, what a remarkable practical application as we move deeper and deeper into the electric vehicle adoption.

Dana Wollman                  

And something like that, it's cool because it already has some support. For instance, the Nissan Leaf supports it, and I think one other vehicle whose name I'm blanking on, but it already has momentum going into the show, which is exciting to think about, versus some of the concepts which are really cool to look at. But you know, on some level they're never going to reach the roads. At least not in anything resembling that form.

Tyler Suiters                      

Still ideations.

Dana Wollman                  

More fantasy.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Anthony, thanks for your patience. We have you on for your first panel. We make you sit for 10 minutes before we get to—

Anthony Elio                      

It's totally fine.

Tyler Suiters                      

—Dive in. What are you tracking so far this week?

Anthony Elio                      

Well, I mean obviously self-driving tech is everywhere, very big this year. I think, actually, a lot of the safety innovations have been pretty interesting. I got the opportunity to do like a little VR test that they're trying to do to improve the different safety measures on a lot of those self-driving cars. I think that was really, really cool. And you know, it's something that you don't really think about a lot. Just one of those little things that is going to be needed the more that we integrate self-driving tech. So yeah, I think that was probably the most interesting so far.

Tyler Suiters                      

What's been, in data, seem the most practical? The most, perhaps realistic, for you in terms of time from show floor to market that you've seen in the vehicle tech sector?

Anthony Elio                      

Ooh, that's a tough one.

Tyler Suiters                      

We're not going to hold you to predictions.

Anthony Elio                      

Okay. Might need to give me a minute on that one.

Tyler Suiters                      

You got it, you can get through. Well I want to come back to the entire group then, and just bring up a few of the innovations we've seen and get your take on that. Whether it's where it is on the meter of practical and applicable now, or whether it turns out to, no we'll never see it, but boy is this going to be great in some form iterations. So, Honda unveiled a pretty cool convertible. The point being, there is a disc that resembles the steering wheel, but you're not steering with it, it's really an accelerator that you push and pull. What's your take on that? A steering wheel-less self-driving vehicle.

Matt Swider                      

I think that's where it's headed. That's where it's going to go. It I think the laws and people's acceptance has to catch up to the technology. So that type of stuff is already out there, and it's what people will probably go with in the future. It's what the car manufacturers will have is like steering wheel-less cars. But you know, wrapping people's heads around that? That's the hardest thing about it.

Matt Swider                      

But people say, "Well what are we going to do when we aren't driving a car, and we don't need a steering wheel and, we're just sitting there?" And it always reminded me of the Netflix of China's LeEco, and they got into the self-driving car business because the end result was, you're going to watch more Netflix, more content, and that's what you're going to do on the way to a friend's house, or a party or something. So I've always found that interesting about the players that get involved into the self-driving car space. It's just a diverse set of car manufacturers, or sometimes not car manufacturers. So I found that really interesting.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. Dana, that's where we're going?

Dana Wollman                  

Yes. I think we need to build out the infrastructure first, to the point where these self-driving vehicles aren't minorities on the road. A self-driving vehicle might, in a vacuum, be able to make conscientious decisions. It's harder to account for the other human drivers on the road. So I think the infrastructure and the population of self-driving vehicles needs to rise up first, and I think hit a critical mass and with that hopefully comes the kind of comfort that you're talking about.

Tyler Suiters                      

Right. One of the things, Anthony, that Matt brought up is the idea of what do you do with the cabin, right? If you don't have to sit there and drive. Audi showed, basically, a concept of what the cabin could be. What have you seen, or what do you envision for what the car cabin is if we're not bound to, not just drive, but not bound to look out of a windshield, right? We can do anything we want in there.

Anthony Elio                      

Yeah, I definitely see it as a very like digital interface, obviously. It's going to be something where people are going to be playing games, people going to be able to serve social media while you're doing it. I think that that's going to be the future, overall, for it. I'm really excited for that, honestly. And I've noticed a lot of companies now trying to, I forget the exact name of the company, but it's almost a reflection onto your windshield that you can interface with, so you don't have to look at your phone. So you can have a map basically on your windshield. I think that's going to be pretty popular as well. So maybe not a straight up digital setup, but kind of the reflection.

