Feature: Freight and passenger transport take centre stage at the Consumer Electronics Show 2019

15 January 2019

The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) has become the biggest global exhibition of future technologies, with all of the world’s leading technology companies converging to exhibit the latest and greatest examples of new innovation.

And while wafer-thin TV screens and phones that fold up like paper were very much the headline-grabbers in 2019, the freight and public transport industries also played a significant part in the Las Vegas showcase.

The big news for the truck industry came courtesy of Toyota, which has committed to building 10 fuel-cell powered trucks in association with US truck maker Kenworth, which will go into service as a study into the viability of hydrogen power in heavy haulage – something which will come under increasing amounts of scrutiny as vehicle manufacturers look for alternative fuel options.

The show also saw US truck makers move towards new markets, with Peterbilt revealing its new E220 electric truck chassis. The E220EV is significant for the UK as it is based on the Leyland Trucks-built DAF LF, and forms part of Peterbilt and DAF parent company PACCAR’s move towards developing electric drivetrains for urban deliveries.

Meanwhile, Daimler Trucks, parent company of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, used the show to announce that it was setting up a council of customers to help it deliver its future electrification strategy, with 30 of its key fleet purchasers invited to consult on everything from driveability to charging technology.

Swedish technology company Einride was also looking at heavy deliveries, with its driverless T-Pod rigid truck, which it has recently put into trial service in northern parts of its home country. The driverless deliveries are aimed at grocery stores and temperature-controlled applications.

Ford announced plans to develop a Transit-sized self-driving autonomous van which it aims to have ready in prototype form for customer trials by 2021.

Honda also announced a fully autonomous prototype, in the form of a search and rescue ATV, designed to travel across dangerous or inhospitable terrain that would otherwise put the driver’s life in peril. The off-road concept uses GPS and sensors to plan and navigate its way across tricky terrain, and could be used to come to the aid of similarly GPS-equipped climbers or explorers in emergency situations.

Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, exhibited its Urbanetic van, with interchangeable bodies designed for different applications, including one concept that could be used as a commuter bus at peak travel times and a delivery van for the rest of the day.

In the passenger transport sector, automotive technology company Bosch revealed a fully autonomous shuttle bus called the IOT, which not only drives itself but uses algorithms to connect ride-sharing passengers with its own route planning software, which could feasibly remove the need for conventional bus routes. The user simply waves their device with the app installed and an IOT bus is summoned to collect them.

Continental, also a major automotive technology supplier, joined the autonomous bandwagon, with the CUBE – Continental UrBan Mobility Experiment. The CUBE is a 10-seater self-driving pod that is already undergoing passenger trials in Frankfurt, Germany.

Powertrain and transmission specialist ZF, meanwhile, gave prime billing to its E.GO Mover, which is already on sale. The box-shaped autonomous minibus is capable of Level 4 autonomous drive, but to get around European legislation the company is building 400 E.GOs with separate controls and steering wheels to develop the technology for larger scale production. The Mover can carry 15 passengers, 10 seated and five standing.

But it wasn’t just future technology that made its debut at CES, with the show also seeing the world debut of the new Ford Ranger double cab and the JEEP Gladiator Rubicon pick-up.