Meet the Byton concept car, an electric SUV for our connected future

A brand-new electric car has made its debut at CES, and no, we're not talking about Faraday Future. We're referring to the Byton concept car, an "intuitive" SUV that the company's founders drove onto the stage at CES 2018

What was revealed is a sleek-looking vehicle, one that resembles the sporty yet family-friendly design of the Tesla Model X. The door handles and antennas are invisible, and the car is said to be shaped for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. 

There's a touchscreen in the steering wheel, and Byton's founders say it's the first time this has been done for a car going into "serious production." The dashboard in the concept car is a 125 cm x 25 cm (49 in x 9.8 in) screen that stretches from door to door, and there are two additional displays that face the rear-seat passengers. 

As if it wasn't obvious, these elements are aimed at keeping the driver and passengers connected at all times. There's a Byton Life platform to help with this, and the concept extends to the very body of the car, which includes front seats that swivel 12 degrees inward to better face those in the rear. 

Amazon Alexa is on-board for voice commands and other helpful features like updating your grocery list, while facial recognition will allow for the car to only unlock when you're present. 

And to complete this advanced-input trifecta, gesture controls allow for select actions, such as grabbing a location into the front display to begin navigation. We're not exactly sure how this will work, but it's certainly unique. 

The car is also prepared for 5G connectivity, when the advanced network capability becomes available, due to the rooftop antenna's data transfer rate of up to 10 gigabits per second. 

Finally, Byton's car features autonomous driving features and will have Level 3 self-driving capabilities at launch with a software upgrade bringing it up to Level 4 by 2020.

Road to nowhere?

A splashy CES reveal is one thing, but bringing a car to market is a completely different beast. Just ask Faraday Future, which has been plagued by problems ever since its CES 2017 debut. 

But Byton, at least, is starting off with an attractive price. Its car starts at $45,000 (about £31,000 / AU$54,000). That's more expensive than the Tesla Model 3 but less than the base model of the Model X.

The first Byton SUV will be available in China in late 2019, followed by a US and Europe launch in 2020.

With a range of 250 miles on a single charge for the base model and 323 miles for the more advanced version, Byton's car is on the same playing field as Tesla's SUV, which has a range of up to 295 miles on a single charge. 

Byton's dreams extend beyond its new SUV, as it also announced plans to bring a sedan and multi-purpose vehicle to market by 2021 and 2022, respectively.

This all sounds good on paper, but the proof of whether Byton can pull it off will be in completing its production plant (one is already under construction in China), developing consumer interest and, crucially, fulfilling on orders. Byton has some time on its side, but late 2019 will be here before we know it. Whether Byton's first car arrives then remains to be seen. 

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Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.