Rebranded Autotech: Detroit conference focuses on connectivity, ADAS and autonomy

Rebranded Autotech: Detroit conference focuses on connectivity, ADAS and autonomy

Previously known as TU-Automotive (the “TU” was short for “telematics update”), Autotech: Detroit brought together thousands of attendees and hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors for a two-day show in suburban Detroit in early June. Keynotes, sessions and many of the discussions on the show floor emphasized the importance of connectivity and autonomy – whether partial or full – for vehicles in both production and development stages. The era of vehicles being datacenters on wheels is here, and vehicle technology vendors must strive to make that transition as smooth as possible to bring value to the industry.

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Autotech: Detroit 2022 was a two-day confab that took place in Novi, Michigan, on June 8-9. The show had about 50 exhibitors and 2,000 attendees, with Informa PLC estimating that about one-quarter of the audience was from automakers, often called original equipment manufacturers, and another one in five from tier 1 automotive parts suppliers. Sponsors were mainly technology, media and telecom providers to the automotive industry: telcos like AT&T Inc., T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.; connected and autonomous vehicle technology vendors such as SiriusXM Holdings Inc., TomTom N.V., Green Hills Software and HERE Technologies; and industry service providers such as Toptal, Tata Elxsi Ltd. and Grape Up.

Popular topics: connectivity and autonomy

While sessions touched on all the different aspects of the well-known mobility CASE acronym – connected, autonomous, shared and electric – it seemed as though connected and autonomous vehicle technologies were the main focus. That makes sense, as those two topics will be main drivers in the conversation of the future of mobility.

ADAS is growing in popularity, but still has a way to go. About three in 10 consumers said that their vehicles do not have driver-assist technology and that it is unlikely that their next one would, according to 451 Research’s Endpoints & IoT, Connected Car (Population Representative), Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Autonomy 2H 2021. The truth is that number is likely even less than the survey indicates, in part due to how different consumers define driver-assist technology. All new vehicles in the U.S. must come with a backup camera, for example, and that is considered ADAS.

About three in 10 consumers said that their vehicles do not have driver-assist technology.

Consumer comfort with autonomy is another question. Only 14% of respondents said that they would be comfortable with so-called driver-out autonomy – that is, autonomy where there is no need for a backup human driver. What is more, nearly one in four still said that they want no autonomy at all, which would mean no driver-assist technologies.

How Consumers Feel About Autonomous Vehicles

During one session, HERE Technologies discussed some of the many challenges in transitioning from driver-assisted technology to complete autonomy, with no humans behind the wheel. Perception sensors can fail, and so autonomous vehicle technology companies must have a failsafe in place, either with sensor redundancy or – as HERE would naturally suggest – nonsensor location technology. Similarly, autonomous vehicle technology must plan for the route ahead, which requires data beyond what perception sensors can provide. Having up-to-date road, traffic and weather conditions on the route ahead can assist those autonomous vehicle journeys.

Several keynotes and sessions explored the future of connected vehicle services – payment services, infotainment and customized cabin features. OEM Stellantis discussed its partnership with Inc. for STLA SmartCockpit for future vehicles. The offering will have a user interface that includes inputs for touch, voice, glances and gestures, and will be able to provide services like navigation, joining conference calls, augmented reality capabilities, enabling vehicle functions (such as defrosting the windshield), and e-commerce payments.

SiriusXM Holdings Inc., along with government representatives from Orange County in California and the state of Michigan, talked about a future that includes automated, dynamic and digital tolling, as well as services to find and pay for parking and refueling/recharging. Finally, AT&T talked about its in-vehicle Wi-Fi – paid for as an add-on to a standard cellular data plan – that can enable streaming media and gaming to passengers in the car. The company provides a rotating schedule of special programming only available to customers with that add-on, as a lure to pay beyond a standard data plan.

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