Byton smart car ready for Vegas

By Chang Jun in Santa Clara, California | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-12-05 11:31

China's electric vehicle startup Byton announced on Friday that it has chosen Santa Clara, California as its North American headquarters in order to embrace innovation and technology.

And, its first drivable prototype will make its debut in Las Vegas at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.

The headquarters is now "fully operational" and responsible for developing and testing the intelligent driving experience. It will also involve marketing and business development in the North American market, according to the company.

Byton's parent company, Future Mobility Corp, was co-founded by former BMW and Nissan Motor executives Carsten Breitfeld and Daniel Kirchert in March 2016, with the brand name Byton launched in Shanghai in September.

Since its inception, Byton has set a clear global vision by establishing a presence in China, Germany and the US. Its global operation center, manufacturing and global R&D center is based in Nanjing. The Munich R&D center in Germany is responsible for the design of prototype and concept models.

At an opening ceremony on Dec 1, which took place at the 80,000-square-foot office and featured a ribbon-cutting and Champagne spray, CEO Breitfeld explained to the audience why they need a foothold in the US.

"Silicon Valley, the world's tech center, now is Byton's home. It's a testing place not only for exciting ideas but for developing cutting-edge technologies," said Breitfeld.

He said the key focus of the Santa Clara office lies in developing the intelligent car user experience, autonomous driving, whole vehicle integration, as well as developing and overseeing operations in the North American market.

"In a very short period of time, we've attracted interest from different areas of the Valley - engineering, artificial intelligence, automobile, big data, marketing, supply chains - and we now have a team of about 120 local experts," Breitfeld said.

Calling Byton a company "rooted in China but really a global player", Kirchert said its products are developed for China, the US and Europe.

Zhang Jianxin, deputy consul general at the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, hailed the startup as "one of the good examples of tech cooperation between China and the US".

Byton announced its first drivable prototype will make its debut on Jan 7 at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. "We are not focusing on producing concepts, but really putting our energy in delivering the real car. You will see this very soon," said Breitfeld.

Featuring human-vehicle interface, the smart vehicle includes a 49-by-10-inch screen for shared experience and a touch steering wheel, as well as gesture recognition, facial recognition, and emotion recognition, among other features.

Byton plans to launch three models on the same platform in the next five years: an SUV, a sedan and an MPV. The first production SUV model will launch in the fourth quarter of 2019, while the sedan and MPV are scheduled to roll into the market in 2021 and 2022.

In August, Byton completed its series of A financing, raising approximately $200 million from Harmony Auto, Aulton Investments, League Automotive Technologies, Legend Capital, an industrial investment fund in Jiangsu, and Chengtun Group.

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