Next week was supposed to be a key reunion and showcase for the auto and tech industries, with some of the biggest companies gathering for CES in Las Vegas to network, share strategies and remember what life was like before the pandemic.
Instead, most of them will be attending the event remotely -- if at all. The annual tech showcase will soldier on in-person, but with just a diehard contingent traveling to Vegas.
Automakers, suppliers and tech giants continue to pull out or will limit participation in CES 2022 as COVID-19 cases surge and set records nationwide.
Many of the show’s presentations will now take place online. CES officials also said that the show is now closing one day early on Jan. 7 rather than Jan. 8.
GM CEO Mary Barra had been scheduled to give a keynote speech at the annual conference on Jan. 5, during which the company would have shown an electric Silverado pickup for the first time. Barra will still make the speech and presentation over the internet, a spokesman said.
"CES is an important technology platform, and we are continuing with our plans on Jan. 5 to share our significant company news including the reveal of the Chevrolet Silverado EV," GM said in a statement..
Other companies to cancel in-person CES plans include Panasonic, ZF, BMW, Mercedes, Magna International, Mobileye, Velodyne Lidar, Veoneer and Volvo.
Other tech companies such as Twitter, T-Mobile, Intel, Amazon and Meta (Facebook) said they would not participate because of health concerns. Technology-focused media outlets such as TechCrunch and The Verge have also withdrawn.
Waymo, the Google-affiliated autonmous driving company, said earlier it would no longer participate in the annual technology showcase next month, citing rising concerns over the omicron variant of the virus. Co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana had been scheduled to deliver a keynote address Jan. 5 and participate in other activities in Las Vegas.
Waymo planned to display its new Class 8 Freightliner Cascadia truck for the first time. Built with redundant autonomous systems in collaboration with Daimler Trucks, the platform is a lynchpin of Waymo's emphasis on self-driving trucking.
"Based on quickly rising COVID infection rates, we've made the difficult decision to pull our physical presence at CES 2022," a Waymo spokeswoman said.
Waymo said in a blog post that it hopes to participate virtually if possible.
Last week, prior to Waymo's announcement, officials with the Consumer Technology Association, which owns and operates CES, said they had received 42 exhibitor cancellations since last Friday, while adding 62 new planned exhibitors in the same time frame.
In a written statement, the organization said the event continues "to show strong momentum," and that "CES 2022 will go forward as important innovation for world health and safety, mobility and solving problems will be exhibited."
On Thursday, the Consumer Technology Association said more than 2,200 exhibitors were still committed to coming as of Dec. 29. Gary Shapiro, the group’s CEO, said last week that canceling the show would hurt the smaller companies and entrepreneurs that count on the event to pitch ideas.
The conference also is enforcing health precautions, such as a vaccination requirement, masking and the use of COVID-19 tests.
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report.