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Detroit Auto Show 2015: Showcasing Smart

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Wednesday Jan. 14th is the Industry Preview for the North American International Auto ShowNorth American International Auto Show (NAIAS) (aka "Detroit Auto Show") but today is the first Press Preview day and it's been an exciting opening in Detroit already. On the heels of CES and all the impressive auto-infotainment and "Connected Car" news (see this blog by Smith's Todd Traylor from the CES floor), there's still more to see as 2015 auto industry blazes new trails.

CES and Detroit set auto's smart tone

As has now become almost standard, the automotive OEMs were out in force at CES last week in Las Vegas, with 10 hosting booths and showcasing the latest technology advances for their upcoming fleet. This week we learn more about the new vehicle line-ups and visions for the auto industry. Smart cars are advancing and are definitely the new norm – we saw a number of safety improvements, driver assistance warning and guidance features, as well connectivity and wireless charging. Of interest is the intersect of municipal traffic lights and SmartCity with SmartCars that can adjust (or recommend) ultimate speeds to avoid stopping at lights and thereby improve efficiency and pollution from idling. Likely to see implementation in Europe first, this technology opens great opportunities for future municipal level growth for the semiconductor industry.

One of the auto-tech carry-overs from CES that we're seeing in Detroit is Audi's Virtual Cockpit to be available in their new Q7 late 2015 in Europe and 2016 in North America, as reviewed by Autoweek:

Inside, the new car will get more standard features: Look for the Audi Virtual Cockpit you may have seen at CES to be standard in the new Q7 with that cool reconfigurable instrumnt panel and larger, higher-resolution (1440x540) main screen. You can also get a head-up display and Audi's 3D sound, another item first shown at CES. The Bang & Olufsen audio will feature up to 23 speakers and 1920 watts of power.

There is quite a bit of excitement in auto tech right now, not just as tech features have gained in consumer prominence as among the top-demanded features and brand distinguishers, but also with a rebound in auto sales. Along with the positive rebound in sales though, comes an increase in competition for market share. The positive side for consumers and for the semiconductor and electronics industry is an increase in exciting new auto-tech.

Innovation for auto-tech is high and driving great synergies between our industries. While some features are also driving up costs for cars, such as with Audi's line, those are actually positives for auto OEMs and could bode well for semi too. Cost is still an issue for auto when it comes to purchasing power and supply chain weight in semi, as Smith's Jamie Treinen discussed recently in Electronics Purchasing Strategies. However, innovation still reigns and collaboration is increasing. For example, as we saw at CES and again in Detroit, what last year took almost an entire cargo area for Audi to support the computing hardware to run a driverless car, this year took about the size of a tablet circuit board, as Autoweek discussed.

More unveiled in Detroit

In Detroit we expect to see these features extended beyond smart tech advances beyond parking, seamless navigation, and smart driving and into improved fuel efficiency, safety, and the latest in EV and Hybrids as well as the supercar dreams. One of the carry-overs from CES is the improvements in range for EV cars, now pushing 200 miles (such as the new Chevy Bolt EV concept) which challenges Tesla's capabilities but at a lower price.

On the less techy side, we are seeing a real increase in aluminum in the bodies of vehicles which is reducing average weight by 300-500 pounds directly addressing the demands for increased fuel efficiency. With these material changes, increased stability is an issue but is handled by the increases in on-board computing and powerful processors working to quickly adjust and offset these challenges.

Safety, efficiency, connectivity, and improved experiences are the name of the game but with auto's surge in sales this year (over 1 million more cars sold in 2014, year-over-year) these differentiators, along with style and body are high on the auto OEMs' lists. At the auto show, we're seeing this front and center with new concept cars and many more advances that are destined for the showroom floor too.


Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Tuesday, 13 January 2015 14:00 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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