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This Electric Car Could Replace Your Smartphone

Byton, a new China-based company founded by automotive veterans of BMW (BMWYY, +1.17%) and Infiniti, unveiled Sunday an all-electric SUV loaded with technology that aims to supersize the experience and functionality of a smartphone.

If the founders pull this off, drivers and passengers will no longer reach for their smartphone or other smart devices while on the road. Instead, the vehicle will take care of all of their needs with a simple hand gesture or voice command.

The all-electric SUV was unveiled on the first media day at CES 2018, the annual tech trade show in Las Vegas.

The base version of the car, which starts at about $45,000, will have a 71-kilowatt-hour battery pack that can travel 250 miles on a single charge. Byton says this base model will be able to charge its battery 80% in 30 minutes. A more expensive version, figures the company didn’t provide, will be four-wheel drive and be able to travel 325 miles on a single charge.


Initially, the vehicles will be sold in China. But by the first half of 2020, the SUV will be available in North America. Sales in Europe will follow later that year.

The new company, formerly Future Mobility Corporation, was founded by Carsten Breitfeld, the former head of the BMW i8 program, and Daniel Kirchert, the former managing director of Infiniti China and a longtime BMW executive. Not a lot was known about the company until recently. Last month, Byton showed some teaser images and basic information at a North American media introduction event in Santa Clara, California.

Breitfeld and Kirchert are calling the medium-ish SUV crossover an SIV, or “smart intuitive vehicle.” And there’s a good reason. The vehicle, which compared to virtually every other CES concept reveal I’ve been to in recent years, looks decidedly normal. Kirchert told Fortune before the unveiling that what they’re showing is 80% complete.

And it’s loaded with technology, from a sweeping display that takes up the entire dashboard and another touchscreen on the steering wheel, to “smart” connected features that will let future customers use hand gestures and voice commands via Amazon’s Alexa assistant to control aspects of the car. The vehicle will even monitor the driver’s heart rate, weight, oxygen saturation, or blood pressure.




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