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What I Saw at CES: Innovations in Car Safety

Jeff Urbanchuck

Any visitor walking through the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center (LVCC) last month could be forgiven for wondering if they were really at CES or had instead stumbled upon a car show. The 2014 International CES saw a record level of participation from automakers. Even companies not traditionally considered in the automotive space had something to offer. NVidia showcased its Tegra k1 super chip that will power Audi’s piloted drive system and usher in a new generation of dash mounted graphical interfaces.  Livio demonstrated Livio Connect API, a new protocol to enable third party apps and mobile operating systems to seamlessly communicate with a car’s stereo. Mercedes showed off its Predictive User Experience concept. Plantronics and Vox International showcased their hands-free technologies and many others highlighted aftermarket safety add-ons like blind spot indicators and integrated front and rear view cameras.
It was an amazing sight to see such a diverse set of companies working to innovate the technologies that will put the connected car on America’s roads and help consumers improve the safety of the cars they already own. But the truly important part isn’t so much the technology being demonstrated, but the way it is being developed. At every panel and keynote involving car technology, the idea of safety dominated the discussion. Another recurring theme focused on the importance of cooperation between the automotive sector and the consumer electronics industry to bring the next generation of cars to reality.
The evolution of the connected car has seen a shift in focus away from thinking about how hardware development can drive innovation towards how software can make design more flexible. Designers and engineers are thinking about how best to seamlessly integrate the devices consumers own into the driving experience. This changing dynamic will require auto manufacturers and OEM suppliers to coordinate with the consumer electronics industry to ensure the cars they produce take advantage of leading-edge innovations in software and mobile device technology.
The good news for consumers is that the level of coordination between these two industries is happening like never before. CEA is leading the effort to foster this cooperation through its Driver Device Interface Working Group and its Innovating Safety campaign that highlights for consumers the products CEA members make to reduce distraction and improve safety. The enthusiasm for the Innovating Safety campaign could be seen throughout CES by the number of companies displaying a “proud partner” placard at their booths.
Innovations in safety and convenience by the automotive and consumer electronics industry were on full display at CES 2014. As regulators in Washington, D.C. begin to take a second look at the use of electronics in cars, they would benefit by taking into account what the private sector is already doing to address driver safety and let innovators continue to do what they do best: move technology forward. 

For more on car safety innovations, dheck out our Safe Driving Highlights from the 2014 International CES.