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CES a new playground for car technology

IF it wasn’t obvious last year, 2016 should erase any doubts that CES which begins this week in Las Vegas has turned into a major auto show.

Nearly a decade ago, Ford became the first automaker to have an executive give a keynote speech at the annual global technology event.

This week, as thousands descend on Las Vegas to attend CES, every major automaker as well as auto startups and other auto-related companies will be there, Fortune magazine reported.

Two of the eight keynote presentations at the week-long event will be by automakers, and nearly one quarter of the floor space at CES is dedicated to the industry.

It has become the must-attend event to showcase the latest auto tech—and even unveil cars.

This year, two keynote speakers — GM CEO Mary Barra and VW CEO Dr Herbert Diess — will use the stage to introduce electric cars.

Diess is expected to premiere an electric concept car that the company has been teasing relentlessly for the past several weeks. A day later, Barra will showcase the production version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, almost a year after showing off the Bolt as a concept car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

It’s almost impossible to keep track every announcement at CES, but here are a few companies and trends to watch for:

Faraday Future: There’s a lot of hype surrounding its event so little is known about the secretive electric car company backed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting.

Until a month ago, it said little about its plans. But thanks to a few teaser videos, and more importantly, documents from Nevada’s state government, we know a lot more, including that the company plans to build an electric vehicle factory at an industrial park in North Las Vegas.

Nvidia: Nvidia makes chips called graphics processing units commonly used in video games and increasingly in car infotainment systems. The company is trying to expand its automotive business, including a product essential for autonomous vehicle technology. Nvidia will likely make several announcements at its event, expect at least one to center on cars and artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence: Toyota announced back in November it will invest vast sums over the next five years in a new research centre for artificial intelligence to be based in Silicon Valley and is expected to reveal more during CES. Toyota will also show off how it plans to crowdsource information from its future production vehicles to create up-to-date digital maps.

Crossover: Telecom, software companies, and chipmakers crossing deeper into automotive territory. Telecom companies are becoming important partners for automakers too. For example, AT&T already works with Audi, BMW, GM, Ford, Tesla, Nissan, Volvo, Subaru and Jaguar Land Rover. Verizon’s connected car division works with Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz.

Look for telecom companies such as Verizon, AT&T and chipmakers like NXP and Qualcomm to show off how their new products are enabling automakers to add new features to cars such as mobile data connections and visual displays.

Sensors, cameras, and radar: Self-driving cars, such as the one Google has built, can’t operate without them. Automotive suppliers are in a race to create smaller, more powerful sensors and radar. Chipmakers, meanwhile are selling their computing platforms that allow all of this gadgetry, including GPS, sensors and radar to function properly in the car.

Ford: There’s been a lot of speculation about what Ford will announce at CES. Will it kick off a partnership with Google to deploy fleets of self-driving cars, as it’s been reported recently?

Ford is morphing from a traditional automaker that makes money from producing and selling cars into one that taps into helping people get around, including car-sharing and shuttle services.

But that doesn’t mean Ford will pursue these experiments in transportation with a partner. When Ford CEO Mark Fields takes the stage Tuesday morning, expect to hear about where the company is headed with autonomous driving and connected vehicle technology.

Autonomous vehicle tech: Automakers are taking a variety of approaches to autonomous driving. Kia is expected to give details about its push. Audi, Volvo, and Mercedes Benz will also talk about varying degrees of autonomy, much of it related to safety.

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