CES 2021 looked very different this year – crowded exhibit halls were replaced by virtual demos and keynotes, and the throngs of industry and media were gathered around computer screens instead of prototypes.
Despite the all-virtual environment, there was no shortage of exciting technologies and innovations. CES 2021 saw Michigan companies and MICHauto investors breaking new ground in the vehicle technology and mobility spaces, demonstrating a variety of products that will help move the world in the coming decades.
Each year, CES honors the ‘the best of the best’ with The Best of Innovation award given to the highest rated products in each of the show’s 28 categories. This year, Waymo received a Best of Innovation award in the Vehicle Intelligence and Transportation category for their Fifth-Generation Waymo Driver technology, a self-driving technology that can be applied to multiple platforms. This system is scalable, and can be deployed across a variety of categories, including ride sharing, trucking, last mile delivery and personal vehicles. This latest iteration of the Waymo Driver utilizes a redesigned hardware sensor suite that is, according to the company, “informed by 20 million self-driven miles on public roads and over 10 billion miles of simulation, engineered to tackle an even more diverse range of complex driving environments with unparalleled capabilities.”
CES also saw two Michigan-based automotive OEMs enter into the air mobility conversation, specifically around vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) technologies. FCA (now Stellantis) announced an agreement with Archer on an all-electric (or eVTOL) aircraft, while Cadillac showed off their own air mobility concept.
The FCA/Archer agreement allows Archer to access FCA’s supply chain, materials, engineering and design capabilities as they work to scale production of their aircraft, which is expected to be unveiled sometime this year. “Electrification within the transportation sector, whether on roads or in the air, is the future, and with any new and rapidly developing technology, scale is important,” said Doug Ostermann, Vice President and Head of Global Business Development of FCA. “Our partnership with Archer has mutual benefits and will enable innovative, environmentally friendly transportation solutions to be brought to market at an accelerated pace.”
Meanwhile, Cadillac revealed renderings and animations for the Cadillac Vertical Take-off and Landing vehicle, one of two Halo concepts the iconic brand revealed during CES. Michael Simcoe, GM’s vice president of global design, showed off the technology during company Chairman and CEO Mary Barra’s keynote on January 12. While still very much in the concept stage, the high-tech look and feel of the VTOL are sure to drive conversations about bringing personal air travel to the masses.
The Cadillac concepts were not GM’s only significant announcements from the show. The automaker announced BrightDrop, a new business that will offer “a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” said Barra. The Brightdrop ecosystem will include the EP1 (a propulsion-assisted electric pallet) and the EV600 (an electric light commercial vehicle), as well as software services and asset and fleet management services.
On Michigan’s west coast, Holland-based GHSP introduced personal vehicle capabilities for their grēnlite™ line of UV-C treatment products. The grēnlite™ system recognizes when a surface has been used and can automatically emit a dose of UV-C light to clear the air or surface of harmful pathogens, killing 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. The technology, which is already in use in emergency services and mass transit vehicles, will be particularly useful in the shared mobility space as users begin the return to schools and offices.
Beyond the new look and feel of the show itself, CES 2021 kicked off a year that will be unlike any other. As the world continues to respond and rebound from the pandemic, Michigan companies are continuing to capture imaginations and drive world-changing innovations.