Byton designed its new concept for autonomous driving from the start (Image: Byton)

Byton has unveiled a concept previewing its second car, the K-Byte sedan, in advance of CES Asia in Shanghai. This is the result of a partnership with autonomous driving technology firm Aurora, and the two companies claim that they will have a fleet of level 4-capable vehicles ready for testing by the end of 2020.

The new car has been designed from the outset as an autonomous vehicle, and has front and rear lidar sensors integrated in a rooftop module; more retractable lidar units are located below the side-view mirrors, to deploy in autonomous driving mode. These lidars can all illuminate, for example to signal warnings to pedestrians or other road-users.

Like the M-Byte SUV unveiled in concept form at CES Las Vegas earlier this year, the K-Byte is described as “a next-generation smart device.” In a statement at the car’s unveiling, Byton CEO and co-founder Carsten Breitfeld said: “Following from our first model, the K-Byte Concept represents a breakthrough in the design of smart connected vehicles. It changes the design language of traditional cars, introducing new design aesthetics in the age of shared mobility and autonomous driving.” The sedan is scheduled to come to market in 2021, and a third model based on the same platform will follow. First prototypes of the SUV are expected to start testing next year.

The Byton connectivity concept involves a cloud platform hosting data on all entertainment, seating, climate control and other preferences are stored, supplemented by exterior cameras and facial recognition systems, AI, voice, touch or gesture commands, plus Amazon’s Alexa. A huge full-width touchscreen (49-inch by 10-inch, in the SUV concept) effectively replaces a conventional instrument panel, and the advanced antenna system in the roof module means no ‘shark fin’ is needed.

The company has just opened its new global headquarters, manufacturing base and R&D center in Nanjing, adding to a Silicon Valley facility developing autonomous driving, technology integration and intelligent car experiences, plus a concept and design center in Munich. Its management includes senior executives recruited from Google and Apple, as well as from Tesla and BMW, and it recently concluded a $500million fundraising round.

-Farah Alkhalisi