CES 2021 Vehicle Tech Was All About the Digital Experience

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By Maite Bezerra | 1Q 2021 | IN-6061

The Vehicle Tech segment at CES 2021 was marked by announcements of large displays with seamless HMI, AI-based infotainment systems that provide increased personalization, ADAS sensors like DMS and OMS being used to create infotainment experiences, and a strong focus on media streaming and gaming features. As the key enabler of the functionalities mentioned above, centralized cockpit architecture was nearly ubiquitous among Tier 1 and premium OEM announcements. Mercedes MBUX Hyperscreen, the biggest display built in a production Mercedes and which will debut in the Mercedes EQS electric saloon, was one of the show's highlights—demonstrating that the digital experience has become carmakers' priority. Below is a look at emerging trends and the opportunities they will drive for companies involved in the infotainment ecosystem.

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Vehicle Tech Highlights

NEWS


The Vehicle Tech segment at CES 2021 was marked by announcements of large displays with seamless HMI, AI-based infotainment systems that provide increased personalization, ADAS sensors like DMS and OMS being used to create infotainment experiences, and a strong focus on media streaming and gaming features. As the key enabler of the functionalities mentioned above, centralized cockpit architecture was nearly ubiquitous among Tier 1 and premium OEM announcements. Mercedes MBUX Hyperscreen, the biggest display built in a production Mercedes and which will debut in the Mercedes EQS electric saloon, was one of the show's highlights—demonstrating that the digital experience has become carmakers' priority. Below is a look at emerging trends and the opportunities they will drive for companies involved in the infotainment ecosystem.

Major Infotainments Announcements

IMPACT


Mercedes announced the new MBUX Hyperscreen, a 55.5-inch panel comprised of a 12.3-inch dashboard display, a 13.3-inch passenger display, and a 17.7-inch central display merged in a Gorilla glass surface. The displays are designed to look like a single entity. The Hyperscreen is composed of 12 actuators for haptic feedback, can store up to 7 profiles for high content personalization, and is activated via gesture, speech, or touch. AI and machine learning are the central elements of the display, which promises to deliver next-level HMI with its "zero layer" concept. This allows more than 20 functionalities, such as navigation and message applications, to be always available on the top level in the field of vision. The AI algorithms select the functionalities to automatically display according to user preferences. Additionally, the company announced Travel Knowledge, powered by Cerence, that allows users to interact with Points of Interest (POI) outside the vehicle via the voice assistant. The user can look at a nearby landmark or a shop and ask "Tell me more about that castle?" or "What is that café on my left?" The technology uses environment reconstruction, car sensor data, and existing hardware to deliver POI information along the road.

Mercedes EQS

Panasonic, Bosch, and LG highlighted their commitment to expanding the state of their cockpit domain controller business as an increasing number of OEMs—including mid-range and mass-market ones—look to implement the architecture in their fleet. Media streaming, streaming of different content in different displays simultaneously, and gaming are the applications mostly emphasized by these companies. 

During the CES week, Harman showcased how its core technologiesdigital cockpit, telematics, audio, cloud-based software services, and ADAS—can be used in three experience concepts: Gaming Intense Max, Creator Studio, and Drive-Live Concert. For instance, in the Creator Studio concept, immersive sound, interior lighting, virtual assistant service, and internal cameras are used to provide an ideal environment for working tasks or creating content. At the core of the demonstrations was the company's goal to utilize sensors typically just seen in the safety context to create infotainment experiences. For instance, DMS and OMS cameras are used to stream live games, record videos, and perform video conferences. Gaming Intense Max should be the latest concept to be deployed in production vehicles due to its complex requirements.

After CES, but still in January, Tesla unveiled the new Model S. The vehicle is equipped with ten teraflops of processing power, equating in-car gaming to the latest gaming consoles (e.g., PS5 and Xbox Series X), via Tesla Arcade. Wireless controller compatibility allows gaming from any seat.

From these announcements, the clear emerging trends are larger displays, repurposing mandated ADAS sensors (e.g., DMS) and existing hardware to provide infotainment experiences to minimize OME sunk costs, high integration between the vehicle cockpit and ADAS domains, AI-based infotainment functionalities, and high power-consuming media features. This will drive opportunities for:

  • Tier Ones with well-developed cockpit domain controller offerings,
  • chipset providers with scalable offerings that provide excedent computing power to support streaming and OTA updates,
  • middleware companies with solutions that support streaming of different content on different screens and that can offer attractive content provider deals to OEMs, and  
  • DMS and OMS software providers ready to expand the scope of their solutions' use cases.
     

Infotainment Moving Forward

RECOMMENDATIONS


Three front screens and large-scale displays will become the norm in the premium spectrum as vehicles are becoming more and more infotainment-oriented. ”Hyperscreens” will not filter down into lower-tiered automobiles due to their high costs and the required high computing power. For instance, Mercedes Hyperscreen architecture consists of eight CPU cores, 24 gigabytes of RAM, and 46.4 gigabytes per second RAM bandwidth. Moreover, sophisticated software development is required to display different content in the three front seat displays.

Considering the Tier One and Tesla announcements, gaming is set to be the application of the year. However, it is worth highlighting that it is challenging to deploy, as it demands high computational requirements, high bandwidth, near real-time response, and sensor fusion. Moreover, use cases today are limited to EVs parked in charging stations with available Wi-Fi connection.

In general, CES 2021 demonstrated that carmakers are becoming more closely associated with the digital cockpit experience. Engine, driving performance, and other traditional elements will become less relevant when most vehicles on the road are electric, and L2 autonomy is more widely adopted. In this context, the digital experience becomes a critical element. This has been clearly demonstrated by Tesla, which has heavily focused on vehicle entertainment to reduce the pain of waiting for the vehicle to charge, and Mercedes' decision to launch its Hyperscreen on an EV (EQS).

More infotainment upgrade announcements are expected as the infotainment landscape is predicted to change dramatically from 2021 onward, with Google entering the mass market (e.g., Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, GM, and Ford) and premium spaces (e.g., Volvo and Polestar). OEMs have to look for ways to differentiate their solutions, especially in the premium spectrum, with a more sophisticated user experience and higher sensor integration. The above announcements suggest that OEMs could achieve this differentiation by:

  • speeding up the time-to-market of large-scale displays by merging digital and analog design, i.e., three displays blending and looking like one large screen;
  • AI-based functionalities that use sensor fusion input to foster the driver experience; and
  • high processing capabilities that allow for differentiated media features, such as gaming.

 

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