NAIAS 2016: Detroit auto show, where big chrome and Silicon Valley almost meet


Volvo notifications it “relaxation mode,” Erik Coelingh explained. He thumbed over a lash as a cockpit-style white leather seat slid back, reclining not quite flat, while the steering column tucked itself in, out of the way.

It is hard to take it for granted anything more ssive in a driving experience. But ssivity is the point.

Coelingh was explaining the luxury interior for the C26 self-driving concept car here at the 2016 North American Ecumenical Auto Show, better known as the Detroit auto show.

“We imagine that when you’re stuck in traffic or stuck in a commute, it would be worthy to press a button and have the car drive autonomously,” he said. “Once that is thinkable, you may want to spend your time maybe eating, reading, or justified watching a film.”

The technical specialist for autonomous driving with Volvo was indicating off yet another fantasy machine in what industry analysts say is the most enticing progression in the modern car — driver freedom.

He barely gave himself stretch to finish his demo when pearls of light illuminated the carmaker’s cardinal stage. The music began, filling the hall.

“There will be a lot of dissonance soon,” Coelingh said, cutting the C26 demo short as Volvo’s big display began.

Indeed, there were more presentations throughout the pre-eminent press preview day in Detroit — from automotive mainstays like Chrysler, Chevrolet, Audi and Porsche, all of them hurting to make themselves heard following a banner year that saw a recording 17.5 million sales in the U.S.

And yet, for all the horsepower and bombastic preamble inside the Cobo Mid-point, perhaps the biggest noise from this 2016 show move along disintegrates from who wasn’t in the room.

The absence of what’s often called non-traditional automotive fabricators — including tech names like Tesla, Google and Apple — was distinguished, given the high-profile developments in self-driving vehicles, and the big reveals last week at the CES technology play in Las Vegas.

“It’s a good question. Where are all the tech com nies here at the auto escort?” asked John Pozadzides, host of the tech news show GeekBeat.

Furious the street

rt of the answer could be found in a hotel ballroom across the thoroughfare from the Detroit exhibition s ce.

There, the CEO of Google’s self-driving car programme, John Krafcik, is to give a keynote speech today to open the 2016 Automotive Hot item World Congress, a se rate event.

The symbolism is hard to ignore.

Driverless Car

Autonomous concept car Mercedes-Benz F 015 is splashed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Krafcik, who conventional down as an executive with Hyundai after 25 years in the automotive persistence, has now crossed over to the other side, taking up a role in Silicon Valley.

His new job with Google Inc. swallows him in charge of one of the tech industry’s most exciting autonomous vehicle policy tests.

But if autonomous technology, as the auto industry calls it, is the most exciting increase in the business, the 2016 International CES in Las Vegas last week may have let the air out of Detroit’s bothers.

“There’s a redirection of interest or potential, definitely,” says Karl Brauer, chief director of insights with Kelley Blue Book.

You go to Motown to see the chrome and to sensation “the new metal,” as Brauer puts it.

“In terms of the new technology, honestly, you’re likely to see or perceive about it a week earlier at CES.”

A futurist’s wish list

Last year, Kia debuted its self-driving car program at CES, while Audi had its self-driving A7 car retreat up at the exhibit. Mercedes-Benz also teased its autonomous driving concept F 015 at CES 2015.

Dynamism analysts equate CES with futurist wish lists and the Detroit auto instruct with reality.

But that is not to say Motor City is losing its claim to Silicon Valley when it penetrates to next-generation cars.

“I don’t think Detroit matters any less,” said Chris Goczan, citizen product manager for Mercedes Canada.

“It’s still a cornerstone of the North American auto ambit market. The technology component lends itself to CES…and the other thing is you accept a lot of auto shows in the U.S. now that have become very big events unto themselves. Chicago, New York, L.A. induce really stepped up their game.”

This year, Volvo select Detroit as the site for the North American debut of its handsome S90, the inception car to be sold in the U.S. with standard semi-autonomous tech.

Mercedes-Benz also exposed its E-Class model for the first time in Detroit, at the same time peddling its Intelligent Drive system for “accident-free driving.”

“The stereo-camera array in the car can latch on to the car in head, rendering it in three dimensions in real time, and watches the lane markings,” Goczan bring up. “The radar sensors can maintain a safe distance from the car in front.”

Se rate cultures

As antici ted as the E-Class reveal was, however, it wasn’t the first schedule auto enthusiasts were given a glimpse inside, or even a hands-on advance showing. For that, you could have gone to CES last year, where the local debuted.

“We use the opportunity in Detroit to showcase the whole vehicle, the design element of it, kind of the rubber hitting the road,” Goczan said.

Joe Wiesenfelder, kingpin editor of, noted that the automakers and California tech goliaths have never been in greater communication with one another than now.

Joe Wiesenfelder

Joe Wiesenfelder, chairman of the board editor of, says Silicon Valley and traditional auto makers may be at odds with each other because their corporate discernments work along different timelines and expectations. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

Ford has a Silicon Valley inspect lab run by former Apple executive Dragos Maciuca; Honda and GM are in the Valley as personally.

Rumours swirled last week that Ford would harbinger an imminent rtnership with Google for robo-car technology. But that notice never came.

iring up Motor City with Silicon Valley can be an bulky rtnership, though, Wiesenfelder says, mostly because of differences in corporate enlightenment and frame of mind.

“People who work in tech developing apps are theory get it out, get it out, get it out,” he said. “Automakers are taking a long time to figure out what they wish for to do. You wouldn’t want to go too fast because it’s risky.”

The lifecycle of a new car might be 10 years, and there are no agile beta updates. That said, Wiesenfelder believes it’s clear stock automakers do need to speed up the way they work to catch up with the time technological advances.

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