Chinese automotive start-up bets big on its ‘Smart Intuitive Vehicle’

Varun Aggarwal Las Vegas | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on January 12, 2018

BYTON promises to bring its electric SUV to the market by 2019-end

One of the biggest highlights of CES 2017 was China’s Tesla competitor Faraday Future, which stole the show with its futuristic electric car that many pegged to be a Tesla killer. Except it wasn’t. The Chinese company went bankrupt, most of its top executives quit and there seems no future for Faraday Future.

Fast forward to CES 2018 and another Chinese start-up is stealing the show with its electric SUV that offers the highest drive range in any commercial EV so far, is as futuristic as you can imagine when it comes to interiors, and with a starting price tag of $45,000, is directly targets Tesla’s cheapest car, Model 3.

But BYTON, the company that promises to bring its electric SUV to the market by the end of 2019, has far better credentials than its peer that went bust. The firm is backed by some of the largest Chinese tech companies such as Tencent and Foxconn.

Just over a year old, the start-up boasts former executives of car brands BMW and Nissan, and tech companies Apple and Google in its ranks, and former Tesla employees.

So why is this relatively unknown Chinese company getting so much attention for its upcoming SUV?

Human-vehicle interaction

The car comes with a massive 49x9.8 inch shared experience display centre console, which lets the driver and the passengers interact with the car simultaneously without disturbing each other. The car will take advantage of pretty much every non-typing input technologies to create a futuristic experience with its human-vehicle interaction — incorporating voice recognition, touch control, biometric identification and hand-gesture control technology. The voice interface will be powered by Amazon Alexa for intelligent voice control, with additional Amazon collaboration on audio and video content.

To unlock the car, face recognition cameras will recognise the driver or the passenger. BYTON also recognises driver and passenger information to auto-adjust seat angles, entertainment options and other information according to user preferences and usage.

To top it it all, the car covers 520 km on a single charge.

The new SUV will be manufactured at the company’s plant in Nanjing, China. The car will be available in China towards the end of 2019, and in the US and Europe in 2020.

“BYTON Concept SUV connects both the automotive and digital industries in ways that will deliver an entirely new connective experience for people on the move. The result is the world’s first Smart Intuitive Vehicle, or SIV,” said Carsten Breitfeld, CEO and co-founder, BYTON.

“BYTON is tailor-made for fully electric mobility. Equally important, we have designed our car to be the first-ever affordable premium EV that fulfils the requirements as the first car in every household,” said Daniel Kirchert, President and co-founder.

‘Smart surfaces’

BYTON Concept leverages ‘smart surfaces’, beginning with the front grill. LED lights across the front highlight the luminescent logo in the middle, along with connecting lines and dots that can switch to different display modes to suit different driving scenarios as well as communicate with users and pedestrians. The rear of the car also adapts the smart surfaces design.

Path to autonomy

BYTON’s production car will be equipped with L3 ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) in 2019. The company says L4 autonomous driving will be enabled from 2020 via a software upgrade, as will future sensor and camera upgrades.

Tesla claims it will already have L4 autonomy — just one step from full autonomous cars — by 2019, and will be able to achieve full autonomy by 2020. That still makes Tesla ahead of Byton in terms of futuristic tech. But Byton’s concept is nevertheless a compelling proposition, only if it does not meet the fate of its predecessor.

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Published on January 12, 2018
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