The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has become the auto industry’s favorite showcase for self-driving car technology. This year’s edition definitely has the flashy show cars to generate excitement. More importantly, in lots of less well-traveled areas of CES, you can see building blocks that could turn fantasy into reality.

This year’s CES featured a couple of glitzy show cars that are self-driving or have self-driving features: one from Fiat Chrysler aimed squarely at the next generation of car buyers, and the FF9, the first production vehicle from Faraday Future, the two-year-old electric-vehicle startup.

Chrysler said its Portal concept car we saw under the lights, music and cameras in a news conference was designed “by millennials for millennials.” Besides being semi-self-driving in its initial form, like having the ability to take over driving, braking and acceleration in certain highway situations, Chrysler said the vehicle, which is like a cross between an SUV and a luxury sedan, would be upgradeable to full autonomy when the technology improves.

It’s the company’s first attempt at a battery-electric powertrain, too, with a range of 250 miles. Twenty minutes at a high-voltage recharging station will give the car 150 miles of driving power.

Faraday Future’s FF 91, which it promised to be in production soon, also made a dramatic entrance at CES and on an Internet broadcast. The cars is an attempt to package the best of everything: the most advanced batteries, the biggest range for an electric vehicle, the most connectivity, a luxury interior—all that and some limited autonomous driving capability, like the ability to park itself at the touch of a button. It also claims to have enough sensors for automated driving—a combination of 35 cameras, radar and ultrasound devices. It has the first lidar (a laser object-detection technology) that pops up from and retracts into the hood. No mention of sticker price yet.

But for all the glamor of these high-profile show cars, the most important developments on self-driving cars might be on the fringes of CES. In parking lots surrounding the Las Vegas Convention Center, automotive suppliers like Delphi, Valeo, and Autoliv were demonstrating incremental improvements to things like sensors and software that are the hard work that will make autonomy a reality.

Delphi, the global parts maker spun off from GM in 1999, is reinventing itself as a tech company. In collaboration with Mobileye, an Israel-based maker of car cameras and software, Delphi gave us a 20-minute drive around the streets of Las Vegas in a modified Audi Q5 to demonstrate the advancements to the company's self-driving technology.

Instead of shutting down when encountering situations it hasn’t seen before, like earlier prototypes, we saw the latest Delphi apply rules and makes decisions much like a person would. It changed lanes flawlessly in different traffic conditions. The acceleration, steering and braking feel more like a human driver—none of the painfully slow, deliberate and over-cautious driving of early computer-controlled cars.

Velodyne executives in a conversation with us at CES said the company’s production of LIDAR units—a laser object-detection technology used by Google, Ford, and other leaders in autonomous vehicles—might go from a few thousand today to millions in the next four years. With scale, costs will drop and the electronics will become smaller and more durable, they say.

Another smaller company, Cubic Telecom of Ireland, is teaming up with Microsoft, NXP, which makes semiconductors for cars and IAV, a German engineering consultancy, to create a self-driving car system for sale to interested automakers. We took a drive in their modified Volkswagen Passat to watch the car drive itself and act as a personal valet—making restaurant reservations and warning us of evolving traffic conditions.

Cubic is providing the bandwidth that automated vehicles will need for processing all the data required to determine where the cars are at all times, which has the side benefit of providing WiFi to every passenger. The Internet connections also need to be reliable enough to never fail—a single outage could result in an actual crash rather than the computer kind.