Chinese start-up reveals EV with a ‘living room’ space at CES 2018

8 Jan 2018

The exterior of the Byton semi-autonomous SUV expected to launch in 2019. Image: Future Mobility

China’s auto sector is booming, with a bunch of start-ups trying to build the ‘car of the future’.

We’ve heard an awful lot about entrepreneurs attempting to ‘disrupt’ the tech ecosystem with new innovations, but few sectors are experiencing as much disruption as the auto industry, where dozens of start-ups are aiming to create the vehicle of the future.

One of these companies is China-based Future Mobility, which revealed its first autonomous-ready electric vehicle (EV) called Byton (bytes on wheels) at CES, the giant annual tech trade show in Las Vegas.

Founded as recently as March 2016 by former executives from Tesla, Apple and Google, Future Mobility (which will now operate its EV business under the name Byton) has already garnered a huge amount of interest from investors, securing $200m to achieve its promise of launching autonomous vehicles on the market by 2020.

In the meantime, the Byton SUV is expected to launch next year, with the intention of being a car that features a ‘living room’ feel. This includes a large, panoramic, shared screen that facilitates hand-tracking, face recognition and emotion recognition, among other technologies.

Byton interior

The large screen that will feature in the Byton. Image: Future Mobility

500km on a single charge

Continuing this trend, the car will feature 5G connectivity to cloud services, which the company claimed would boost its artificial intelligence systems on board in an effort to learn what the driver likes or dislikes, and adjust accordingly.

The whole ‘living room’ design is bolstered by the fact that it features a flat floor and rotating chairs to allow passengers to sit together, in a concept that has been prophesied by science-fiction writers for decades, but has yet to really come to fruition.

For those wondering about how the car actually drives, it will be capable of travelling more than 500km on a single charge, and Future Mobility claims that the battery can be recharged to 80pc in 30 minutes.

When launched, it will be a Level 3 autonomous vehicle, meaning that it will have some autonomous functions but, by 2020, it should reach Level 4, when it becomes near-autonomous.

Byton interior concept

The Byton will have rotating chairs. Image: Future Mobility

Rival to Tesla Model 3

Perhaps the biggest talking point, however, is the price. At $45,000, the Byton finds itself above Tesla’s $35,000 ‘entry-level’ EV, but is substantially less expensive than some of the other start-up cars priced in the $100,000 range.

“A tipping point is coming in the automotive industry,” said Future Mobility co-founder Daniel Kirchert. “We believe performance will become connectivity, and better driving will become better living. Byton will provide enjoyable time for people on the move.”

By 2021 and 2022, the company said it plans to launch a saloon and minivan version, respectively.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic