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Byton's electric M-Byte SUV has a screen as wide as 7 iPads at CES 2019

The EV startup's first production car will also feature a 7-inch display mounted in the center of the steering wheel.

Byton

When Byton unveiled the M-Byte concept electric SUV at CES 2018 with its massive, full-width display and a screen in the steering wheel, I thought, "there's no way that's all making it to production." On Sunday, at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Byton is making me eat those words with the reveal of the M-Byte's production-ready and screen-laden cockpit.

The production M-Byte's dashboard will be highlighted by a mega-wide 48-inch "Shared Experience" display that stretches from A-pillar to A-pillar. This huge curved screen is the primary display for vehicle information like speed, battery state and range, maps for navigation and more, as well as multimedia content for entertainment, and productivity and health monitoring.

"A lot of people will see the big screen and think 'that's distracting,' but actually it's the other way around," Byton president and co-founder Daniel Kirchert explained. "This will generate a much more safe experience. The way we've designed this big screen doesn't in any way impact your field of vision of the road. If you sit in the car you'll see it's very low down and quite far away from the driver."

Kirchert went on to explain how the larger screen is easier to glance at than the "rather small navigation screens" that we're used to in more conventional cars that require the driver to look away from the road and refocus to interact with. Byton, perhaps counterintuitively, thinks this bigger screen will pull less of your attention away from the road. Of course, it all depends on what sort of content is displayed there -- Byton has pledged not to allow video content like movies or TV, even in areas that would legally allow it.

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That would be mind-blowing enough, but the M-Byte will also feature a 7-inch multitouch display in the center of the steering wheel -- or rather, floating just in front of the steering wheel. I'll be honest, I'm not sure how this display is street legal, but Byton assures me that it has been an integral part of its plans for the M-Byte from the beginning and that it's worked to ensure that this "Driver Tablet" won't get you distracted and a driving ticket.

The Driver Tablet remains upright and still while the steering wheel's rim rotates around it for steering. This touch display will be the driver's remote control for the larger Shared Experience screen -- which is too far and too big to be touched itself. Eventually, Byton hopes to expand the functionality of the Driver Tablet when it adds Level 3 autonomous driving features in the future.

We're not done with displays. There's a third, eight-inch multi touch "Byton Touchpad" display on the center console that, like the Driver Tablet, can be used by the passenger to interact with the infotainment system and the main 48-inch display.

In addition to the two touch displays, Byton drivers and passengers will be able to use either hand gestures that are detected by a small infrared camera on the dashboard or voice commands. Voice, in particular, will be a powerful tool for M-Byte drivers thanks to a newly announced partnership with Amazon to bring Alexa voice assistant to Byton cars as part of the "Byton Life" suite of services. With Byton's facial recognition software and Byton Life data collection, the automaker demonstrated how three different passengers could issue commands to Alexa and have their own unique Amazon Music playlists be recognized.

m-byte-interior-and-ui-ces-2019
Byton

Of course, there's an electric car wrapped around that cockpit and the details haven't changed much since the M-Byte's conceptual unveiling. Expect two battery options: a 71 kWh, 250-mile base model and a 95 kWh, 325-mile, long-range model. Pricing is estimated to start at around $45,000 for the base model, with the bigger battery and some unspecified optional equipment adding to that bottom line. The 48-inch three-screen setup, by the way, is standard equipment.

Byton will debut the full production-ready M-Byte at an event in June with sales starting in its homeland of China sometime in late 2019. North American and European sales will kick off in 2020, followed by the production launch of the K-Byte sedan in 2021 and a third, unannounced model in 2023.