The 2019
CES Experience

Steve Haddock, Executive Vice President of Sales

January 21, 2019

2019 marked my 3rd year attending CES, the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace, and it did not disappoint. Prior years represented a lot of talk about the benefits of autonomous vehicles, and in 2018 we even saw some of the autonomous vehicles driving on a track. This year, I was fortunate to ride in one of Lyft’s 30 new autonomous vehicles on the road. I wanted to share my experience with this exciting technology.

Other than receiving the option to select an autonomous car from the app, the only differences with the pickup was the ooohs and ahhhs as my white BMW 530i, with fire-red wheels, pulled into the crowded garage.

Upon opening the door, I was welcomed by two women from Aptiv as well as a driver, required to keep a loose finger touching the wheel, and a passenger, acting as an extra set of eyes for safety along with documenting any times in which the driver had to take control of the car by changing from autonomous to manual. With the goal being to continue learning and identifying ways to improve the driving and passenger experience.

Knowing I got lucky to be in the right place and right time, I unloaded with all my questions. To start with, how much does this cost? Fully loaded, the price tag on the all-electric 530i was around $90K. But with the super computers and all the sensors, she estimated a price tag around $400K. I was blown away by the cost and wondered how long it would be before the general public or ride haling companies like Lyft could purchase these en masse for a reasonable cost.

While there appeared to be a few areas in which they still had to engage into manual, like yielding the right away for emergency vehicles, the ride was amazing. As a rider that has been known to get motion sickness from drivers with a heavy foot of gas/brake/gas, I thought the ride was super smooth and comfortable.

My favorite thing about the experience was watching the large screen on the dash identify every person, vehicle, street, and object, as well as the street lights, 360 degrees around the car. One thing that never crossed my mind throughout the ride was safety, which is a beautiful thing.

My other big take away from CES is how the human experience will change with the launch of 5G. At the keynote, the Verizon CEO, Haun, shared that 5G will bring us into the 4th Industrial Revolution. He shouted to the crowd that, “5G will change everything, as 5G is a quantum leap over 4G!”.

For autonomous vehicles to truly become viable for mass production, it will be critical for the vehicles to communicate at faster speeds and with reduced latency. Today on 4G networks, we expect around 50-100 milliseconds of latency compared to an incredible 3-5 milliseconds of delay on 5G. To put this in perspective, let’s assume a car is driving 60 mph and a child on a bike enters the road. If the autonomous vehicle is connected to a 5G network, the car will travel between 2 and 4 inches before it is alerted of the child in the road. Compare this to a 4G network, where the car will travel 4.4 to 8.8 feet and we can easily be talking about the difference between life and death.

While Las Vegas is currently the only city in the US where autonomous vehicles are legal, these new technologies will lead to incredible results. According to Lyft, autonomous vehicles will lead to:

  • A 90% reduction in accidents – By eliminating the most common mistakes that cause accidents, self-driving cars would save up to 86 lives in the US every day.
  • The end of traffic – Self-driving cars can travel at a more constant, steady pace. Over time, when enough of these cars are on the road, stop-and-go traffic will be eliminated.
  • 80% fewer vehicles on the road – Shared self-driving cars will make transportation more affordable, more convenient, and allow many more people to go without owning their own car. This also means fewer parking lots and more space for parks, local stores, and homes.

With all these benefits on the horizon, we have plenty to look forward to as technology continues to merge the human experience, allowing us all to live happier, more connected lives.