• John R. Quain

The Silliest Mobility and Car Tech at CES 2020


Hyundai Uber Taxi

Last year, Bell installed a giant drone mockup on the CES show floor, drawing stares from thousands of visitors. This year it was Hyundai doing the same with giant Uber logos across the EV's fuselage . However, the first actual prototype of the giant flying robotaxi won't be ready until 2023--by that time Uber may not be around.

The silliness factor: There's a reason why helicopters no longer land on the roof of the fomerly-known-as-the-PanAm building (now the MetLife building) in New York. So the idea of putting something even more potentially lethal with even more rotors (can you say, metal fatigue?) closer to residential areas is even sillier.

Charmin RollBot

Charmin, the toilet paper brand, trucked into CES with tongue firmly in cheek. Capitalizing on the smart home and robotics crazes, the company introduced a "first-of-its-kind robot" that can deliver a spare roll to you when you're on the throne and realize you've run out. The catch is that you have to have your smart phone with you to call for it. As cheeky as this stunt was, the next time you find yourself without a square to spare, it may not seem like such a bad idea after all.

Amazon Alexa Enabled Cars

Yes, Amazon's Alexa has limited intelligence, which makes her the perfect voice assistant for telling you the weather and for other companies who want to piggyback their own basic commands onto the voice bot. However...Alexa also has limited security abilities and some serious privacy issues, which makes it a risky proposition for any car company.

Nevertheless, many OEMs have been touting Alexa ("Hello, Buick"). At CES Rivian, the electric vehicle startup with serious backing from Ford--and Amazon--gets a ding for adding to the Alexa silliness. Rivian's SUV and pickup designs are lauded for their well-considered, forward-looking features. Adding Alexa, not so much. Incidentally, Lamborghini also announced Alexa support, but they do lots of crazy things.

Canine Bots

Replacing domestic pets has long been a dream of robot designers. Sony's rather sterile plastic Aibo is still around, for example, making another appearance at the show. Now there are some faux fur models, such as the Tombot and Jim Henson Company designed golden lab Jennie. It's warm and fuzzy and will wag its tail. Still, many people may think of scary head-less doggies like this one fron Unitree Robotics when they think of the possible creepy bots of the future.

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© 2023 by John R. Quain

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