CES 2019: The ‘Driverless Experience’ Looks Awfully Distracting

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, it looks like the Year of the Self-Driving Car. More than 30,000 square feet of floor space at this annual technology exhibition are covered with technology pointing to an autonomous future: super high-definition maps, LIDAR cameras, and dazzling new vehicles designed to cosset, amuse, and sell stuff to the people inside them.

Indeed, many of the gadgets and ideas on display have less to do with vehicles’ abilities to fully drive themselves—which remains very much a work-in-progress—and more to do with what people will do when they don’t have to drive.

What will the “driverless experience” entail? Lots of staring at each other (or at screens) and not the road, based on a few carmakers’ concepts. Mercedes rolled out an urban ride-hailing/freight delivery van concept with wraparound seating that groups passengers by the length of their trips. Japanese parts maker Denso showed off a rolling cube with boardroom-style seating and a shared work surface, envisioning a shared mobility service for office drones on the go.