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Consumer Electronics Show grows more commercial as industrial firms step up

The VisionUrbanetic can be used as passenger or cargo transport, CES2019 (Photo, Linda Baker)

What’s in a name?  For years the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been recognized as a consumer tech extravaganza; the largest technology show on the planet.

But judging from the number of business exhibitors showing here for the first time, CES2019 might well be rebranded as “UTS2019” – the Ubiquitous Technology Show.

Even Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, admitted as much when he said during his keynote yesterday that “all companies are becoming tech companies.”  

That sentiment was echoed over and over again by the commercial and freight companies I have talked or listened to here.

“A few years ago it would have been strange to debut a commercial vehicle here,” said a Daimler executive during a presentation about the Vision Urbanetic Autonomous driving platform that features a people-mover module for passenger transport and a cargo module.

John Deere is exhibiting at CES for the first time, according to Julian Sanchez, the company’s director of Innovation. We spoke while standing in front of a mammoth tractor outfitted with the latest artificial intelligence and sensor technology.

 John Deere tractor, CES 2019 ( Photo: Linda Baker )
John Deere tractor, CES 2019 ( Photo: Linda Baker )

Trucking firms Peterbilt, Kenworth and more selected CES to make big announcements about their “green” trucking innovations. Most of those innovations involve partnerships with urban mobility companies. For example, Kenworth is partnering with Toyota, using its fuel cell technology.  

About those urban mobility companies. The original equipment manufacturers themselves decided to transition away from the auto sales moniker to the urban mobility label several years ago. It was a strategic move to compete with the Ubers and Lyfts of the world.

Acronyms speak volumes.  And “CES” might just not smell as sweet over the next few years.

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Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes early-stage VC, freight-tech, mobility and West Coast emissions regulations.