GM, Waymo pull out of CES 2022 over omicron variant concerns

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General Motors and Waymo are the latest companies to cancel CES plans over COVID-19-related concerns.

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 its 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 late Thursday.

Waymo, the Google-affiliated autonmous driving company, said earlier Thursday 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.

Further, Waymo had 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 Thursday.

Waymo said in a blog post that it hopes to participate virtually if possible.

GM and Waymo are the latest companies to abandon CES plans in the face of rising COVID-19 infections. This week, Twitter, T-Mobile, 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 Technology-focused media outlets such as TechCrunch and The Verge have also withdrawn.

CES organizers conducted an all-virtual conference in 2021 but have thus far held firm in the face of the cancellations in planning for an in-person event in Las Vegas. They’ve made plans to require vaccinations for all attendees and masks in the convention hall.

On Wednesday, 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.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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