Byton readies three autonomous-ready electric cars
Byton is a young electric car company, founded in 2016. But it is readying two models of electric cars, which will be ready for self-driving car technology, for launch in the not-so-distant future.
Byton’s cofounders Carsten Breitfeld and Daniel Kirchert gave an update on their plans at CES 2019, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week. The cars — the K-Byte model and the M-Byte model — will feature artificial intelligence and machine learning in models in the works now. The less-expensive M-Byte will begin production in 2019, the K-Byte sedan will come in 2021, and a third model will arrive in 2023, the founders said.
The company unveiled its M-Byte prototype a year ago at CES 2018, and it now has two vehicles. It is targeting the first electric vehicle for $45,000, without self-driving car technology. But the car will be upgradeable to Level 3 autonomous driving — where the car does most of the driving instead of the human driver — in the future, the company said.
“To achieve this milestone, we went from thinking mechanically, to thinking digitally,” said Carsten Breitfeld, CEO of Byton, at a press event at CES 2019, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas.
Byton’s cars will have integrated Amazon Alexa, so you or a passenger can issue commands, like “play my play list.” Aside from having the basic car — the Byton EV platform — the company will also have a Byton Life platform, which will enable you to engage with the car and all of the things you want to do in it, like playing music or movies. The Byton app is an all-in-one solution to do things when you are outside the car.
“The Byton M-Byte could be the most important digital device in your life,” Breitfeld said.
The company revealed more about its user interface and interior cabin details, which will first appear in the M-Byte model.
The 48-inch touchscreen is the highlight of the car, making it unique from anything else coming soon. But the company says the car is ready for self-driving car technology. In that case, the display is quite useful to you. It also has a small touch display on the center of the driving wheel, so you can look at things like settings, music, and your calendar. There’s an airbag below the touch display.
There’s also a dashboard camera pointing at the driver to detect whether the driver is alert or sleep. This comes in handy in case you are actually driving the car, or if you are ready to take over the car in case of an emergency. The car has security built by a cross-company Byton Security Lab,
The company has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors including FAW and CATL. Partners include Bosch, Faurecia, Amazon, and Baidu.
“We are building Byton on great partnerships,” said Kirchert.
The company is on track to secure a production license in China, he said. In June 2017, the company broke ground in Nanjing. It became operational in April 2018, and the first running prototypes came off the line in August. It has now built more than 100 test vehicles.
“We are on track to start production by the end of this year,” he said. “The fully operational capacity will be 300,000 cars a year.”
The first Byton store will open in Shanghai next week, said Kirchert. It is the first of many stores that will follow, he said. Byton has more than 1,500 employees across all of its locations.