The elaborate mating dance between the auto industry and technology companies is reaching a fever pitch in the run-up to the most important auto show in North America and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is becoming a must-attend event for car manufacturers and their suppliers.
Auto makers and parts companies will strut their stuff at the annual Las Vegas electronics extravaganza, which begins Wednesday, a week ahead of the more vehicle-focused North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
But in a sign of how things have changed, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, whose Chrysler division once prided itself on holding the most elaborate vehicle unveilings, is staying quiet at the Detroit show, opting instead to show off a new battery-powered minivan at the CES.
"In Detroit, everybody is putting out product," said Richard Wallace, director of transportation systems analysis at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Mich. CES "is an overwhelmingly non-automotive show, but it does have a very high-tech image and it gets a lot of media attention," Mr. Wallace noted.
Charles Boulanger, chief executive officer of Quebec City-based LeddarTech Inc., will not be in Las Vegas for the media attention but rather to show off the company's technology to auto makers, parts suppliers and others.
"Although it's called the Consumer Electronics Show, it has become over the last couple of years almost an auto show," Mr. Boulanger said. "The cars are becoming so loaded with electronics that they are becoming the new platform which everyone wants to be on."
LeddarTech makes light detection and ranging systems (LiDAR), which detect objects. LiDAR will be essential on fully autonomous vehicles – a critical market for LeddarTech in the next decade and beyond, Mr. Boulanger said.
This will be the company's second year in Las Vegas. It has beefed up its presence to 12 people and has rented extra meeting rooms. Its device will be showcased by such partners as auto parts supplier Magneti Marelli and lighting manufacturer Osram GmbH.
"Electronics companies, semi-conductor companies – everyone is there to play in automotive, and it's a big, big focus," Mr. Boulanger said.
For Magna International Inc., the Las Vegas show represents a chance to both demonstrate its own technologies and learn from others, said chief technical officer Swamy Kotagiri.
"I jokingly said I don't know whether it's a consumer electronics show or it's a car electronics show," Mr. Kotagiri said.
Magna hopes to learn about cutting-edge high tech that can be applied to systems it's developing or to assist in manufacturing.
"It's an exercise of trying to connect the dots in terms of seeing what's happening … in the semiconductor chip industry, even some cases like 3D printing, which starts becoming applicable to manufacturing technology," he said.
On the demonstration side, Magna will also focus on LiDAR at the show, demonstrating prototypes developed by Israel-based Innoviz Technologies Ltd. The two companies announced last month that they have formed a partnership that will involve integrating Innoviz technology with autonomous driving systems that Magna is developing.
The increased focus by auto makers on the Las Vegas show does not mean the Detroit auto show has taken a back seat.
A special display area at the auto show, called AutoMobili-D, includes a test track for companies to show off autonomous vehicles, driver-assist functions and connected-car capabilities.