Sitting on the show floor of CES this past January, surrounded by curious onlookers and auto enthusiasts, was a gleaming, cream-coloured vehicle. With the exception of a sleekly designed front end, complete with LED headlights and a faux grille (this being an electric vehicle, it’s strictly for show) with an illuminated criss-cross pattern, there was perhaps little of note on the vehicle’s exterior. Our standards, of course, are high when it comes to concept cars; we’ve come to expect vehicles that push the bounds of design, offering a brief, shining glimpse of the future and the world of cutting-edge transportation into which we are rapidly advancing.
Be that as it may, this unassuming vehicle on the floor of CES was garnering considerable attention — not for its exterior, but for what lay beyond. That’s because the Byton M-Byte concept car is more substance than flash, and inside the vehicle lies that glimpse of the future for which we’re always on the lookout.
Founded by Dr. Carsten Breitfield and Dr. Daniel Kirchert (the former with a twenty-year stint at BMW under his belt, with ten of those served as BMW Group Vice President), Byton is, in a sense, a tech start-up; the company’s focus is entirely on transforming the car into the next-generation smart device. The company, which operates out of six locations around the globe (Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Munich, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing) seeks to fuse automobile and digital literacy and serve as a pioneer in creating future mobility solutions.
Currently pre-market, the company’s M-Byte concept (while perhaps less impressive than the sportier, sleeker K-Concept) is currently being toted as the world’s first Smart Intuitive Vehicle.
First of all, let’s take a look at what the M-Byte does have going for it on the exterior side of things. There are some subtle details here that we love: that front-end fascia, mentioned above, as well as disappearing door handles and hidden antennas. At first glance, it may appear that something else is missing — stare long enough and you’ll realize that the rear-view mirrors are nowhere to be seen. This is because they’ve been replaced with side-view cameras. Also present is the quiet, impressive power of face recognition technology and Byton Smart Surfaces, which powers a situation-based interactive light design.
But let’s cut straight to the chase: we’re all about this vehicle’s interior. Aesthetically, the cockpit is designed to look and feel like a “personal lounge,” and there’s a definite luxurious feel to the finishes and craftsmanship here. And sure, there are the details you might expect: individually adjustable seats and sidepods under each armrest in the front seats for the storage of smart devices.
The real pièce de résistance here, without a doubt, is the 49-inch coast-to-coast BYTON Shared Experience Display. The screen spans the length of the dashboard, sitting just below eye level and making this cockpit feel something like a spaceship. Extensive button controls have been replaced with BYTON Air Touch, which allows for commands to be given via simple hand gestures. BYTON Life, a smart and open cloud platform, is the backbone of these features, using artificial intelligence and intuitive learning to adapt to the driver’s wants and needs. Once a driver enters the vehicle, face recognition technology pulls a personal profile from that cloud and begins customizing preferences at once: seat adjustment, temperature, screen preferences. This is especially handy for those who share a vehicle; no more struggling to lower or recline a seat that’s been moved to accommodate someone else’s body. The M-Byte is a bespoke experience for each and every driver.
Smart connectivity also means a host of features — some necessary and exciting, some perhaps a little extraneous. Smart devices can be synchronized with the vehicle to take advantage of its onboard fitness sensors, like a wireless wrist band and weighing seat base. The vehicle is able to provide sleep and workout data, heart frequency, blood pressure, and oxygen level, as well as provide suggestions for the improvement of health and fitness. We’re not sure how focused we’ll be on our health stats during a hectic commute, though no doubt some will put this to good use.
For the busy professionals who constantly find themselves stuck in traffic, a feature that no doubt will come in handy is the ability to place video calls (thanks to that magnificent screen) and share content; dropping a file into a conversation will fire off those important work documents in a pinch. The BYTON Smart Agenda will also be useful when en route to the office or a meeting, as events can be dragged and dropped to reorganize a schedule in real time.
A state-of-the-art navigation system will also ensure that you make it exactly where you need to be, when you need to be there; 3D mapping and intelligent suggested stops work directly with your agenda and preferences to help the day run smoothly.
For those who would prefer to use those traffic jams for a little downtime, an onboard entertainment system works with your other smart devices for seamless streaming. Started watching an episode of something while idling outside your kid’s school? Pick up exactly where you left off on your phone and laptop once you’re home.
For those ready to jump aboard the future of smart vehicles, the Byton M-Byte can be personally configured using the company’s online Visualizer, allowing the user to customize body colour and wheel design. And for those who simply can’t wait for this cutting-edge ride to go to market, the BYTON app uses augmented reality to simulate a life-sized version of the vehicle.