January 15th, 2021 by Steve Hanley
The Consumer Electronics Show happens every year in January when hundreds of thousands make the trek to Las Vegas to see the latest and greatest new, new stuff in the tech world. As cars become more like computers on wheels, car companies are now showcasing their future offerings at CES instead of traditional car shows like the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Due to the pandemic sweeping the world, CES 2021 is mostly online this year, but what could be more fitting for a show that glorifies everything digital than for it to transition to an all digital platform itself?
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, was one of the keynote speakers at CES 2021. In her presentation, she focused on how her company is planning for a future of all electric transportation that includes not only automobiles but also electric air taxis and people movers. To view her full remarks, visit this YouTube link. Just ignore the ads.
After Barra’s speech, other representatives of the company took to the stage to talk about three products that will usher in the electric vehicle era at GM — the upcoming Hummer truck, the Cadillac Lyriq SUV, and the Cadillac Celestiq, a sedan with some astounding tech geewizardry baked in. A video about all three follows at the end of this article.
Hummer Electric Truck
What can you do with a truck that has a thousand horsepower, 1100 lb-ft of torque, and 4 wheel steering? Just about anything you want. The Hummer electric pickup will be amazing, no doubt about it. In the video, you cans see it pounding rock strewn trails into submission and then hunkering down on its adjustable suspension to rocket forward in full “making the jump to hyperspace” mode. The Hummer has been described elsewhere and there is no doubt it is one bad ass truck, but one thing troubles me (Other than the derivation of the name, that is).
The video makes it plain the Hummer will be able to negotiate any terrain with little to no input from the driver. Its computers will decide how much power to send to each individual wheel while the driver and passengers are ensconced inside a temperature and humidity controlled cocoon where they can listen to Rachmaninoff through 47 speakers while playing video games on their individual touchscreens.
Does anyone else see how absurd this is? Rather than experiencing the challenge of actually driving the Rubicon Trail, they will experience it from afar, as if they were sitting at home on their living room couch watching it with their virtual reality goggles in place. It’s like the difference between cheese and processed cheese food.
There’s another aspect to this as well. GM, Rivian, Lordstown, and Ford are all planning electric pickup trucks but all of them look like, well, pickup trucks. Tesla is about to unleash its Cybertruck on the world. It not only breaks the pickup truck mold, it smashes it to smithereens. Soon we will know if people want traditional pickups that are electric or an electric pickup truck that looks like nothing else on the road. Tesla is taking a bold gamble on the Cybertruck. It will either dominate the market or become an expensive failure. Those who have bet against the mercurial Musk so far have done so to their sorrow.
The Hummer seems like a vehicle for poseurs, not people who haul horse trailers or concrete pipe — folks who use their trucks for work, in other words, instead of impressing the swells at their country club. Of all the electric trucks scheduled for production in the near future that look like they could serve as actual work trucks are Cybertruck from Tesla and the Bollinger B2, which looks like it’s carved from a solid block of steel and sculpted by people who design locomotives.
The video below devotes quite a lot of attention to the upcoming Cadillac Lyriq, the car that will be the first fully electric car from The General. It will be built on the former Saturn factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee alongside an as yet unnamed electric SUV from Honda. The video shows some details of the all new 33″ wide digital display screen we reported on recently as well as other tech highlights such as exterior lighting that illuminates when the driver approaches, as if to invite him or her inside. Cool stuff, to be sure, but relevant to the mission of mitigating carbon emissions? Hmmm……
The one thing the video clarifies is how to pronounce the name of the car. GM calls it “LYR ik” whereas someone who had too many years of high school French might be inclined to say “Lear EEK.” I actually like that pronunciation but am probably in the minority.
Another new Cadillac also has a “q” in its title. Once again, a French speaker might call it “seel uh STEEK” but Cadillac says it’s pronounced “suh LESS tick.” Chacun a son goût, je suppose. This car is to be the ne plus ultra of Cadillacs, a sumptuous chariot largely hand built at a rate of just 1.2 cars a day. In any event, the company says the name should be written in all capital letters.
According to a Cadillac press release, “Each vehicle offers a curated selection of hand-crafted materials, and each CELESTIQ will be designed to reflect the individuality of its owner. The vehicles will feature all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and a full-glass roof. Inside the cabin, CELESTIQ takes the artful integration of technology to new heights, with a customizable experience for drivers and passengers alike.
“CELESTIQ’s roof is expected to be one of the first to feature a four-quadrant, suspended-particle-device smart glass. With this smart glass, each occupant of the vehicle can set their own level of roof transparency. The individualized experience shared by each occupant will be a signature aspect of the Cadillac CELESTIQ.
“The driver and front seat passenger will enjoy a pillar to pillar free form display with active privacy to help mitigate driver distraction while rear seat passengers have personalized entertainment screens. Console screens between seats in the front and back will separate individualized comfort settings from entertainment displays to minimize distractions.”
Pardon me, but it sounds like this new Super Chariot from Cadillac works overtime to separate the people inside into separate bubbles where they need not interact with each other in any meaningful way. And they will all waft along in stunning isolation, disconnected from the world outside. I am probably a Luddite, but I see this as a perversion of the automotive experience. Technology has already isolated us all inside our digital silos. “I touch no one and no one touches me,” in the words of an old Simon & Garfunkel song.
Technology should bring us together, not separate us like ice bergs floating independently on the sea of life. To me, the Celestiq is irrelevant, a paean to gigantic egos with even bigger wallets. What this has to do with clean transportation I simply cannot fathom. This car is as insignificant as an electric Rolls Royce. The climate crisis is too important to get bogged down in “mine’s bigger than yours” status symbols for jillionaires.
Other News From Cadillac
If you watch the video through to the end, you will learn that Cadillac is also working on electric flying pods that will deliver harried executives from one important meeting to another important meeting in hushed silence. Good to know, although actual face to face meetings are becoming as rare as steam powered automobiles. There may also be electric people movers from the Cadillac brand, vehicles that will whisk weary travelers from place to place in sumptuous comfort that includes scented fragrances to calm jangled nerves. If you work for Cadillac, the future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades, apparently.
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