Let’s go for a ride. Now in case you don’t know who Byton is, they’re one of the many EV startups around the world, that are trying to bring an electric vehicle to market. They’re based in China and they basically made their public debut here, at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2018, where they showed off a concept version of this car.
Now they’ve spent the two years since then, refining the car and getting it ready for mass manufacturing at their plant in Nanjing, China and the version that I got to drive here today, is the second pre-production prototype to have rolled off that factory line. Now Byton’s whole thing isn’t about really crazy performance or super high luxury, what they really are talking about doing with their cars, is changing the whole paradigm around user experience.
And the focal point of that is obviously that massive screen. It’s the first thing you notice when you look at this car. It’s 48 inches long and it stretches from pillar to pillar. It’s a very divisive thing and a lot of people have been really worried about what it would be like to drive with a screen that big, in front of you. And I gotta say, just from spending a couple of minutes in the car, I can understand how you might be able to literally look past it.
The screen is enormous, but it’s sunken into the dashboard and Byton’s also done a lot of work on the software side, to make sure that it’s not so distracting. You can turn off all the widgets that make up the user interface, for example. And some things, like the news feed widget, won’t update while you’re driving.
You also cant watch videos while you’re driving, which is probably a good thing. In fact, the thing that I probably found more distracting than anything, is the screen on the center of the wheel. It was a little bright in the pre-production prototype and I’m sure you’d be able to turn that brightness down in the final version, but even if that’s the case, it’s just right there in front of your vision. There is another screen, coming off of the center console, but I never really noticed that.
The weirdest thing about this whole experience is that we’ve just never had this kind of experience before, in a car. So it’s hard to really get a sense of how all of this is gonna play out, cause there’s just so much going on in this interior, in a way that no other car has ever thrown at a driver. That it really is going to take this car getting into the hands of people, before we understand what kind of impact all this technology is gonna have on people.
The whole pitch that Byton is trying to make is that this technology will gain even more value, if and when it’s able to come up with partially self-driving technology or fully self-driving technology. But that’s a long way off, so in the meantime, Byton’s gonna have to doa lot of work, as this car comes to market later this year, in convincing people, and honestly, just teaching them how to use this car, the right way. And the screen isn’t the only thing that Byton’s trying to sell as a new idea.
They’re also talking about doing a lot of health data integration, collecting a lot of information about the driver, and using advanced technologies like facial recognition. A lot of stuff that people are actually kind of wary about now. So in that sense, trying to sell people on the idea of a giant screen in the car, doesn’t actually seem like that crazy of an idea. And Byton’s, not the only one trying to convince people of this idea.
A lot of automakers, both startups, and traditional OEMs, are also moving in this direction of bigger screens. And so in a couple of years’ time, it’s not just going to be up to Bitonto answer the question of whether or not we should have big screens in cars. It’s gonna be up to, basically all of us. To make sure that you can turn off some of the elephants. Elephant. Oh, it is CES day two.