BRIAN SANTO: The Consumer Electronics Show has become something so much more than simply a trade show about the latest gadgets we might want to buy. CES is evolving towards being a sort of World’s Fair, showing us wonders of the future that no consumer will ever buy, ranging from AI-augmented farming equipment to autonomous delivery drones to quantum computers.
Today, we’ll be looking at some of the more revelatory events at CES 2022, often in the words of those who made the announcements, with a special focus on the automotive industry.
The Consumer Electronics Show has developed into an event like few others. Once upon a time largely dedicated to consumer electronics, it has expanded to encompass so much more.
CES has become a home for consumer-oriented industries that traditionally haven’t actually sold any electronic equipment to their customers, such as cable TV. It has drawn in companies that were never really part of the electronics industry but are evolving to become part of it. A notable example is the automotive industry. We’ll be talking about that soon.
CES has similarly drawn in companies that were never really considered part of the electronics industry at all, but are evolving into it, but only qualify for CES if you adopt a very, very loose definition of “consumer electronics.” I’m thinking of things like automated farm equipment. And semiconductor manufacturers have been showing up for years; you can’t make the definition of the phrase “consumer electronics” loose enough to include chip companies.
And then there are exhibits of technological marvels that are essentially laboratory curiosities. For the last few years, IBM has been bringing its massive, gleaming, cryo-cooled quantum computer to CES. Even though it’s now a familiar sight, it still looks like a prop from a science fiction film about the distant future.
I suggested at the top of the show that CES has taken on some of the elements of classic World Fairs. World Fairs are events where corporate sponsors try to wow visitors with awe-inspiring imaginings of what the future might bring: videoconferencing systems that let you see your grandparents when you talk to them, or robotic servants, or flying cars.
CES has become a large, annual stage for the industry to wow the world with what’s coming in terms of gadgets that might change our lives. It’s all in the future, so every new doohickey has the potential to change the way we all live. And while some of those thingamajigs might actually succeed, some are inevitably doomed to languish in drawers or garages, while others might barely sell at all.
And that’s the thing about CES. It’s become a forum for hyperbole and hucksterism. It’s where industry executives go to establish their cred as visionaries and gush about how wonderful it will all be.
And that’s what this episode of the Weekly Briefing will be doing. We’ll dip into some of the keynotes and presentations to get a sense not of what will be, but what might be, if the most fervent dreams of electronics industry execs come true.
One of the biggest dreams in recent years has been autonomous driving. This is Ali Kani, the VP and General Manager of Nvidia’s Automotive business, in a video address that debuted at CES.
ALI KANI: I’m here to talk about autonomous vehicles. It’s perhaps the most intense AI challenge, but it’s also one with the greatest benefits to society. It will save lives, make roads less congested, and change the way billions of people move around the world.
BRIAN SANTO: And this is Mary Barra, the CEO of GM.
BRIAN SANTO：還有這位是GM的執行長Mary Barra。
MARY BARRA: GM and Cruise are also pursuing the most comprehensive path to autonomous mobility in the industry, a journey that will accelerate as we transition to EVs. It’s a journey that started in 2016 with the acquisition of Cruise, and then in 2017, when we introduced Supercruise on the Cadillac brand, offering the industry’s first true hands-free driver-assistance technology. Cruise is on a distinct path to a fully autonomous future. Today, Cruise remains the only company able to conduct rides with passengers and without a driver in the City of San Francisco.
BRIAN SANTO: Autonomous vehicles are already out on the roads. And it is true that they have worked remarkably well… until they didn’t. Out in the road, they occasionally did things that ranged from puzzling to dangerous to fatal. Worse yet, nobody can really say why these things were happening.
Regulatory agencies overseeing automotive safety are properly alarmed, and the automotive industry’s reasonable response was to emphasize the development of driver-assist technologies and downplay the talk about autonomous driving. Until they got to CES.
Nvidia, Ford, Intel, GM, Mercedes-Benz and others reaffirmed their commitment to autonomous driving, albeit this time around stressing safety over and over.
Nvidia’s Ali Kani talked about the company’s machine learning system for autonomous driving, which consists of three functional elements: an AI-based software stack running in every individual vehicle, cloud servers, and a simulation environment. Here’s Ali Kani again.
Nvidia的Ali Kani提及該公司用於自動駕駛的機器學習系統，該系統由三個功能要素構成：在每輛車上執行的人工智慧軟體堆疊、雲端伺服器和軟體模擬環境。以下同樣是Ali Kani的發言。
ALI KANI: This machine learning pipeline is never ending. Autonomous driving software will need to continuously develop and improve. New data will be collected and synthetically generated models will be retrained in the data center then validated in simulation before new software is ultimately updated for use on the road.
We’ve created this end-to-end automotive platform and modules so that our partners can use exactly what they need to speed time to market and build a product that can stay true to their brand.
