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Connected-vehicle technologies and their applications and implications are part of expert-panel discussions at CES this year. Shown is the "Beyond Smart Cities" panel at CES '16.

CES 2017: Automotive suppliers eclipsing OEMs in advanced tech

Development of advanced mobility technologies is increasingly being driven by suppliers, rather than OEMs. And megadeals worth at least $500 million that are behind a growing number of next-gen technologies may reach the highest level since before the Great Recession.

That’s the view from Las Vegas, as the 2017 CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) opens to over 160,000 attendees including engineers, product planners and policymakers. The annual trade show, presented by the Consumer Technology Assoc. and not open to the public, continues to challenge global motor shows as the “first look” showcase for future mobility solutions—everything from more powerful chipsets for faster data processing, to new sensors, software, user experience and complete vehicle systems.

The 2017 show, spread out over 212,000 ft2 of floor space, is even a stage for complete vehicle debuts: This year Chinese start-up EV maker Faraday Future will once again reveal a new vehicle. Another newcomer, Lucid Motors, will have top engineers demonstrating its Air luxury electric sedan concept. The CEOs of Ford and Nissan will give addresses, and FCA will participate at CES for the first time.

Major electronics-focused Tier 1s including Bosch, Continental, Delphi, Valeo and ZF TRW use CES to both demonstrate their latest products to customers on the show floor and on public roads. They also use the event to meet privately with start-up innovators bringing their latest developments to the global market. SAE International holds a day-long Connected Car technology session, as well, amid many other panel discussions and expert presentations.

Autoliv, Clarion, Delphi, IAV, Gentex, Mitsubishi Electric, Navya, NVIDIA, NXP and Renesas also will have engineers and other experts on hand with product demos.

CES is having an undeniable influence on planning at the world’s traditional auto shows, which have scrambled to add their own advanced electronics and connected-vehicle adjuncts, such as the Connected Car Expo at the L.A. Auto Show and the new Automobili-D component of the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“Most major automakers will participate in CES this year—Audi and General Motors are the notable absentees,” observed industry analyst Gerald Conover. “The supply community really has center stage for the automotive portion of CES. Everyone who is anyone is taking part,” he noted.

Conover, who publishes the insider weekly Car Smart Industry News focusing on intelligent vehicle systems, V2X and vehicle electrification, will be looking at key emerging trends at CES such as: User Experience (UX) including the human-machine interface and vehicle cabin configurations and solid-state LiDAR which he believes is a “key to acceptable design and packaging of autonomous vehicle (AV) sensors.”

Holographics and the practical use of Microsoft’s HoloLens, cockpit displays aimed at minimizing driver distraction, advances in virtual reality and Biometrics for both security and drowsy driver detection are other areas of Conover’s attention at CES ’17.

A growing number of analysts believe the industry’s technology center-of-gravity has, for the most part, already shifted in favor of the global Tier 1s as vehicle electrification, autonomous driving and advanced chassis and safety technologies continue to make up a greater percentage of new-vehicle value. Their OEM customers, by comparison, are responsible for body structure engineering and development, conventional combustion-type propulsion systems, and systems integration.

“The convergence of consumer and automotive tech is a risk worth monitoring,” Conover noted. “Some high-margin niches could become more crowded and therefore less lucrative.”

He said the major Tier 1s “seem less vulnerable to disruption than their clients,” as most have intellectual property that will end up in electric vehicles, whoever makes them.

“The real winners from tech changes in the auto industry will most likely be the tech-savvy suppliers,” Conover opined.

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