Byton showed off its second vehicle at a gala event in Shanghai tonight, revealing an unusual mix between sleek electric future and autonomous driving design that communicates with the outside world.
Called the K-Byte Concept, Byton’s new sedan doesn’t try to hide the ways that its different from other autonomous vehicles. Obvious, retractable sensors called LiGuards sit under the side mirrors and pop out in self-driving mode. The LiGuards can also light up to alert nearby pedestrians that the car is driving itself.
On the roof, a design element called the LiBow integrates the front and rear LIDAR sensors, once again making sure that everyone who sees the K-Byte knows this is not your average self-driving car. For all of its bizarre little touches, Byton is making it clear that the K-Byte “is not a pre-production concept; instead it embodies BYTON’s intent to reinterpret what has become an outdated body type: the sedan,” according to the official release.
Speaking at the opening of the company’s new global HQ in Nanjing the day before the unveiling, Byton CEO and co-founder Carsten Breitfeld said showing the K-Byte in China made sense because the country is an important players in Byton’s mission.
“What we do here, to be honest, is nearly impossible to do,” he said. “And the only place in the world we can do it in China.”
Breitfeld listed four reasons for this: a big automotive market for electric cars, a strong entrepreneurial spirit, the ability to move “very, very fast,” and strong government support. The first talks Byton had with the government of Nanjing took place at the end of 2016. “In only 18 months, it’s really fascinating to see what was achieved.”
It’s the next 18 months that are the real important ones, though.
As previously announced, Byton is working with Aurora for the brains behind the autonomous features and the two companies are promising Level 4 (that is, the ability for the car to drive itself without human input under some circumstances) capability in a fleet of prototypes by the end of 2020.