Columns News Roy Lanchester

Roy Lanchester goes to CES


Refreshed motoring journalist ROY LANCHESTER pays a visit to the Consumer Electronics Show


My relationship with the old fashioned car makers can be summed up in a simple word and that word is ‘frosty’. It can also be summed up in some rather more complicated words such as ‘legal proceedings’. Fortunately, the same is yet to apply to the really important part of the motor industry; the lavish media trips organised by the companies that supply the parts that make up our cars.

Companies such as Quilan Systems, an American concern which has realised the real brains lie in Britain and has set up facility here providing research, development and a canteen. Last year I was lucky enough to visit this and other parts of the centre, all of which are located in an area of Cambridgeshire famed for its strong technology skills, convenient transport links and two nearby pubs, and I was delighted when their PR girl agreed to take me on an overseas trip with them if I agreed to leave reception area immediately. It was an agreement I was happy to enter into, especially as my ambulance had just arrived.

So it was that yours truly found himself at London’s infamous ‘Shatwick Scareport’ enjoying the lounge facilities of a certain well-known international airline owned by a certain well-known bearded tycoon whose name implies a certain virtue, even if the boss man himself might prefer to make a certain type of pickle, but for one letter missing (ie Branson instead of Branston)! The service on the ground was largely impeccable and even firm warnings such as ‘I assure you sir, there has NEVER been a sign that says “all you can eat”’ and ‘once again sir, we would ask that you do not remove your socks’ were delivered with courtesy. Only when I dared to suggest that I would do these things in my own lounge so why not theirs was there any note of rancour and words such as ‘odour’ and ‘residue’ were bandied around a little too loudly for my liking, drawing the attention of others in my party, all of whom had chosen to sit quite far away.

No matter, for soon it was time to board the hairy faced jumper enthusiast’s finest Boeings for the flight. Our destination? None other than Las Vegas, the dusty apple, and home this week to the Consumer Electronics Show or CES, once a mere event full of video recorders and laser pointer pens, but now quite the landmark on the automotive calendar thanks to the great strides being made by companies like the excellent Quinnlan Systems with their amazing technologies such as the latest radar systems which are mounted at the front of the machine, as indeed was I since they had thoughtfully put me in Upper Class. Upper Class indeed! ‘Well, a distant great uncle did have a Rolls!’ I quipped to the stewardess. ‘No, you may not have the whole bottle,’ she quipped in reply!

I must say, I found little to complain about with the smiling plutocrat’s aviation service and not once was I forced to fall back onto my security-dodging concealed flight refreshment system which I have been forced to carry since idiotic liquids restrictions continue to curse the thirsty international traveller.

I landed in Vegas both in and full of high spirits and after the usual tedious trudge through US immigration, during which no questions were asked about my previous visit nor my ongoing legal issues with LeAnn Rimes, we were collected in a luxury coach type vehicle and taken immediately to our hotel, stopping only on the side of the freeway so that one of our party (mentioning no names!) could be sick because of the lasting effects of some turbulence on the way here, as I explained to the rather impatient driver.

We arrived at our luxury hotel and I checked into my room where I found a letter from Quinlin Systems welcoming me and informing me that we were to meet in the hotel’s Jefferson Bar for a buffet and a short presentation. As the old saying goes, ‘You had me at bar, and to some extent buffet!’

After a shower and a quick sweep of the minibar, I was downstairs for a livener and some small beef burgers only to discover with some frustration and a small argument with a tiny gay called Gary that the bar was to close during the Quinlain Systems presentation. This left me with no alternative but to take one of the USB sticks that would have all the information on it anyway and make for the door, and then for the other door, the one that didn’t go into the kitchens.

On the former point, I was almost certainly correct. Quinlan Systems is a leading OEM in the field of car technology, providing processors, sensors and full-solution systems to a great number of vehicle manufacturers around the world, including industry-leading radar, lidar and camera equipment providing next-generation autonomous driving functionality for logo.jpg page 2

On the latter point, I had plenty of other business to attend to away from the intrusive and unnecessary bar closure conference. So it was that I busied myself in the wonders of Las Vegas for the rest of the afternoon until I received a rather rude shock when two burly men burst into my room, seized me by the arms and bundled me outside into a XXXXXX [CHECK MAKE??] people carrier.

I was both alarmed and outraged that they should intrude into my room in this manner, although when I say ‘my room’ it was only ‘mine’ in the sense that it was rented for the hour from the rather brassy lady on the door. Nonetheless, I had paid for it, pocketed a receipt for later, and it was my personal space and not to be interrupted. Heaven knows what Dongmei and Xiuying made of all this but I had no time to ask them since it was all I could do to grab the bottle and shout, ‘Stop screaming’ before the men dragged me past the front desk, ignoring my pleas to let me stop to get a refund since I’d only been in there three minutes and still had most of my clothes on.

I was taken to what I believed to be a warehouse facility in another part of town where a third, even angrier man confronted me in a distinctive accent. I believed it to be Mexican since, like their food, it was strong and I didn’t like it. ‘You didn’t bring it, Checo,’ he barked, rudely. I told him in no uncertain terms my name was not Checo, I had nothing to bring (especially since one of his goons had thrown the half full bottle of rum into the gutter outside the special lady house), and that he was clearly mistaken. Perhaps bonded by our mutual enthusiasm for having a moustache, the angry man seemed to take on board some of what I was saying and relaxed his grip on my neck. ‘You English?’ he spat, shortly followed by, ‘Yea, yea, yea, I don’t need your fucking life history’ right when I was getting to the part about some of my ancestors coming from Dundee.

Like many people, I’ve been in enough accidental kidnappings based on an erroneous tip off from a brothel employee to know when your captors are prepared to admit their mistake and within a few minutes the three gentlemen agreed to let me go. Unfortunately, at this moment several members of the Las Vegas Police Department arrived with some urgency and for the second time today I found myself being bundled into a vehicle. Third time, if you count that moment by the freeway on the way from the airport when the surly bus driver rudely claimed ‘it must be all out by now’.

I must say that Quanlan Systems are a very impressive concern and I’m told that their stand at the Electronic Consumer Show was extremely well catered. In particular, it is their attention to detail that impresses, not least their ability to bail a British journalist who has been falsely imprisoned under the mistaken belief that he is a criminal, and also because the police wanted to know why he had a colostomy bag full of Scotch taped to his thigh.

As self-driving cars come ever closer to reality, I feel safe in the knowledge that the technology behind such things is being provided by a company so thorough it can get someone on the next flight back to Britain even though he has noticeably soiled himself! Viva Las electronic sensor things and whathaveyou!

Roy Lanchester is motoring correspondent for Classic Central Heating magazine and founder of the blog Over The Limit with Roy Lanchester.  (