Byton Will Get Self-Driving Car Tech From Aurora

Byton wants a Level 4 self-driving car in production by 2020.

Byton

Byton and Aurora Innovation were two of the most notable startups at CES 2018, and now they're teaming up. Aurora will provide the hardware and software necessary to make future Byton electric cars autonomous.

Over the next two years, Byton and Aurora will jointly conduct testing of prototype self-driving cars. These vehicles will have SAE Level 4 autonomy, meaning they will be able to drive themselves most of the time, but will still require occasional human intervention. China-based Byton previously said it wanted to put Level 4 cars into production by 2020. Byton is also interested in Level 5 autonomous cars, which don't require any manual controls. 

Automation is probably a good idea since it will allow drivers to focus their attention on Byton's lavish infotainment systems. The concept SUV Byton unveiled at CES 2018 had a massive display screen running the length of its dashboard, and even had a screen on the steering wheel. The concept's trick feature wasn't a powerful electric motor or a new type of battery chemistry, but a cloud-based platform that syncs personal data to the car.

Aurora is an autonomous-driving tech startup founded in 2016 by ex-Google self-driving car engineer Chris Urmson. The company stayed under the radar until CES 2018, when it announced partnerships with Hyundai and Volkswagen. In choosing Aurora to help make its cars autonomous, it seems Byton is in good company.

Byton plans to launch a production model based on its CES concept in China next year. The SUV will have Level 3 autonomy at launch, giving Byton just one year to upgrade it to Level 4. The company hopes to start U.S. sales in 2020, and launch two more models after that: a sedan that will debut in 2021, and a minivan that will launch in 2022. But Faraday Future has shown that building just one model can be tough enough for a new company. We'll see if Byton can do better.