We have some partners that just buy our chips and core operating system while developing their own software applications. Other partners like Mercedes-Benz rely on us across this entire stack. From our self-driving software running on Nvidia drive computers in each car to training AI models in the cloud, synthetic data generation, vehicle validation and testing of new features through simulation, which finally get pushed over the air into each Mercedes Benz vehicle.
我們有些合作夥伴只購買我們的晶片和核心作業系統，同時開發他們自己的軟體應用程式。像是Mercedes-Benz等其他合作夥伴則仰賴我們提供完整堆疊，從執行於每輛車上Nvidia Drive電腦的自動駕駛軟體，到在雲端訓練人工智慧模型、合成資料生成、車輛驗證和透過模擬測試新功能，最終利用空中下載技術傳輸到每輛 Mercedes Benz車中。
Developing an autonomous vehicle requires an entirely new platform architecture and software development process. Both the hardware and software must be comprehensively tested and validated to ensure they can handle the harsh conditions of daily driving with the stringent safety and security needs of an automated vehicle.
BRIAN SANTO: Kani went on to talk about Nvidia’s 8th-generation automotive SoC, the Hyperion 8, a high-powered chip that supports a combination of sensors. He stressed it would provide the highest levels of safety and security. He said it’ll go into production as early as this year. That sounds like a hedge, meaning we might not see it until next year.
BRIAN SANTO：Kani還談到了Nvidia的第8代車用SoC——Hyperion 8，它是一款支援多種感測器組合的高運算能力晶片。他強調，這種晶片可提供最高水準的安全保障。他也表示，該晶片最早會在今年投入生產。這聽起來像在避險，意味著我們可能得等到明年才能看到它問世。
Okay, there’s Kani and Nvidia. Here’s GM’s Mary Barra again. She makes a distinction between autonomous driving — vehicles driving themselves without a human at the wheel — and Supercruise driver-assist technology, which includes vehicles driving themselves with a human at the wheel. GM’s chip supplier, by the way, is Qualcomm.
MARY BARRA: In addition to Cruise’s leadership on full autonomous capability, GM is also working on advanced Driver Assistance technology with Supercruise and Ultracruise. Supercruise has resonated with our customers, with more than 85% of those who experienced the technology telling us they want it in their next vehicle.
More than 10 million miles have been driven using Supercruise. And that number grows every day. We’ll have Supercruise available on 22 models across our GM brands next year, and we’ll add even more each year, ultimately making the technology available across the majority of our portfolio.
BRIAN SANTO: There is a distinction, as Barra pointed out, between fully autonomous driving — a vehicle driving itself — and driver assist — when a human must remain behind the wheel. This is basically the distinction between what’s called Level 4 and Level 5 driving. But it remains unclear from a safety perspective if there’s all that much of a difference between the two.
BRIAN SANTO：正如Barra所說，全自動駕駛(車輛會自行駕駛)和駕駛輔助(必須有人掌控方向盤)之間存在區別。這基本上就是所謂Level 4和Level 5自動駕駛技術之間的區別，但從安全性的角度來看，尚不清楚兩者之間的差異是否類似。
Mobileye is a self-driving technology company owned by Intel; its product line is called EyeQ. It sounds like the letters that stand for Intelligence Quotient, but it’s spelled like the word eye, implying a combination of machine vision and artificial intelligence. At CES, Mobileye announced its EyeQ Ultra, which it called an AV-on-chip, which it said is purpose-built for Level 4 self-driving vehicles.
Mobileye是Intel旗下的自動駕駛技術供應商；其產品線叫做EyeQ，發音接近IQ (Intelligence Quotient)，但拼字則是跟eye相似，含義是機器視覺和人工智慧的結合。在CES，Mobileye發表了EyeQ Ultra晶片，號稱AV-on-chip，據說是專門為Level 4自動駕駛車輛設計的。
Now, Mobileye made no direct statement saying any automotive company is going to be using the new EyeQ Ultra. That said, the company announced at the same time that it will be extending its decade-long collaboration with Ford. We’ll find out soon enough if Mobileye and Ford were signaling that the two are collaborating on Level 4 driving together, or if we’re just inferring that.
目前，Mobileye沒有直接聲明哪家車廠將採用新款EyeQ Ultra晶片。話雖如此，該公司同時也宣佈將延長與Ford十年期的合作。我們很快就會知道Mobileye和Ford是否在暗示它們正合作研究Level 4自動駕駛，又或者只是我們的猜想。
The other big trend in automotive is electric vehicles. Here’s Nvidia’s Kani again:
ALI KANI: The transportation industry is going through a rapid transformation. This change started with a move from internal combustion engines to electric motors. Electric vehicles are not just better for the environment; they fundamentally improve the driving experience for consumers. They drive more quietly, accelerate faster, and they will last longer.
Over the course of the next several decades, we will see the majority of cars sold be electric. This transformation has given way to dozens of new energy vehicle startups. They have reimagined the car, starting with a new vehicle architecture based on programmable software-defined computers.
