California-based self-driving technology firm Aurora is to work with EV start-up on piloting Level 4 autonomy
BYTON, the EV brand being developed by a team of ex-Tesla, BMW and Nissan executives and backed by Chinese start-up Future Mobility Corp., is now moving into autonomous vehicles too.
February 6 saw the brand announce a partnership with Aurora, an autonomous vehicle technology developer based in Palo Alto and Pittsburgh. According to the partners, the goal will be to help BYTON incorporate Level 4 (L4) autonomous driving capabilities into BYTON and ultimately enable the brand to be one of the first to market L4 and eventually L5-capable vehicles.
In the next two years, BYTON and Aurora will jointly conduct pilot deployment of Aurora’s L4 autonomous driving systems on BYTON vehicles, and explore the potential use of those system in series production vehicles.
Aurora too has expertise from EV giant Tesla; its co-founder Sterling Anderson led the design and developmentof the Model X and directed the company’s flagship Autopilot system from its release and evolution through its first and second generations.
“BYTON is designed for the age of autonomous driving. We are pleased to partner with Aurora, as Aurora is supremely focused on a mission to deliver the benefits of self-driving vehicles safely, quickly, and globally,” said BYTON CEO and co-founder Dr. Carsten Breitfeld.
BYTON unveiled its concept SUV at CES last month, and evidently keen to show its technology is real, also offered attendees the chance of a ride along.
Built on a bespoke platform – which will also extend to its future portfolio of sedans and MPVs – the production SUV will be available in two options: a rear-wheel drive model with a 71 kWh battery pack and a range of 400 km (248.5 miles); and a four-wheel drive, 95 kWh battery pack with a range of up to 520 km (323 miles).
Beyond that, the Nanjing-headquartered company says it intends to design and build premium EVs for the Chinese, US and European markets. Sales are set to begin in China in 2019, and sales in the United States and Europe to start in 2020, with prices in China starting at a reported US$45,000.
Given the cold water that has been pouring onto the near-term prospects for autonomous vehicles lately, the timeline for integrating this technology with BYTON’s planned production models is murky. But what is clear is that even when designing a cutting-edge EV for release in the next few years, manufacturers can no longer afford not to be thinking about the industry’s next steps into self-driving tech, at the risk of being left behind.