Tyler Suiters                      

Or a bit of an augmented reality element as you're in the car?

Anthony Elio                      

Yes, absolutely. Right, yeah.

Tyler Suiters                      

Speaking to the more practical, first time exhibitor here at CES 2020, Bridgestone. Something that I think maybe all of us, if not you, certainly know. Tires that either use a minimal amount of air and have sensorization on the inside of the walls, or there is an airless tire for space travel. Are you catching innovations in the simple everyday uses? Not the driverless, big ticket, horizontal element of the vehicle tech, but the little applications where we can use something, smart solutions, immediately on the road.

Matt Swider                      

Yeah, it's something that you got to check out. I actually spotted you at booth for the Bosch Virtual Visor.

Tyler Suiters                      

Oh, that was, that was awesome.

Matt Swider                      

And I was like, "Oh that's, that's Tyler behind there." And it was, it was amazing because it is an LCD transparent screen that you can see through, but it will block the sunlight if it's going to be either harmful to your perception of the road. So that was an amazing thing. I know you got to check it out. But you know, it's something that you have to experience in order to really just grasp how incredible that could be because the visor has not changed in probably 50 years. That's been something that's a staple of a car, but why do you have to do this? Why? Why can't you just have something that's automated and kind of blocks the sunlight if it's going to be harmful to the driver?

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. What better place for me to admit than in front of hundreds of thousands of podcasts listeners, that I've hit myself in the head, I don't know how many dozens of times, with the visor as you try and swing it around. And this eliminates it, as you said, entirely. It shades your face and tracks your face, so your eyes are covered wherever you go. Dana, what about you? What have you seen?

Dana Wollman                  

Well, first of all, that sounds like a tall person problem.

Tyler Suiters                      

Or a big head problem. Yes, yeah.

Dana Wollman                  

Yeah. I think to Matt's point, I don't think there's much discussion about the dangers of sun glare when driving. I think, when we talk about the potential dangerous for either a human driver or a self-driving car, we talk a lot about pets jumping into the road, or humans, or reckless other drivers. We don't really talk about how sun glare can mess people up, but it is a real thing.

Matt Swider                      

It's an internal problem and not an external problem of like the camera system detecting deer. That's very well and good, but there's problems inside the vehicle that can happen.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. Well I mean, it speaks to the overall challenge, right? That self-driving vehicles will address, and that is, we're just not that great at driving. Or even more so, we're not great at paying attention. Right? Distracted driving covers a panel play of errors behind the wheel and self-driving will remove that. Anthony, what about you? Every day innovations you've seen?

Anthony Elio                      

I was going to say the tires. I do think that's going to be the next big thing. And you know, it's not something that's going to get talked about too much, but it is one of those little things that's going to be better for everything from gas mileage to it's going to be more sustainable, overall. So I do think that's something that's going to be really important the next couple of years.

Tyler Suiters                      

Staying with you, Anthony, and then I'll turn to the rest of the group. But, Dana brought this up a moment ago. The idea of electrification, right? A number of EV announcements here at CES 2020. Are we there? Where we're crossing over from thinking as a consumer, "I would like an EV," into thinking, "I'd like an EV at this price point, at this style level, with this amount of luxury. Oh, and I want one of these two or three brands."

Anthony Elio                      

You know what? I don't think we're going to actually know for about five years. You know? I think we want to rush it so much with EVs, we just assume it's going to be out on the road like that. I think we need to give it a good five years before you really know where it's going to be, overall. Like, if it's going to be a commonplace vehicle.

Dana Wollman                  

Especially in the US market, I think. I would expect us to move, adapt, a little more slowly than other parts of the world.

