Byton unveils production ready smart car at CES 2019
Last year at CES Byton unveiled its concept car to the world. It looked good from the outside, but it was the inside that really grabbed the attention, with a 48in ultra-widescreen display running below the entire width of the windscreen.
And that screen was just the tip of the iceberg, with Byton touting a host of features and technologies designed to enhance the user experience of the car. From facial recognition that identifies the driver, unlocks the car and allows it to be started, to integration with Amazon Alexa, to ensure smooth, accurate, voice control and assistance.
At this year’s CES Byton unveiled the production ready version of its concept car, now called the M-Byte, and unlike many production ready evolutions of concept cars, Byton hasn’t just kept all the cool features it showed off last year, it has increased and enhanced them.
The huge 48in screen, or Shared Experience Display (SED) as Byton calls it, is still there and it’s the exact same screen that dominated the concept car. Obviously interacting with a screen this size presents some challenges – while touchscreen technology has become the defacto standard for in-car infotainment screens, it’s simply not an option on a display this large. Byton’s solution? More screens!
There’s a 7in tablet mounted inside the steering wheel, which the driver uses to control features of the car and also navigate the main SED screen. This screen stays static, regardless of how the steering wheel is turned, making it easy for the driver to access it at all times. There’s also now an industry standard airbag mounted below the steering wheel screen, ensuring that the M-Byte adheres to safety regulations.
But Byton is fully aware that it’s not just the driver that needs to access the features of the car and make use of that impressive SED, so there’s another 8in tablet mounted in the centre console, giving the passenger similar control over everything the M-Byte has to offer.
That facial recognition showcased on the concept car is still there, too, but it’s not just there for security now. The M-Byte will still recognise people as they approach the car and decide whether they’re authorised to open the door, but every seat in the car has a facial recognition camera so the car knows exactly who is inside it, and where they’re sitting.
That Amazon Alexa feature mentioned last year was also showcased, showing a deep integration that allows driver and passengers to access the full power of Alexa. With individual voice recognition, Alexa in the M-Byte knows who’s talking, and will respond appropriately. There’s no need to change logins to access different people’s accounts, the car will automatically know who’s asking for their music playlists, for example. Of course this could result in arguments and shouting matches as multiple passengers try to wrest control of Alexa, but Byton can’t solve everything!
Features like that deep Alexa integration will be made possible through the Byton Life 5G cloud platform – not only will the car itself have the fastest possible mobile data built into it, but the Byton Life platform will constantly evolve and improve with new features and partners.
Byton Life and that high-speed data link provide the tools for cutting edge AI and machine learning capabilities, too. The car will know where you’re going, what time you’ll get there, where you’ve been, how long you’ve been driving, what your itinerary is for tomorrow, whether you have dinner plans, etc. Byton hinted that the car will be able to think and make decisions for you, like ensuring you have a parking space at your destination, or booking a table at your favourite restaurant.
That AI and ML capability will also allow the M-Byte to deliver Level 3 autonomous driving features. To complement that ambition, the M-Byte has a dedicated camera and sensor pack mounted on the dash that constantly monitors the driver, to ensure that they’re still vigilant and ready to take control back if necessary.
It’s not all about the cool technology inside the M-Byte, though; Byton is ensuring that this is a competitive EV, too. The M-Byte has an estimated range of 320 miles, which should put most consumers’ range anxiety to rest. Byton also claims that the M-Byte will charge to 80% capacity in only 30 minutes, so even if you do have a long journey planned, you’ll only have to stop for a coffee every 300 miles or so.
The M-Byte will start rolling off the production line at Byton’s Nanjing plant at the end of 2019, with an estimated base price of $45,000 (£35,000), making it surprisingly affordable given the tech that’s baked into it. The first Byton dealership – Byton Place – will open its doors in Shanghai later this month, but if you’re interested in an M-Byte you can reserve one today on Byton’s website.