LAS VEGAS — Up and down all eight lanes of Las Vegas Boulevard last week, the bright lights of this town turned to automotive innovation as the hottest ticket on The Strip.
There were auto companies espousing civic duties and envisioning smarter cities. There were fuel cell concepts with more range and instrumentation systems with more graphics.
And then there was Aptiv, Delphi's new tech spinoff, partnering with Lyft to showcase the latest in autonomous transportation, delivered in real time under real-world conditions and really wet weather.
Impatient, drenched riders formed lines that wound around long city blocks as they waited to take a test ride in an autonomous Lyft. The hottest ticket in town. Pure Vegas magic.
Only no one rode more than an inch an hour.
In a city that seems to double in population each January, the tech heads mashed with the auto world which bumped into the 4K TV geeks — all creating traffic congestion so bad that auto was a four-letter word.
CES 2018: The world's largest parking lot for autonomous rides, which prompted a retreat to the oldest form of transportation technology — your own two feet.
And how appropriate. Forced foot travel was a perfect metaphor for an auto industry trying to move so quickly to distance itself from its traditional past that everyone is going in the same direction — but nowhere fast.
Walk the halls and every supplier and car company has the latest innovation, usually for use in limited places, but intended to be used by everyone, and capable of solving all problems in a yet-to-be-developed city of the future.
Each has a groundbreaking solution, new partnership or newly funded venture.
And, by the way, my lidar is better than your lidar.
The ecosystem needs a good flush.
Last week, auto strategists at PwC published a concise but extremely thoughtful piece titled "How to Overcome Five Myths that are Distracting Your Auto Company."
It should have been dropped from drones at CES.
As PwC tells it — and CES proves — the industry may have let the autonomous car take the wheel a little too quickly, particularly when it comes to the me-too need to produce solutions immediately.
It's true that huge upheavals in automotive technology, both existing and predicted, "have created a deep well of uncertainty." Many companies are pouring money into new and unproven technologies only because they are unsure where to turn, PwC says.
"The riskiness of this approach," PwC says, "is glaring when you consider the industry's record of unimpressive value creation."
The industry has oversubscribed to the potential difficulties and overproduced possible solutions.
Nowhere was that more evident than at CES, where booth after booth offered the same solutions, just with a different brand.
How many of the world's largest auto suppliers can partner with global providers of mobility solutions for public transportation to launch a unique new platform for autonomous mass transit fleets?