Byton Concept car ditches wing mirrors, keys and claims to be a “living room on wheels”

The car is changing. We’ve already seen electric vehicles start to creep in as an accepted norm, just as autonomous vehicles are quickly becoming the next big step in automotive technology. For some creative thinkers out there, this isn’t enough. The car of the future needs to do more than simply get you from A to B, the car of the future has to move on from simply being designed like a car first.

Enter Byton Concept, the first car from the China-based Byton.

The concept is designed as a car that’s more than simply another EV. Byton’s entire design ethos is to use the car as a means to reclaim time lost to traffic jams and driving in general. It’s about empowering both passengers and drivers to make the most of their time and, as the buzzword-filled CES 2018 presser kept saying, allowing people to “turn miles, into smiles”.

Once you look past the cringe-worthy marketing push on the life-enriching capabilities of a car, the Byton Concept really does have some fantastic product ideas in place. Wing mirrors have been removed, replaced by rear-facing cameras to improve aerodynamic efficiency. Door handles disappear and keyless entry comes from facial recognition rather than simple proximity. There’s also no sharkfin in place as every antenna is seamlessly integrated into the body of the car, ensuring its profile stays sleek.

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Inside the car you’ll find a huge interactive 49 x 10in screen that spans the dashboard, with a second touchscreen integrated into the driver’s steering wheel. Byton also touts Amazon Alexa so you can make plans, manage work or contact others via voice while driving. There’s also support for gestures, meaning you can interact with screens without removing your hands from the steering wheel or leaning across the dashboard.

The concept is designed to be a “car for passengers”, toting itself as a “digital lounge” or “living room on wheels”. Every seat is individually adjustable, and in the Byton Concept set to come to market, the front seats actually rotate inwards to “facilitate a more communicative environment” – an apparent first for a road vehicle despite many other manufacturers touting such a feature in upcoming cars.

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All these features don’t seem to just be hot air either. Anyone believing that a Chinese-made car won’t cut the mustard may be surprised to hear that Byton was actually founded by former BMW employees. Both Dr Carsten Breitfeld and Dr Daniel Kirchert have ensured the Bryton Concept is a car made for all markets, with the majority of the car’s design taking place within Munich and a lot of its systems R&D taking place in Santa Clara.

It shows, too. This is a beautiful car. It’s sleek and stylish, with sharp lines and smooth curves. From a tech perspective, it’s planned to be updatable and upgradable, with sensors being easily swapped out for better ones if needed. On launch, it’s a level three autonomous vehicle but it’s actually built for level four autonomy. Byton has also invested in their own security lab to discover vulnerabilities in connected vehicles and ensure that the Byton Concept is completely secure to any external security threats.

If you want to get your hands on a Byton Concept you’ll have to wait. Byton’s production plant in Nanjing, China is still under construction, but it’s believed it’ll be up and running for cars to start rolling out from 2019. Byton also states that it’s planning on bringing two more cars to market shortly after the Concept SUV hits roads – an MPV and a sedan.

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Prices start at $45,000 (£33,000) – just $10,000 more than a Tesla Model 3 – and you can pick up a standard or “high capacity” battery model depending on your preference. Base promises a range of 250 miles per charge, with the high offering 325 miles. $45,000 may sound steep, but it actually places it within the affordable bracket for an EV, especially as its nearest rival is the Tesla Model X, which costs a whopping $79,000 (£58,000).

For that price, you’ll get access to all the smart features the Concept promises and continual software upgrades to improve the car’s efficiency over time. The Byton also states some impressive charging times, with just 22 minutes of charge delivering a range of 162 miles and 30 minutes hitting 250 miles in the high-capacity variant.

Of course, with many of these things, you to take it with a pinch of salt. The Byton Concept is promising a lot from a car company that’s never made a car before (and doesn’t yet have a production plant), but from first impressions, it looks like it’s on the right track. I certainly do have some fears around having to always be connected to my life, even when driving can often offer a respite from it all, but it’s undeniable that Byton has really honed in on where the future of car travel is going.

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