'Chinese startup' vows autonomous car by 2020 in US


A ‘global startup’ which makes electric racing vehicles unveiled plans Friday to sell a fully autonomous electric car in the US market by 2020.

The company called Nio, founded by Chinese entrepreneur William Li and with offices in Silicon Valley, Europe and China, unveiled a prototype of the vehicle called Eve at the South by Southwest tech conference in Austin, Texas.

According to a Nio statement, the car will be ‘a digital companion, a robot on wheels’ equipped with ‘an artificial intelligence engine with an intuitive human interface, providing verbal and visual connections both within the vehicle and with the outside world.’

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The new design is more like a living room on wheels than a car. The forward two seats have an 'enhanced panoramic view', with digital displays provided on the active glass when needed to support non-autonomous driving

The new design is more like a living room on wheels than a car. The forward two seats have an ‘enhanced panoramic view’, with digital displays provided on the active glass when needed to support non-autonomous driving

INSIDE THE EVE 

NOMI, the voice activated AI digital companion, will personalize your driving experience based on road conditions and activities 

EVE has no door pillars, and interior is accessed through a wide forward-sliding door. 

Folding table creates work or play space, while a luxurious seat that reclines and allows for relaxation or even sleep. 

Forward two seats have  panoramic view, with digital displays provided on the active glass

It will use its glass panels as ‘an augmented vision for occupants and for new kinds of entertainment,’ according to the company statement.

The new car is likely to compete in the premium segment with vehicles from Tesla and others, including another Chinese-funded startup, Faraday Future, as automakers ramp up efforts to deliver autonomous driving.

‘We’re excited about having autonomous electric cars for US consumers in 2020,’ said Padmasree Warrior, chief executive of US division and a former executive at Cisco and Motorola.

‘Today we also unveiled our vision for the car of the future, focused on delivering unmatched user experience through leading edge, software defined hardware.’

Nio, which produces the NextEV cars for Formula E racing, has raised capital from Chinese tech firms Tencent and Lenovo, the private investment firms TPG and Sequoia Capital, and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek.

According to its statement, Nio has more than 2,000 employees in various locations around the world and has an autonomous vehicle testing permit for California.

Kris Tomasson, Nio’s vice president for design, told AFP the company expected to have the first fully autonomous vehicle in the US market.

Nomi, the car's AI, uses the vehicle's active glass to provide an augmented vision for occupants and for new kinds of entertainment

Nomi, the car’s AI, uses the vehicle’s active glass to provide an augmented vision for occupants and for new kinds of entertainment

The new design is more like a living room on wheels than a car, with a fold out table and reclining seats

The new design is more like a living room on wheels than a car, with a fold out table and reclining seats

‘We have a startup mentality,’ he said. 

‘We are using the advantages of being nimble, and we don’t have a lof of the legacy issues of traditional manufacturers.’

While some details will depend on US regulations, Tomasson said the vehicle will be designed as ‘a living space’ for up to six passengers, but may allow for a driver.

Doing away with conventional A and B pillars of the car and using optimized door cuts, the comfortable and inviting interior is accessed through a wide forward-sliding door 

Doing away with conventional A and B pillars of the car and using optimized door cuts, the comfortable and inviting interior is accessed through a wide forward-sliding door 

The rear seats can even recline to form a  bed for weary travellers

The rear seats can even recline to form a  bed for weary travellers

‘We are trying to bring people a joyful lifestyle, and we want to create consumer engagement from all aspects,’ we said.

‘We want to create a holistic user experience.’

Tomasson said he expected the car to be capable of ‘level 4’ autonomy, or the highest level designated for self-driving.

Last year NextEV launched a $1.2 million hypercar called the EP9, pictured here. 

Last year NextEV launched a $1.2 million hypercar called the EP9, pictured here. 

The two battery stacks can be ejected from the sills of the car and replaced in eight minutes

The two battery stacks can be ejected from the sills of the car and replaced in eight minutes in the firm’s EP9

Another model, without full autonomy, wis set to be introduced in China in 2018, he said.

Tomasson said he did not have details on pricing or the driving range between charges of the new vehicle, or where it would be manufactured.

Last year NextEV launched a $1.2 million hypercar that’s embarrassed the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and Pagani with a new lap record around the Nürburgring circuit, and is capable of zero to 62mph in 2.7 seconds with zero tailpipe emissions.

Called the EP9, it’s the first model in the NIO brand under the NextEV banner. 

Just six will be built with a secret British partner and all of them will go to investors in the brand.

The dfifuser runs the whole length of the car to improve downforce. It also has a three-positioning pivoting active rear wing

Last year NextEV launched a $1.2 million hypercar that’s embarrassed the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and Pagani with a new lap record around the Nürburgring circuit. The diffuser runs the whole length of the car to improve downforce. It also has a three-positioning pivoting active rear wing

All this technology and performance doesn't come cheap though - each of the models built will cost $1.2 million

All this technology and performance doesn’t come cheap though – each of the models built will cost $1.2 million. Called the EP9, it’s the first model in the NIO brand under the NextEV banner.

 

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