January 10, 2018 6:02 pm JST

China's Byton wows Las Vegas tech show with electric concept car

Baidu, iFlytech, others showcase latest artificial intelligence offerings

KIM JAEWON, Nikkei staff writer

Chinese-based automaker Byton shows its first electric concept car at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 in Las Vegas on Jan. 9. (Photo by Kim Jaewon)

LAS VEGAS -- China-based start-up automaker Byton has unveiled its electric concept car at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The car boasts sleek exterior design as well as a wide dashboard screen that allows all passengers to share the displayed content.

The vehicle's 1.25-meter edge-to-edge dashboard display generated plenty of interest at the company's booth on Tuesday. Designed for sharing of content on the screens, it can also connect apps, data and devices of the driver and passengers. The autonomous car, built at the company's headquarters in Nanjing, is expected to take to the streets next year in China and in 2020 in the U.S. and Europe, with a starting price at $45,000.

"Your Byton is a smart device that recognizes you and that improves your experiences through artificial intelligence," said Daniel Kirchert, president and co-founder of the company, in a press conference. "The key philosophy underpinning this user interface is, first, to get the basic functions right."

Byton was established two years ago, originally under the name Future Mobility, in Nanjing by Carsten Breitfeld, a former BMW Group vice president, and Kirchert, a former managing director of Infinity China.

Daniel Kirchert says Byton plans to double its workforce to 500 people by the end of the year. (Courtesy of Byton)

The concept car comes at a time when the world's leading automakers and tech developers, including Chinese companies, are competing to develop their own cars of the future. This includes investing in autonomous driving technology, improving electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and more.

The Beijing-based internet search engine company Baidu is leaping into the field. It has been committed in autonomous driving under its Apollo project, aiming to make it possible under highways and open city roads by 2020.

Baidu is also developing artificial intelligence technology through its Duer operating system, which interacts with people using voice control. Its H home assistant is part of the system, helping users choose their favorite songs as well as watch TV with voice control.

iFlytech is another Chinese company that is drawing attention at CES with its AI technology. The company demonstrated its translator device which interprets Chinese to English and vice versa.

"The first direction is translation. We want to sell our translation devices in the international markets," said Hu Yu, executive president of the company. "Another business is that we can transcribe. For example, you can record my speech and we can transcribe it in text automatically by the machine. We want to spread it out to all the countries."

Hu said that Amazon invited the company to cooperate in the Chinese market because it specializes in technology to recognize Mandarin. He said the company is considering that option, but has not yet decided.

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