Tyler Suiters                      

Delve into that a little bit, Dana. I think that it's open to interpretation of what you said so far, but what makes you say we'll move in that direction?

Dana Wollman                  

I think if we were speaking to maybe a fully European audience, I think you might be able to say yes, your next car will be electric. And it could be any number of price points, and any number of aesthetic styles. I don't know if we're quite there in the US. I think we will be. I think we are adapting more slowly.

Tyler Suiters                      

If we were buying petrol by the liter, we may be in a different place, rather than gas by the gallon. Not to be snide. Matt, what about you?

Matt Swider                      

My barometer says if we get to... A couple of years ago I said, "When we get to a Jeep that is a plugin hybrid that they're showing, then we've made it." Then everything can be demonstrated to be electric, and we're there at that point this year at CES. And that's a really great thing because one day I want to drive a Jeep Wrangler that is fully electric, and we're on our way now. So if they can do that with a Jeep, they can do that with any car. And really, that's one of the things that has held back electric cars, in my opinion. Because you know, it used to be that you had to have the Nissan Leaf or something of that class. A small, very compact car. It was narrowly tailored to a specific market. Now it's expanded to any style, any type of person. Any type of person that wants a bigger car, it can be electric these days. And that's something that's inspiring to see on the show floor.

Tyler Suiters                      

Do you think, and this is in the vein of your response, Dana. Are we, I'll say the US primarily, but we as drivers in general, have we gotten past the number we need to see to overcome range anxiety? I mean, we're heading toward 300 miles without a charge. Does that seem about right?

Dana Wollman                  

I think so. At least in certain parts of the country.

Tyler Suiters                      

I mean, when there's enough charging infrastructure and we won't run out? Yeah. So Anthony, Matt brings up a cool point about, "If I see this brand, if I see this iconic manufacturer that's making EVs, I'm in." Here at CES 2020, we saw an electric Ford Mustang. Is that an example to you of an icon that can draw people in as a crossover?

Anthony Elio                      

Yeah, absolutely. I do think, and I got to check that out actually, too.

Tyler Suiters                      

What'd you think? First of all.

Anthony Elio                      

I thought it looked really cool. I think it's going to be pretty popular, to be honest, because I think people do trust the brand, most importantly. And I think it's going to take something like that for the next step. You know, it's going to need to be those kind of brands that keep innovating it, and keep coming out with those new kinds of models like that.

Tyler Suiters                      

So what's the next one? Well, let me ask just a personal question. What brand, what model, do you want to see EV'd up?

Anthony Elio                      

Well, let's see. I drove a Mercury van growing up, I don't think we're going to see an electric version of that. Personally, Honda. I think I'd like to see what they do next. It's kind of tough to say. I don't drive that much, personally. So that makes it a little bit more difficult, but... And I agree, Jeep. I think Jeep is going to be really interesting with what they do electronically.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. Good point.

Matt Swider                      

To me, that the hardest one to put out there and also—

Tyler Suiters                      

Well, now delve into that. Why is that, Matt?

Matt Swider                      

Because it's a massive car. It is a Jeep that takes up a good portion of the road, you're up high, it has some weight to it. And all of a sudden, that's a deterring factor for people because they want to put on there that it can go 300 miles on a single charge. You can't really do that with a Jeep. So there is going to be some range anxiety with something like that. So they have to market it in such a specific way. So they don't want to say a hundred miles because that's just not good enough to put out there. So they have to wait to a certain point where the technology gets advanced enough where it can move a car like that at least 200 miles on a single charge. So we will get there.

Matt Swider                      

The other thing is, the car I would drive if I was not in New York City and don't use a car so much anymore, is a Mini Cooper. I love the Mini Cooper convertible. But again, it's not aerodynamic, so they're really not going to put the convertible version out there to be a hybrid, or even an electric version. So I'm waiting for car manufacturers to get confident enough to put something that's not aerodynamic out there and say, "You know what? It still can go 300 miles on a single charge."

