For better or worse, Tesla has been getting most of the attention when it comes to self-driving electric cars. A new self-driving car startup in California called Byton has just unveiled its second prototype vehicle. The so-called K-Byte features a large lithium-ion battery like the Teslas, but it has more advanced self-driving hardware that could potentially surpass everything else on the road.
The last Byton concept vehicles appeared at CES early this year. The original Byton concept (retroactively branded as the M-Byte) was a crossover. The new K-Byte is a slightly smaller sedan. That’s why it’s the K-Byte instead of the M-Byte, get it? The frame of the vehicles is the same, but the K-Byte represents a more refined picture of what Byton wants to make.
The K-Byte has a 71 kWh battery with an optional (theoretical) upgrade to 95 kWh. By comparison, the Tesla Model S comes with either a 75 or 100 kWh battery. The electrical system can fast-charge up to 80 percent in about half an hour. A pair of 200 kW electric motors power the car in either two-wheel or all-wheel drive mode. The company didn’t release mileage ratings for the K-Byte, but those would just be guesses at this stage anyway. The M-Byte with the same battery capacities was allegedly capable of 249 and 323 miles per charge, respectively.
Byton has partnered with autonomous driving company Aurora, which is also supplying technology to Volkswagen and Hyundai. The K-Byte system is more like Waymo’s self-driving cars than it is like Tesla Autopilot. There are multiple LiDAR sensors spread around the car that can map the environment more effectively than a radar system. There’s a small drum on each side of the car that houses a side-view camera and a LiDAR module. These drums retract into the body when not in use. On top of the vehicle, is a component the company calls a “LiBow.” It’s a curved strip integrated into the frame of the car with a camera and LiDAR module at each end. Together, these sensors provide a full 360-degree view of the world.
According to Byton, the K-Byte should be capable of full level 4 autonomy. A Tesla is only level 2 or possibly level 3. Those both require the driver to remain attentive and ready to take over at any moment. At level 4, the car can handle almost all driving situations on its own, and you don’t have to do anything behind the wheel.
Byton is talking a big game, but no one has seen the vehicle operating in the wild yet. The company says it will show off the K-Byte at CES Asia. It wants to have a fleet of test vehicles on the road by the end of 2020.
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