Introduced at CES 2018, Byton is a new all-electric SUV, whose “bytes on wheels” are promising to revolutionise the smart car driving experience.
Byton is the creation of a new China-based company established by BMW and Infiniti. The new company, previously known as Future Mobility Corporation, was founded by Carsten Breitfeld, the former head of BMW’s i8 program, and Daniel Kirchert, the former managing director of Infiniti China and a BMW executive.
The car, which is called a “smart intuitive vehicle” or SIV, is equipped with technology that can simplify the use of smart devices while driving by implementing hand gestures and voice commands.
According to CEO Carsten Breitfeld, “the target of Byton is to be the first player in the market that can provide products for smart mobility as part of a smart living scenario in the future”.
Smart interiors hold great promise for Byton
The target of Byton is to be the first player in the market that can provide products for smart mobility as part of a smart living scenario in the future
Byton’s interior consists of cutting edge technology, such as a 49- by 10-inch display that takes up the entire dashboard and a touchscreen on the steering wheel.
The vehicle has connected features such as Amazon’s Alexa voice command and gesture control integrated into its design, as well as the capability to identify various drivers and their seat and temperature preferences. The SIV has additional capabilities that can monitor the driver’s heart rate, weight, oxygen saturation and blood pressure.
Kirchert believes that the SIV will be a new category in automotive. The car is really becoming more of a smart device, allowing the driver and passengers to have their own digital and seamless experience, that doesn’t require the use of a smartphone or other smart devices. Moreover, the founders are positioning the car’s design towards a future of autonomous and shared mobility.
When released, the SIV will have Level 3 autonomous capabilities, described as conditional automation by SAE. This level enables the car to control most aspects of driving in the right conditions, expecting the human driver to intervene when necessary. The company is also working on upgrades of its autonomous driving features, meaning that the car could soon be able to take over the entire driving under appropriate conditions.
Byton Life, or car -as-a-Service
An accompanying concept of the vehicle is a “smart and open digital cloud platform that seamlessly connects all applications, data and devices”, called Byton Life. It is the technical backbone which will enable the driver and passengers integration of related services such as music, video streaming or syncing fitness trackers.
As the drivers spend more time in the car, Byton will get smarter and more intuitive about their wants and needs. In addition, machine learning will enable the interface to make personalised suggestions, while facial and emotional recognition will identify the driver and their personal profile, whose preferences and content will be downloaded from the company’s cloud storing Byton’s ID.
Will we finally see a new affordable EV by 2020?
The base Byton selling for $45,000 will include a 71 kWh battery pack that could travel 250 miles on one charge, while 80% of the battery would be charged in 30 minutes. An upgraded and more expensive version will be a four-wheel drive, able to travel 325 miles on one charge.
The SIV will be exclusively sold in China until the first half of 2020, after which it will become available in North America and Europe. Byton will be sold directly to customers and through showrooms operated by third-party sales agents.
The company plans to launch a sedan and a seven-seater multi purpose vehicle by 2022. Byton’s ambitions additionaly extend to mobility services beyond electric vehicles, as it plans to become a leading provider of products and services for smart living environments.
The Chinese market is a major part of Bytons ambitions
The headquarters, research and development, factory and local sales are located in China. The ground work for the factory in Nanjing was set up in September 2017 and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2018. Trial production of Byton, which is currently 80% complete will begin in 2019, preparing the facility for mass production later that year.
However, the engineering related to autonomous driving, sensors and software development is conducted in the North American headquarters in Santa Clara, California, employing 300 people from Apple, BMW, Delphi, Ford, Google, Mercedes, Tesla, Toyota and other companies. The platform, on the other hand, was designed in Germany, in the Munich office.
Byton’s numerous suppliers consist of companies such as Bosch for electric power trains, Faurecia for the vehicles’s interior and seats, and China’s BOE for the big screen. The company is also collaborating with other battery supplier and autonomous technology companies.
Byton has already raised $320 million from external investors and is expected to raise additional funds in a Series B round, that will be used to build the factory.