The automotive sector’s presence at CES continues to grow, with nearly 300 exhibitors in the dedicated West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center at this year’s event, Jan. 5-8, making it one of the largest auto shows in the world. What’s more, automotive and mobility innovations extended beyond the West Hall as concept cars, EVs, connected vehicles and autonomous mobility took center stage at several booths belonging to companies not traditionally seen in the auto space.
Sony showcased an EV prototype, as part of its new joint venture with Honda; Google brought a BMW i7 and a Volvo EX90 inside its booth to demonstrate Android Auto and Google connectivity features; Siemens tested attendees with its PAVE360 digital twin autonomous driving experience; and the United States Postal Service showed off its upcoming electric Next Generation Delivery Vehicle.
Where cars were on display, the crowds followed, making their way to the front of a concept vehicle for a photo or waiting their turn to explore the features inside the next big EV to hit the road. Read on to discover how five automotive brands engaged CES 2023 attendees with their latest technologies fueling the future of mobility.
More CES 2023 Coverage:
- Reddit’s CES Experience Immerses Brands in its Early-adopter Audiences
- Canon Partners with M. Night Shyamalan for a ‘Knock at the Cabin’ Booth at CES
Outside the convention center, BMW set up a large minimalist booth with messages, “The Ultimate Companion” and “Re:Imagine Tomorrow,” as well as its iconic logo, lining the top of its exterior walls.
Through a nondescript, doorless entrance, attendees got a first look of the main event: the color-changing BMW i Vision Dee, seen via openings between mirrored vertical slats. For a full view of the car, attendees had to follow a yellow-brick road of sorts through the booth, passing more messaging touting “A Journey to the Ultimate Companion.” Videos on tablets along the path teased Dee (Digital Emotional Experience) with various emoji faces and the voice of the “ultimate companion” introducing herself as the car’s emotionally intelligent “digital soul” that interacts with and adapts to drivers.
Past a bright yellow curtain matching the exact shade of the path, attendees made their way into BMW’s #NEXTGen showroom, featuring two concept cars: a pristine white and yellow-accented version of the BMW i Vision Dee, and the color-changing mid-size sedan that cycled through 32 colors, often mixing them for unique patterns that even extended to the tire rims. Both were surrounded by attendees several rows deep, waiting to get up to the front of the stanchion or reaching their arms above the crowd to snap a photo. The BMW iX Flow with E Ink technology digitally changing the car’s appearance gathered the biggest audience.
As attendees filtered out of the black box space, one last message sent them off: “Goodbye in this Reality.” A patio area outside offered a coffee bar and ample bean bag seating with low-standing tables for attendees to get comfortable and hang out as a dj pumped out music. Just down the patio steps, attendees could explore two all-new BMW 7 Series sedans and then sign up to take one on a test drive.
Strolling down the West Hall’s aisles, it was hard to miss Caterpillar’s booth, as a huge yellow 100-ton Cat 777 off-highway truck took over the 6,300-square-foot space. Triple the size of neighboring vehicles on display, the truck, used for construction and mining, was so wide and tall that it was almost impossible to get a full view of it. Attendees had to circle the truck and crane their necks up to take in its various ladders, mechanisms and enormous truck bed, inside of which participants engaged with an augmented reality iPad experience to learn about Cat technologies’ impact on mining and construction industries.
Caterpillar set up four themed experiences to guide attendees through the booth: “Big Solutions” on developing advanced technologies, “Big Innovation” on autonomous mining, “Big Responsibility” on sustainability, and “Big Opportunities” on the people creating the company’s high-tech solutions. A recruiting lounge offered information on available tech jobs and an opportunity to interview on the spot for a position at Caterpillar.
Attendees could try their hand at operating Cat Command technologies in real time, using two remote operating stations connected to equipment hundreds of miles away in Arizona and Illinois. One station remotely operated a Cat large dozer, while the second remotely connected to a Cat excavator. Participants sat in cushioned seats with multiple screens stacked in front of them showing the views from the machines. They then took over steering, gears and accelerating/decelerating with their hand controls.
Caterpillar experts were standing by to help operate the live machines and share more about how these autonomous technologies take operators out of the cab and allow them to work from a safe environment at a distance.
Togg’s “Digital Mobility Garden” brought nature indoors in one of the most eye-catching and interactive booths in the West Hall. Starting from a booth corner, wood slats hung from the ceiling and descended into longer pieces, creating a symmetrical triangle look for its entrance. Wood slats were also incorporated into walls opposite the entrance to give passersby a peek inside. Plants in pots and mulch beds, as well as a wall of greenery, created the garden atmosphere. Water features built into the ground and highlighted with blue lights had attendees doing a double take to stop themselves from splashing their shoes with a misstep.
