Gartner Analysts were on the ground at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, earlier this month. We got in touch with Michael Ramsey, Research Director, Gartner to learn about the latest vehicle tech trends in the automotive sector. The big trend this year was virtual assistants like Alexa, that are getting integrated into car navigation, controls, and entertainment systems. And autonomous cars are still a long way off from becoming pervasive and common on our roads. Here’s an update.
DC: What were the big trends that you saw in the automotive space and vehicle technology at CES 2019?
Michael Ramsey: Each year at CES is a progression. Very little is totally new, but the emphasis in 2019 fell heavily on the integration of virtual assistants into vehicles and the proliferation of very large screens into the design. Alexa is gaining ground as a built-in voice-assistant that can do its normal skills, but also control the vehicle itself, from turning on the heat to changing the radio.
DC: How far away are we from seeing self-driving cars on our roads? Especially in crowded cities?
Michael Ramsey: Car companies and tech companies alike seemed to back off, of near-term goals for autonomy. While advancements continue, there still are big challenges to overcome, including getting sensors ready for production, designing platforms that are redundant and getting government approval to operate. Executives from Toyota, Nissan and Waymo all seemed to caution that autonomy is not around the corner for wide deployment.
DC: What’s the next big thing in vehicle tech?
Michael Ramsey: The next big thing will be the skills, capabilities and ecosystem that develops around the car after most vehicles begin shipping with always-on connectivity. Much like the smart phone creating entire new ecosystems and apps, the connectivity in vehicles, along with better operating systems to run them on, like Android, will change the experience inside the car.
DC: We are reading a lot about voice assisted driving and virtual assistants like Alexa being integrated into car navigation systems. Can you update us?
Michael Ramsey: Alexa is indeed being integrated into the navigation systems and even will give proactive prompts to tell the driver of issues coming up ahead. I see the VPA in the car as a major new technology affecting the industry.
DC: How will 5G technology be used in cars?
Michael Ramsey: It will be used to lower the cost of data transmission from the vehicle and to enable low-latency vehicle-to-vehicle communication. 5G is not necessary, but it useful and will help expand the internet of things in the automotive realm.
DC: What are the primary concerns about safety — both for pedestrians and drivers? How is the industry responding?
Michael Ramsey: Toyota, in particular, talked a lot about its efforts to improve the passive safety features on vehicles. These features, such as automatic emergency braking or lane-keeping, along with other capabilities are becoming more common and improving in capability. Eventually, a car may become quite difficult to crash.