CES is only the beginning -- trucking is about to be in the public eye in a way it hasn't since...

CES is only the beginning -- trucking is about to be in the public eye in a way it hasn't since the 1970s.

Photo: Jim Park

Something interesting is going on at the CES electronics show – something of special interest to fleet managers in North America today. CES started out as the Consumer Electronics Show, a trade show designed to show retailers what was new in the rapidly expanding world of consumer and home electronics systems and products.

As the importance of these products steadily grew, so did the importance of the show – much in the same way auto shows in major cities around the world became Must-Make-A-Splash venues for carmakers looking to showcase new vehicles, features and technologies.

Over time, the show became known as The Place to go and see the Next Big Thing coming down the pike in terms of electronics and new technology. In fact, the show was the very first place many of us became aware of brand-new, insanely advanced gadgets that seemed outrageous at the time, but eventually became everyday items in our lives, as this list of high-profile technologies that took their first public bow at CES shows*:

  • Videocassette Recorder (VCR), 1970
  • Laserdisc Player, 1974
  • Camcorder and Compact Disc Player, 1981
  • Digital Audio Technology, 1990
  • Compact Disc - Interactive, 1991
  • Digital Satellite System (DSS), 1994
  • Digital Versatile Disk (DVD), 1996
  • High Definition Television (HDTV), 1998
  • Hard-disc VCR (PVR), 1999
  • Satellite Radio, 2000
  • Microsoft Xbox and Plasma TV, 2001
  • Home Media Server, 2002
  • Blu-Ray DVD and HDTV PVR, 2003
  • HD Radio, 2004
  • IP TV, 2005
  • Convergence of content and technology, 2007
  • OLED TV, 2008
  • 3D HDTV, 2009
  • Tablets, Netbooks and Android Devices, 2010
  • Connected TV, Smart Appliances, Android Honeycomb, Ford’s Electric Focus, Motorola Atrix, Microsoft Avatar Kinect, 2011
  • Ultrabooks, 3D OLED, Android 4.0 Tablets, 2012
  • Ultra HDTV, Flexible OLED, Driverless Car Technology, 2013
  • 3D Printers, Sensor Technology, Curved UHD, Wearable Technologies, 2014
  • 4K UHD, Virtual Reality, Unmanned Systems, 2015

In the 2000s, with gaming becoming the dominant entertainment industry on the planet, CES adopted a reputation as a bastion of geeks and technophiles. And with the rise of social media, its importance and reputation grew.

Today, even Class 8 truck manufacturers want to show new vehicles and technologies at the show. Kenworth and Peterbilt raised eyebrows last year as the first heavy-duty OEMs to exhibit at the show. And this year, there was even more trucking and logistics technology on display, with several OEMs launching products and announcing news.

Trucking is going mainstream at CES. And savvy fleet managers would do well to consider why that’s so.

Trucking is about to capture the public eye in a way it hasn’t since the 1970s. Back then, the image was free-spirited rouges, winking at the law and hustling hard to make a buck and keep The Man off their backs. But the image forming today – and solidifying in the coming decade – is going to be very different indeed.

Last-mile delivery systems, autonomous vehicles, electric trucks, drones, dog-robots with cartons on their back – you name it, those systems are going to be attracting massive public attention as they come on line and begin to help move goods in this country and around the world.

Anyone still scoffing at advanced technologies in trucking – or hoping that magically all of this “stuff” is going to go away and they can go back to business as it was done a decade or two ago – would do well to look hard at the presence of vehicle OEMs (both large and small) and other associated logistics technology developers at CES.

The news out of CES this year is not only fascinating. It’s also another clear signal that the Tech Genie is out of the bottle and strapped in behind the steering wheel of a commercial vehicle. And she’s not going anywhere.

* It’s interesting to note the date on the introduction of these new technologies and then the amount of time that passes before they enter into mass production and become commonplace in our lives. In most of the cases highlighted here, the time between a product’s introduction and high consumer market penetration seems to be 8 to 10 years.

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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