Tuesday 7 January 2020 2:22 pm

CES 2020: Amazon, Sony and Toyota put mobility centre stage at tech conference

Amazon signalled a concerted push into the car industry at CES 2020, as it announced a partnership with Lamborghini and other firms working on driverless car tech.

It signals the latest move into the mobility sector for one of Silicon Valley’s tech giants, as the internet retailer said it would add its voice assistant Alexa to the Italian supercar manufacturer’s Huracan Evo model.

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This will allow drivers to ask for directions, control music and make phone calls with the voice-activated system.

It is not Amazon’s first foray into the sector, after it invested in American electric car maker Rivian twice last year.

That resulted in a pledge to order 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, which will be on the road by 2024. Rivian also said it would include Alexa in its forthcoming SUV model.

Amazon has also invested in the self-driving technology company Aurora, in a potential move towards self-driving delivery vans.

Sony reveals concept driverless car

Separately, Sony unveiled a concept driverless car at the marquee tech event, predicting that mobility will become the “mega-trend” of this decade.

Sony chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida said: “It’s not an exaggeration to say that mobile has been the mega-trend of the last decade. I believe the next mega-trend will be mobility.

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The technology giant said the concept car showed it was prioritising safety, reliability, comfort and entertainment, using 33 sensors inside and out.

The Vision S car also includes Sony artificial intelligence to detect and recognise people.

Sony did not give any indication it intends to sell the car to the public.

Fiona Howarth, chief executive of Octopus Electric Vehicles, said: “The debut of Sony’s EV [electric vehicle] prototype at CES signals a change in EVs as increasingly mass-market. I predict the floodgates will open, and more tech companies will launch their own models too.

“Sony clearly believes it is well positioned to enter the automotive sector – and with it becoming all about tech-on-wheels, their trusted brand in tech will no doubt position them well.”

Another car unveiled at CES was from Mercedes-Benz. The manufacturer has partnered up with the creators of science-fiction film Avatar to develop the Vision AVTR (Advanced Vehicle Transformation).

With no steering wheel, the concept car features movable reptilian “scales”, a wooden floor, transparent doors and an “infotainment” system operated by gesture.

Avatar director James Cameron joined Mercedes-Benz chairman Ola Kallenius on stage.

Toyota unveils ‘city of the future’

Meanwhile, Toyota revealed plans to build a sustainable “city of the future” that will run on hydrogen fuel cells and become a living laboratory for self-driving car tech.

The city, which will be based near Mount Fuji in Japan, will cover 70 hectares on the site of one of its factories that is due to close.

Woven City will house full-time residents and researchers. The name references Toyota’s origins as a loom manufacturer.

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The prototype city will host a futuristic community of people looking to cut carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles and buildings, while using internet technology in practically every aspect of daily life.

Toyota said around 2,000 people, mostly its own employees, will live in the city to begin with and construction was due to start next year.