Tyler Suiters                      

Right, right. That's a great point. Stepping away from the roads and into the skies a bit. Major step at CES 2019 when Bell, formerly known as Bell Helicopter, showed the quad copter. Right. What looked like something the Dark Knight would chase the Joker after. Brilliant, shiny, black, reflective, huge rotors, and designed at least in partnership, or with an eye on, with Uber and looking toward a robo-taxi type approach, or with the sharing economy. At CES 2020, Hyundai is showcasing its own version of a quad copter, but a passenger drone. Have you seen it? What do you think? How far off are we? Anthony?

Anthony Elio                      

I think that's another thing that's going to be a lot further away than we think. I think it's just the legislation for that is going to be really interesting.

Tyler Suiters                      

Separate podcast, but yes.

Anthony Elio                      

Very, very different podcasts, but I think maybe within the decade we'd talk, but I think it's just, it's going to take a little bit before we're totally ready for that.

Tyler Suiters                      

I love that you say within a decade when we are exactly nine days in the current decade, that's safe. That's safe. Dana?

Dana Wollman                  

And keep in mind that Uber and Hyundai have sort of two parts of this master plan. There's the flying taxi part, but then they're also the ground hubs which connect passengers with self-driving vehicles on the ground. So, in a way, the challenge is twofold. It's airborne and also land-born.

Tyler Suiters                      

Do you think, Dana, that as consumers, though, we are, if not ready now, we're rapidly becoming more and more... Well, I'll say ready, but it's more of an approachable concept to us year after year of doing something like that?

Dana Wollman                  

Yeah, I do think, for this particular concept, it helps that the companies are saying that at least in the beginning there would be a pilot on board. And this sort of gets back to what Matt was saying earlier. They are saying eventually they envision these drones being completely unmanned, but I think they're correct to assume that people won't be comfortable with that off the bat.

Tyler Suiters                      

Sure. I think that's, and it's probably a fair assumption, right? Matt, your take?

Matt Swider                      

I think it's 2030, we'll see that. Just to put a prediction out there. We'll see that at least tested, but it is another decade out when we're just trying to get to self-driving cars that have wheels and they're on the road. But I definitely think it has a future because, hey, every sci-fi movie says that it's going to happen. And we're at the point where we're seeing some of that. We're seeing foldable phones, and different things that were sci-fi predictions from back in the 80s. So I think we'll be there, but it's going to be a while and, as Dana was saying, it's the comfort level. The comfort level is not there. I don't expect to open up an app and be able to select that option in Uber.

Matt Swider                      

But it's what's great about CES. It's that you come here and you can see something that's 10 years out, even 20 years out, and you get to see the foundation of it, and then see it grow every year. So I expect to come back to CES next year and see something of a, not a working prototype, but them having tested it in some sort of form, out in the desert, and then having a video of it. So, every year we'll see something even more advanced and that's what's great.

Tyler Suiters                      

Oh, very cool. Dana?

Dana Wollman                  

I don't want to throw cold water in anyone's face, but I guess I would be curious.

Tyler Suiters                      

But Matt, duck.

Dana Wollman                  

No. I'd be curious to know eventually what the initial pricing will be. Uber, when it started just straight up helicopter rides to JFK in New York, people were really surprised to learn how expensive it was, especially compared to a regular taxi from parts of New York City to JFK. So I know we're not there yet, this isn't launching commercially anytime soon, but I will be super curious to know about what the pricing is and where that positions is. Is it just sort of a luxury form of commuting, or a tourism thing?

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. Well, and the JFK market has found its niche, right? Supply and demand in the free market finds a way. So Matt mentions, in the same sentence, sci-fi and 80s, and so... Bear with me, this does have a direction. So if I say the movie Back To The Future, you either think of A, time travel, and we don't have a dedicated time travel marketplace or section just yet. But, two, you think of the flying car, right? The DeLorean. Pegasus, this year at CES 2020, has a quote-unquote flying car. So now we're... You know, we just wrap a conversation about the idea of a quad copter taking us. A flying car? Pretty cool concept. But where do you fall, as journalists who were regularly pitched, and messaged, and get elevator speeches regularly, where does this fall on your radar?

