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Chinese-American Startup Partnership Promises a Self-Driving Electric SUV by 2020

Chinese electric car startup BYTON says it will produce a self-driving SUV by 2020. The bold pledge came with the announcement of a partnership with Aurora...

Chinese electric car startup BYTON says it will produce a self-driving SUV by 2020. The bold pledge came with the announcement of a partnership with Aurora, a Silicon Valley-based autonomous driving startup founded by Google, Tesla and Uber veterans.

The deal will incorporate Aurora ‘s Level 4 autonomous driving solutions into BYTON’s new electric vehicles, which can drive without human intervention in most conditions. Over the next two years, BYTON will deploy 100 – 200 electric vehicles equipped with Aurora software in San Francisco for road testings and data collection.

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CEO and Co-Founder of Aurora Chris Urmson (left), and CEO and Co-Founder of BYTON Carsten Breitfeld (right). Courtesy of BYTON.

Aurora will provide BYTON with its self-driving hardware kit, including requirements and integration guidelines for preparing the vehicle platform for self-driving. Aurora will also provide the self-driving software and data services required to operate the system.

BYTON is a subsidiary of Nanjing-based Future Mobility. The company lured former BMW executive Carsten Breitfeld as its CEO, and has assembled a team with rich experience in car design and production.

At CES 2018 in Las Vegas earlier this year BYTON unveiled their concept car — a US$45,000 electric SUV featuring a breathtaking 1.25-meter in-car panorama screen and rotating front seats. BYTON cars equipped with a premium Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) solution will be available in 2019 in China and 2020 in the US and Europe.

BYTON chose Aurora to keep drivers’ hands off the steering wheel with its expertise in L4/L5 autonomous vehicle solutions. The company was founded in 2016 by Chris Urmson, former head of Alphabet’s autonomous driving affiliate Waymo; Sterling Anderson, who led the launch of Tesla Model X and directed Tesla Autopilot; and Drew Bagnell, who led Uber’s Advanced Technology Center.

Aurora created a buzz in the industry earlier this year when it announced collaborations to develop onboard self-driving systems with Volkswagen AG and Hyundai Motor Co. The latter plans to mass produce L4 autonomous vehicles by 2021.

“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,” says Breitfeld.

The BYTON-Aurora agreement covers pilot deployment in the US market, over the course of which both parties will explore broader application scenarios for Aurora’s self-driving system and BYTON’s production series vehicles.

Although BYTON is a newcomer in the field of electric cars, it is catching up with existing automakers, and taking a brave step forward with its autonomous driving SUV project.


Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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