Technology

GM, Waymo, Others Join Retreat From CES Over Rising COVID-19 Cases

U.S. automaker General Motors Co, Waymo, the Alphabet Inc-owned self-driving auto-technology company, and ByteDance’s social video app TikTok on Thursday joined the companies no longer attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in person early next month due to rising COVID-19 infections.

GM’s chief executive, 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 truck for the first time. Barra will still make the speech and presentation over the internet, a spokesman said.

“We have decided to move to an all-digital approach with our activation at CES 2022 in January,” the U.S. automaker said in a statement. “We are continuing with our plans on Jan. 5 to share our significant company news, including the reveal of the Chevrolet Silverado EV.”

Waymo said in a blog post that it hopes to participate virtually if possible at the Las Vegas event, which traditionally has drawn over 180,000 people from around the world to discuss emerging technologies and party through the night with business contacts.

TikTok said it would hold a virtual event for partners and advertisers. Also on Thursday, Intel Corp said in a statement it would minimize staffing at CES.

“The health and safety of our employees, partners and customers  is  always a top priority,” the chipmaker said. “Our plans for CES will move to a digital-first, live experience, with minimal on-site staff.”

Several other companies, including Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc, Twitter Inc, Lenovo Group, AT&T Inc and Amazon.com Inc dropped in-person attendance plans earlier this week, saying they would not send employees out of caution over the spread of Omicron.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 was first detected last month in Hong Kong and southern Africa, sparking global concerns about a fast-spreading new version of the virus. Coronavirus infections have soared wherever highly infectious Omicron has spread, triggering new restrictions in many countries.

CES officials said the event will still be held in person from Jan. 5-8 with “strong safety measures in place,” including vaccination requirements, masking and availability of COVID-19 tests.

“Our mission remains to convene the industry and give those who cannot attend in person the ability to experience the magic of CES digitally,” CES said in a statement. “CES 2022 will go forward as important innovation for world health and safety, mobility and solving problems will be exhibited.”

It added that while it had received 42 exhibitor cancellations since last Thursday, that was less than 7% of the exhibitor floor and 60 others had been added.

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