Anthony Elio                      

I'd say I'm cautiously optimistic about it. I mean, I think it's a really interesting concept, and there's a lot of potential there, but I'm not... You never know what those kinds of things, it's going to take a little innovating for that.

Dana Wollman                  

It's interesting. I mean, we were just up here yesterday talking about what it's like to cover digital health and fitness, and I think transportation in some ways is more straight forward for journalists. We can report what these companies claim, and then in a way we have to sit back and wait and see what the regulators do. And it's a little different from some of the medical claims we've heard, where depending on the launch window, and depending on whether doctors have to prescribe it, or people buy it themselves, there could be immediate real world impacts on people's lives. Whereas there's this regulatory layer here, with all this transportation stuff we're talking about. We're not imagining an immediate human impact. It's just up to us to report accurately what the claims are, and then pay real close attention to how the regulators respond over a long period of time.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. Let's get self-driving vehicles on the road first, and then we'll think more about the skies. Matt?

Matt Swider                      

Yeah, skeptical but hopeful. But yeah, it is one step at a time. But I expect that we are going to see... It's funny, you mentioned something about the DeLorean and time travel. There's no dedicated market to that, by the way, but I'm sure it will be in the Northwest hall, which doesn't exist, but it will in the future. But that is something that we see the concepts here, and part of our jobs is to differentiate, say "Oh, we're giving an award to a concept that we think is viable versus something that isn't. Like you can see hundreds, thousands of gadgets at CES, but our job is to kind of curate a list and say, "Yes, this is something that you will see," or "No, this is kind of going to be vaporware or something that is not going to ever come out." So that's kind of our job to say it is something you're going to see, or it's not.

Tyler Suiters                      

Well, Anthony?

Anthony Elio                      

We've actually talked about doing a piece like that pretty soon. Like, stuff that we thought was going to blow up from CES that didn't work out, and vice versa. Stuff that we didn't have a lot of faith in that ended up kind of succeeding. We were talking about that the other day, so it's kind of interesting.

Tyler Suiters                      

Well you've got 11-plus months to come up with it before your advanced coverage. Yeah.

Anthony Elio                      

I'm saving that for 2030, too.

Tyler Suiters                      

One remarkable aspect, and I don't use that term lightly, about this particular style of podcast is we've gotten three working journalists during CES show floor hours to sit still in the same place for 30 minutes, and we're especially thankful. Matt Swider with Tech Radar, Dana Wollman with Engadget, Anthony Elio with Innovation & Tech Today, just a blast to talk to you all. Thanks for your time. We really appreciate it.

Dana Wollman                  

Thank you.

Anthony Elio                      

Thank you so much.

Matt Swider                      

Thank you.

Tyler Suiters                      

Thank you. All right, that does it for this edition of CES Tech Talk. A reminder, you can still subscribe to our podcast and catch up on what you may have missed in preparation for CES 2020, and you can also download the CES 2020 app. That way you can check out the panels, the exhibitors, the events that are taking place, and have taken place here at CES 2020. And we hope you'll stay with us for our upcoming episodes as we wrap up the show. As always, none of this is possible without our true stars. Our executive producer, Tina Anthony and our senior studio engineer, John Lindsey, you all are the very best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters, let's talk tech again soon. This edition of CES Tech Talk has been brought to you by Deloitte.

Hanish Patel                      

Hey, Tech Talk listeners. It's Hanish Patel from Deloitte's User Friendly, the podcast where my guests and I explore the latest trends in tech, media, and telecom, and turn them into something a little more user friendly. We just launched season four, and have some exciting topics coming up, from connectivity trends, to sports, through to digital reality. If you enjoy CES tech talks, I highly recommend checking us out wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. Until then, happy listening.

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