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Chinese EV startup Byton unveils first concept at CES
Katie Burke | 2018/1/9

LAS VEGAS -- With a focus on the digital experience over the driving experience, Byton is trying to make a splashy, yet believable, debut at CES.

The Nanjing, China, company introduced its first vehicle concept at CES on Sunday, rolling out its connectivity-focused electric crossover.

Byton's unveiling comes one year after Faraday Future made a grandiose splash at CES, only to widely scale back its ambitions within months.

With wide infotainment screens and individual adjustable seats, Byton's concept focuses on affordable comfort and utility rather than an ultra-luxury driving experience.

"Our first Byton is actually a high-tech digital space," Byton CEO Carsten Breitfeld said.

Breitfeld and Daniel Kirchert, Byton's president, drove one concept on stage, with two identical vehicles parked on either side. The executive then brought out his teenage son, Winston, to vouch for the concept's usability.

"It's as intuitive to operate as any smart device you've ever seen," Breitfeld said.

Byton, which recently opened an office in Silicon Valley, plans to sell its first vehicle in China in 2019, and later begin sales in the U.S. The company's first vehicle will be modeled after the CES concept, which Byton said contains 85 percent of the same design and parts as the production vehicle.

The flagship crossover, which customers can reserve starting Jan. 7, will start at about $45,000, with an entry-level trim that will have a range of 250 miles, and a high-end trim with a range of 325 miles.

The concept's sloping exterior replaces standard parts with "smart" technology. Instead of door handles, facial recognition sensors can detect drivers and passengers and open the doors accordingly. Side-view cameras replace mirrors. The crossover's narrow headlights are placed high on its face, with three individual light "modules" per headlight. In place of a grille, a screen displays intersecting lines of light. Antennaes are flattened into the roof for cloud connectivity.

Autonomous driving
Byton said its first vehicles will be equipped with Level 3 autonomous driving capability -- which means the vehicle can drive itself in certain conditions and under human supervision.

The automaker expects to install Level 4 capability -- which requires no human supervision under defined conditions -- some time in the next decade through a partnership with an unnamed manufacturer, and has designed the concept's interior with upcoming self-driving upgrades in mind.

A 49-inch screen that can be controlled by touch, voice or gesture spans the cockpit, and is customized for both the driver and the front-seat passenger, with an additional 8-inch touchscreen on the steering wheel. The vehicle can limit the amount of information available depending on whether a human or the vehicle is driving. The car will also be able to connect to passengers' smart devices, such as phones and watches, for individual entertainment and other information.

Alexa on hand
Byton is also working with Amazon to integrate the tech company's Alexa virtual assistant into its vehicle.

The concept's interior contains four seats, with front seats that can rotate 12 degrees inward, designed in collaboration with French supplier Faurecia.

Kirchert said the ability to personalize infotainment for each passenger primes Byton's vehicle for both individual ownership and use in shared mobility services.

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