The 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), is officially starting today despite difficulties with COVID-19 and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. With the automotive industry making a long pivot toward “mobility” and away from just making cars and car parts, CES has become an auto technology showcase that is replacing the traditional auto show. 

Several automotive titans are exhibiting at the show: BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, Toyota, Valeo, ZF, Bridgestone, Waymo, and shock car debutant Sony. Most have ditched in-person exhibits in favor of virtual ones and live streams, with the situation changing constantly. Even without a physical presence at the show, automakers are planning to show us plenty of interesting technology, along with major suppliers like Bosch and ZF who do a good amount of engineering and development on their own. Even Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is making an appearance at the show.

While it is kneecapped, CES is still playing host to the technical innovations of the previous year and beyond. Here is everything that might be of interest to car people.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.

What Happened

CES began with several virtual and physical previews on January 4 that revealed new concepts and technologies from automakers. Running from January 5-7, CES still has plenty in store, though the important news stuff generally happens on the first couple of days of any show. 

So far, we’ve seen Mercedes-Benz reveal the EQXX prototype car that is claimed to be the most efficient car Mercedes has ever made with a drag coefficient of 0.18. The average car has a Cd of 0.30. BMW plans to livestream the reveal of the iX M60 on January 5, Toyota is revealing its Boshoku smart city concept via livestream, General Motors will virtually reveal the Silverado EV, and Stellantis will display several cars from its umbrella of companies in a virtual show that includes the Citroën Ami, the Chrysler Airflow concept, the new Fiat 500, and the the DS Automobiles Formula E car. 

Automotive tier 1 supplier ZF is virtually showcasing Level 3 and Level 2+ autonomous driving tech along with brand-new EV battery inverter technology, while Bosch eBike Systems is virtually unveiling its electrified bicycles as a mobility solution. Valeo will have a “reduced on-site presence” while offering interviews about its advanced drivers assistance technologies. 

More interestingly, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will make an appearance to talk about the future of transportation. What exactly that means isn’t made clear, though there will likely be discussion of the infrastructure bill, as well as future mobility plans on a legislative level. 

Finally, Sony has unveiled that it will be making cars under a new division called Sony Mobility Incorporated, with the Vision-S 02 making a surprise debut.

Electric Silverado, Sony Cars, And All the Automotive News To Watch for at CES This Week

Why It Matters

CES has become a new type of auto show that automakers use to showcase new technologies and frankly make themselves seem more tech-forward and young than they actually are. Regardless of perception, CES has become a show to pay attention to for the auto industry. 

The major reveals are notable for any enthusiast. The super-efficient Mercedes-Benz EQXX is like a super-Volkswagen XL1 with four doors, and it is a driveable prototype. To my eyes, it looks strangely complete. 

GM revealing the Silverado EV at CES also shifts quite a bit of weight away from the traditional auto show directly onto CES. The Silverado EV, like the Ford F-150 Lightning, is a product that will define GM’s product planning for the next decade and start shaping the EV wars into all-out battle.

BMW also opted to ignore auto shows and unveil the iX M60, another landmark electric product from a major automaker. This, along with the i4, are going to form the backbone of BMW’s North American EV strategy. 

The most shocking debut is Sony coming out of the gloom with an all-new car division and new Vision-S 02 concept SUV. Though the Vision-S 01 sedan has been spotted testing on public roads, I don’t think anybody believed Sony was serious until this was revealed. We may just see a Sony car on the roads in the medium-to-near term.

The point is that CES is now the show to pay attention to for any products that look toward the future. Plenty of annoying buzzwords like “mobility” are thrown around, but no-bullshit major reveals are slowly pouring into an electronics show. For now, the enthusiast angle isn’t quite there. I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in just a few years with sports cars becoming increasingly electrified.

What To Look For Next

CES will run from January 5-7, with most livestreams happening on January 5. The show is proceeding at mostly full speed even with the looming threat of the Omicron variant, with a fair amount of exhibitors choosing to go virtual. 

It seems like we won’t miss anything, with everyone making quick pivots. All that’s left now is to watch a lot of livestreams and absorb the plethora of new vehicles that will be unveiled in Las Vegas.

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