Lighting played a big role in bringing to life the Turkish automotive company’s “brighter vision for the future” and immersing attendees in a blue-tinted tranquil environment that contrasted the convention center’s harsh fluorescent lights. Several color-changing light poles were suspended above the booth space in curved formations, and a large screen extending the length of the booth’s back wall rotated through landscapes and Togg’s product messaging.
Four experience pillars came together in the “Digital Mobility Garden,” engaging attendees with Togg’s solutions for sustainable and connected mobility. Starting with the sensory choose-your-own-adventure “Beyond-X” experience, participants sat in a round, stationary futuristic vehicle in front of a large curved screen that transported them to magical forests, Saturn or city streets.
In the next activity, attendees sat in one of four individual pods with an attached screen, through which they embarked on a simulated road trip to see how Togg’s Trumore platform works with smart products. By stepping inside Self-Ai’s circular booth, attendees could meet their digital twin, created based on their preferences through Togg AI technology. The digital twin then served as their guide through Togg’s customizable well-being and lifestyle programs.
Lastly, brand ambassadors stationed by an artistic interpretation of a tree (a white funnel curving up and painted with purple branches) invited attendees to contribute to a sustainable future by planting a seed. The brand reps walked them through a touch-screen experience that presented Togg’s EV charging devices and its Trugo and Siro partnership for clean energy solutions. Participants chose between planting European black pine or Calabrian pine seeds as part of a data-capture form.
Still a relatively young EV company, having expanded into North American and European markets in 2021, Vietnamese automaker VinFast, a member of Vingroup, returned to CES for its second showing with an expanded booth experience. Four electric SUV models and four electric bike concepts were on display for attendees to peruse. Looming above, two giant curved screens, extending the length of the booth, showed the different models in action, with the videos’ bright colors reflecting on the shiny exteriors and chrome details of the cars illuminated by spotlight.
In between the screens, a lit VinFast logo and angled cutouts marked the entrance below to the Immersive Theater, running shows every 15 minutes. Attendees stepped into a boxed space covered in high-resolution video imagery with accompanying spatial audio that transported them to Vietnam and into the company’s electrification journey. The LED walls were 60 feet long by 30 feet wide by 20 feet tall, and 12 projectors mapped the floor and the VinFast VF 9 vehicle in the theater. Special effects projected onto the car included lightning bolts, waves, clouds and futuristic designs.
VinFast hosted two-hour video game sessions each day, Jan. 6-8, in which attendees could stand in front of the VF 7 SUV and play racing games projected directly on the windshield and on a TV below the hood of the car. An experience just for CES, the “Game On” sessions aimed to highlight VinFast EVs’ preinstalled gaming features and garner attention from the next generation of car buyers.
Attendees could venture outside the convention center to the test track to drive the EVs themselves. And further promoting the VinFast brand, which may not yet be familiar to an American audience, VF 8 SUVs were seen rolling through the streets of Las Vegas for the first time, as a VinFast Chauffeur service was available to CES attendees staying at the Bellagio for travel to and from the convention center. (Agency: ASV Inc.)
Volkswagen didn’t give much away with its outdoor booth that featured a pixelated ombre exterior. Attendees consistently formed a line outside to get into the mysterious box. The only clues as to what awaited inside were tall free-standing letters “ID.7,” with which attendees posed for selfies. Orange and purple cushions (matching the booth’s ombre colors) lined the edge of the elevated platform in front of the ID.7 display so attendees could take a seat or relax on nearby cubed chairs and modern tables.
Once the doors to the booth opened, Volkswagen brand ambassadors welcomed in a specified number of attendees before pausing the line for the next cycle. Inside the high-ceilinged, black-walled theater, attendees positioned themselves around a circular frame protecting the specially painted ID.7 EV sedan in the center of the room. With the doors shut, a light show animated the dark space. LED light strips in the walls flashed on and changed colors, while spotlights above projected square and rectangle designs onto the car.
Timed with tension-building sound effects and music that could have been pulled from an action movie soundtrack, lights strobed on and off, illuminating different parts of the room before the car’s own lighting system took over, revealing individual areas of its camouflaged design of orange, pink, red and blue. (More than 40 layers of paint were applied to the ID.7, with a total of 22 areas of the vehicle controlled separately and electrified below the top layer of paint to light up.) The car then began to rotate, giving attendees a full view of the car’s unique design and QR codes positioned on the hood and rear windows, which attendees could scan for more details on the concept vehicle at the end of the experience.