I’m very pleased to announce that our Drive Hyperion platform has been adopted by leading New Energy Vehicle OEMs in the industry. Volvo established Polestar is bringing a storied heritage of safe driving into the modern era with electric vehicles that emphasize the joy of driving. The upcoming Polestar 3 SUV features a centralized compute architecture powered by Nvidia drive.
我很高興宣佈，我們的Drive Hyperion平台已經被業界領先的新能源車製造商採用。Volvo成立的Polestar品牌正將傳統安全駕駛推向現代，推出著重駕駛體驗的電動車。即將推出的 Polestar 3休旅車款搭載了Nvidia Drive驅動的集中式運算架構。
China, now the world’s largest auto market, has also been very successful driving the transition to NEVs, with nearly 20% of all cars sold in China this past quarter being electric. We’re really excited to work with the vast majority of the leading NEV companies in China, including Neo, Xpeng, Li Auto, R Auto and SAIC’s premium electric vehicle brand, IM. These new electric cars will get better and better over time with each over-the-air update.
中國現在是世界上最大的汽車市場，朝新能源車的轉移也成績斐然；上一季，中國市場銷售的車輛總數中有近20%是電動車。我們很高興能與中國絕大多數領先的新能源車輛業者合作，包括Neo、小鵬汽車(Xpeng)、理想汽車(Li Auto)、R Auto和上汽集團的高端電動汽車品牌IM。隨時間推移，這些新型電動車會逐步透過空中下載技術完成多次更新，從而不斷提高其性能。
BRIAN SANTO: And once again, GM’s CEO, Mary Barra:
BRIAN SANTO：接下來又是GM執行長Mary Barra：
MARY BARRA: We made a crucial decision to invest in a dedicated all-electric vehicle platform that has scale and flexibility that’s designed to provide GMs EV customers with longer range, faster charging times at lower costs, while providing our designers and engineers with the kind of freedom to create vehicles they previously could only dream about. And that’s Ultium, a revolutionary vehicle platform that can be used to make EVs ranging from compact crossovers to trucks to sports cars.
Ultium features a combination of groundbreaking battery architecture, electric propulsion systems, and a common high-energy, chemistry-agnostic battery cell that will power an entire range of next-generation electric vehicles.
The same hardware platform that created a super truck like the GMC Hummer EV will also create the stunning Cadillac Lyric, and soon higher volume entries across the globe, across the spectrum of GM brands that gets us even closer to our vision of a zero-emission and carbon-neutral future.
同一個硬體平台可用以打造像是GMC的Hummer EV這樣的超級越野車，也能打造令人驚艷的Cadillac Lyric，很快會在全球範圍內、GM旗下的各品牌中創造更高的銷量，讓我們朝著未來實現零排放與碳中和未來願景更近一步。
BRIAN SANTO: The transition to electric vehicles seems to be accelerating pretty rapidly. There remain questions about the process. Battery technology is currently reliant on rare earth materials that are in short supply, and much of that supply is controlled by China, which has a thriving EV market at home to cater to. There is constant carping about the lack of recharging infrastructure so far, but that is getting built. The global automotive industry is committed to the transition. All of those caveats are going to be solved one way or another.
* As for the enabling technology, we’ve heard from Nvidia. Qualcomm similarly has an automotive platform and a few key Tier 1 customers. We’ve heard about Mobileye and its AV on a chip.
* Also in conjunction with CES, Infineon also announced a microcontroller supporting driver-assist technology and automotive artificial intelligence applications.
* NXP announced new, better versions of its radar processors.
* Onsemi teamed with a company called Emotion3D, which specializes in camera-based automotive in-cabin analysis software. The two announced a joint reference design for a driver and occupant monitoring system. That’s a newer twist on monitoring systems in that it covers all vehicle passengers, not just the driver. That reference design includes Emotion3D’s software and Onsemi’s image sensor.
* Finally, a company called Aceinna has introduced an inertial navigation technology for the automotive market. The company believes its systems will be unaffected by the different environmental conditions that can variously compromise cameras, lidar and radar.
After going virtual in 2021, CES organizers held a live event this year, but the pandemic that had seemed to be dwindling instead roared back. Exhibitors and attendees began to cancel, a few at a time, and then in a rush. Live photos at CES make the Las Vegas Convention Center look like a ghost town, a particularly polished and tastefully appointed ghost town, but a ghost town nonetheless.
Some people are happy to see the end of live events. As one EE Times reader sniffed, he doesn’t miss the $28 corn dogs and $7 Diet Cokes in the overpriced hotel rooms. Others argue there is plenty of value in live events. Some things do need to be seen and felt. Live conversations can be richer, and the serendipity of chance meetings can’t be quantified.
We’ve got a couple of op-eds on either side of that fence. Visit the web site to check them out.
That concludes this episode of the Weekly Briefing. Thank you for listening.