After a thorough teasing last week, automotive startup Byton has revealed its first concept car, a "new-generation smart device built for the coming era of truly shared, smart mobility and autonomous driving." Combining cutting edge technologies like Level 3/4 autonomous driving hardware, biometric identification and a digitized cockpit with 4-ft-long (1.2-m-long) display, the simply-named Byton Concept provides a look at the future of driving, a future that can't get here soon enough.
Byton had already revealed many of the pillars behind the mid-size SUV concept's design in its teaser, but the full reveal on Sunday included more specific details. Byton intends to offer two all-electric powertrain options on the production SUV: a 268-hp (200-kW) single-motor rear-wheel drive and a 469-hp (350-kW) dual-motor four-wheel drive. Torque figures are estimated at 295 and 524 lb-ft (400 and 710 Nm), respectively.
The RWD will be powered by a 71-kWh battery with up to 249 miles (400 km) of range, and the 4WD will offer up to 323 miles (520 km) via a 95-kWh battery. Fast-charging will bring the 71-kWh battery up to 80 percent in about 30 minutes, while the 95-kWh battery will require an extra five minutes to reach the same mark.
On the outside, the Byton Concept wears a straightforward but attractive look. The 191-in (4,850-mm) SUV has a compact hood and short front overhang. Its 22-in wheels are set 116 in (2,945 mm) apart and the sloping roofline and tapered greenhouse help to move the vehicle toward the sportier side of the SUV spectrum.
As we knew from the teasers, the most interesting exterior feature is the front and rear lighting. "LED lights throughout the front highlight the luminescent logo in the middle, along with connecting lines and dots that can switch to different display modes to suit different driving scenarios as well as communicate with users and pedestrians," Byton explains. The rear lighting has a similar design.
Byton claims to be all about "refining life," not just refining cars, so the interior is really where its vision takes off. The front cabin is dominated by a huge 49 x 9.8-in (125 x 25-cm) digital display that stretches from one side of the dash to the other. Called the shared experience display, the main dash screen, along with the two rear-passenger screens, rely on 5G connectivity, Byton's Life cloud platform, and an advanced machine-learning AI to provide plenty of options for entertainment and productivity.
The Byton Life cloud platform helps to connect driver and passengers with their greater digital footprints, bringing things like music, video and calendar preferences and settings into the vehicle. For instance, if an occupant is listening to music or watching a video on their mobile device before getting into the car, the car will seamlessly continue playing that content as they sit inside. The platform also includes a health component, linking with other health-tracking devices to keep tabs on things like weight, heart rate and blood pressure.
Byton's user interface gets most of the body involved. A triple-camera system built into each B-pillar unlocks the doors using facial recognition software and automatically adjusts cabin settings to each individual's preferences. Inside, the driver can rely on the steering wheel-based tablet to control and share content and adjust cabin settings. Voice control comes courtesy of Amazon Alexa, and hand gesture control is also supported.
Beyond its tech features, the Byton Concept interior is elegant and roomy, Byton taking advantage of the electric powertrain to create a flat floor finished in wood. The front seats don't spin fully around, as on other autonomous concepts, but they can rotate up to 12 degrees inward to promote more natural conversation.
Byton intends to launch its production SUV in China in 2019 and Europe and the US in 2020 with the base price estimated at US$45,000. At launch, the vehicle will offer a Level 3 autonomous driving suite, but Byton plans to upgrade that to Level 4 by 2020. The company will look to grow its lineup quickly, with a sedan planned for 2021 and an MPV for 2022, both built atop the same EV platform as the SUV.