Byton Concept SUV revealed: Connected, self-driving and electric

Autonomous tech, lounge-like interior and door-to-door video display

Byton, a Chinese-backed automotive startup, began teasing its connected, autonomous, electric vehicle ahead of its debut as the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Photos showed a crossover with an interior focused on shared entertainment. Now the company has officially unveiled the Byton Concept in Las Vegas, calling the premium SUV a "new-generation smart device, built for the coming era of truly shared, smart mobility and autonomous driving."

The Byton Concept has a big front end, 22-inch wheels, and a sloping roofline, but still looks quite approachable and conservatively styled for a concept car. The Byton Concept previews a production model that will originally be built and sold in China in 2019, before making its way to the U.S. and Europe in 2020, according to the company. The production model will offer two versions: a rear-drive model with a 71-kWh battery offering 248.5 miles of range, and a four-wheel-drive version with a 95-kWh battery good for 323 miles of driving on a charge. The rear-drive car's single motor will provide 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, while the dual-motor, four-wheel-drive model will offer 469 horsepower and 523 pound-feet.

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The main focus of this car is technology, though. It features face recognition unlocking, which allows the car to know who is in the car and to have their data, apps and music available through the Byton Life cloud platform. The vehicle will allow video and phone conferencing within the vehicle, and can synchronize with the user's calendar and locations. It will communicate using the built-in 5G hardware.

Inside the vehicle, occupants are treated to a "Shared Experience Display" that takes up most of the dashboard real estate. It allows occupants to enjoy video together, which they'll be able to do when the car is operating in Level 4 autonomous mode. There is also a "Driver Tablet" integrated into the steering wheel, allowing the driver to control the larger display, navigation, seat adjustment, and other features that would normally require a physical button or knob. There are also two screens to cater to rear passengers. Additionally, users can control functions with Amazon's Alexa system, or with Byton's "Air Touch" gesture control. To communicate with other drivers or pedestrians, the Byton Concept features "Smart Surface" on the front and rear, featuring LED lights with different display modes.

Byton took advantage of the electric powertrain in order to maximize the interior space and create a sense of openness. The front seats can rotate 12 degrees inward to facilitate conversation. The rear seats are individually adjustable. The interior features leather seating and wood floors.

When it goes on sale, the Byton SUV will have a starting price of $45,000. The SUV will be followed by a sedan in 2021 and a minivan in 2022, each using the same EV platform as the SUV.

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