Car makers rarely acknowledge their suppliers. Credit for the car and the technology on board usually goes to the brand, not the hundreds of suppliers that make it possible.
That thinking, however, goes out of the window at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and this year’s partly physical, mostly online event reinforced that to a greater degree than previous years as car brands announced new partnerships with tech companies.
Car shows may be on the wane, but car brands have stuck with CES as they showcase technology in their bid to become less about horsepower and more about computer power.
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Partnerships announced or reinforced this year included Stellantis and Amazon, Renault and Volvo with chip designer Qualcomm, Volvo and lidar company Luminar and BMW with Faurecia’s app store, dubbed Aptoide.
New metal also forms a small part of the event, and concept cars launched this year included the slippery Mercedes-Benz EQXX 621-mile electric concept and the Chrysler Airflow, signalling a new EV future for Stellantis’s US brand. Sony also hinted again it was getting into the car-making game by revealing an SUV to go with the saloon that it showed in 2020.
But mostly the automotive companies used the event to focus on the technology that powers the innovations of the future. And that becomes a lot more impactful if you’re partnering with a big tech name who, let’s face it, is also probably valued far higher by the stock market.
Stellantis, for example, majored on its new partnership with Amazon, which will help deliver software for the previously announced STLA Smart Cockpit, due to roll out in 2024. The system will come with built-in Alexa voice control and better versions of voice control, in-vehicle apps and payment services.
Amazon will also become Stellantis’s preferred cloud provider for its platforms. The plan is that much of the car’s software in future is held in the cloud and delivered to the car via ever more reliable and quicker data transfer, rather than being embedded into the car’s brain.
“Our partnership is focused on delivering as many experiences as possible, cloud-first, so you don’t have to do traditional over-the-air updates,” said Ned Curic, Stellantis chief technology officer (and former head of Alexa Automotive at Amazon). “We're leapfrogging the way people think about cabin experience and software."
Renault was also extolling the virtues of a cloud-based software during its announcement of an R&D partnership with US-based Qualcomm, which made its name in smartphone chips but is now making waves in the automotive world powering ever more complex dashboard screens and other in-car tech.