It’s no surprise that the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show has been a proving ground for autonomous vehicles. OEMs and their technology partners have been busy rolling out new concepts for autonomous vehicles. Lyft and Aptiv have been providing on-site transportation via self-driving vehicles. What’s especially interesting about CES 2018 is the ambitious nature of OEMs’ visions of autonomous vehicles.

Ford’s Connected City

Ford unveiled arguably the most ambitious vision for the autonomous vehicle: a connected city with the autonomous vehicle at the center. Ford, in partnership with Autonomic, envisions a Ford Transportation Mobility Cloud that would connect cities and cars. Using the open platform, cities would connect and manage “vehicle-to-everything communications” including real-time data alerts to cars about construction and weather conditions.

In a Medium post, Rich Strader, Ford Vice President, Mobility Product Solutions, and Sunny Madra, Autonomic CEO, wrote[i],

As an example of the platform’s capability, cities could use real-time location updates from vehicles to control traffic flow, dynamically rerouting cars to reduce congestion, improve commuting times or account for construction projects, sporting events and emergencies. A city can ensure no empty self-driving vehicles are driving on the most important arteries used by people during their rush hour commute home. This platform can even help cities define safer pick-up and drop-off zones for ride-hailing services.

In addition, the platform would not be proprietary to Ford. “This system is not exclusive to Ford or to personally owned vehicles — we’re building the Transportation Mobility Cloud for everyone, for the entire transportation operating system, including other automakers,” they wrote. “We’re inviting others to join, reaching out to other automakers, suppliers and large-scale fleet operators to offer them an opportunity to participate in and shape this shared platform.”

Ford’s open platform approach is reminiscent of Tesla sharing the specs for its Supercharger DC fast-charging standard in order to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles by providing common industry charging standards. Since the Transportation Mobility Cloud would require unprecedented cooperation between cities and OEMs, making the platform open makes sense.

Although the concept of a connected city is a vision at this point, Ford notes that “we aim to have the most vehicles connected to any platform by the end of 2019.”

e-Palettes Anyone?

Not all autonomous vehicle news from CES was as ambitious as Ford’s – but there was a lot of action in this area nevertheless. For example, Toyota introduced a concept car known as the e-Palette, an autonomous vehicle that would provide mobile services on demand, ranging from ride-sharing to pizza delivery. To make these services a reality, Toyota would need partners – and so Toyota also announced relationships with businesses such as Amazon, DiDi, Mazda, Pizza Hut, and Uber. Toyota’s alliance partners would collaborate with Toyota to build connected services on top of Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform.

In the announcement, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said, “This announcement marks a major step forward in our evolution towards sustainable mobility, demonstrating our continued expansion beyond traditional cars and trucks to the creation of new values including services for customers.”[ii]

Toyota indicated that it intends for the e-Palette to become a reality. According to its announcement, “Toyota plans to conduct feasibility testing of the e-Palette Concept in various regions, including the United States, in the early 2020s.  It also hopes to contribute to the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 by providing mobility solutions like the e-Palette and other innovative mobility offerings.”

The Ford Transportation Mobility Cloud and Toyota’s e-Palette are but two examples of the kind of autonomous vehicle technology emerging from CES. For OEMs, these developments signify the complex relationships across multiple industries beyond automotive that are necessary to embrace a future that includes autonomous vehicles. For dealerships, the advances are a challenge to stay ahead of the industry and rethink the relationship between the consumer and the 4Ps of Automotive Marketing™ — product, price, place, and person. The nature of the product is changing radically, and dealerships are already responding with programs such as ride subscription services.

The future of automotive certainly looks exciting. On GrowWithCars, we’ll continue to provide insight to help our growth partners anticipate and respond to that future. Meanwhile, buckle up!



[i] Ford, “Why We’re Working with Autonomic to Create a Platform That Can Power Future Cities,” January 9, 2018.

[ii] Toyota, “Toyota Launches New Mobility Ecosystem and Concept Vehicle at 2018 CES,” January 8, 2018.