While everyone's scrambling to finish first in the race to commercial driverless technology, some are approaching more creatively. NIO belongs in that slim group of companies not too hell-bent on speeding ahead of the race, but focused on procuring a specialized vision of how driverless cars can benefit consumers in entirely different ways.
NIO showcased its EP9 back in November, an electric supercar boasted as the world's fastest. This weekend at SXSW, however, NIO unveiled Eve, a concept consumer vehicle that's being heralded as a luxurious living room on wheels.
NIO, named previously as NextEV, and backed by a number of Chinese venture capital firms, has under its wing stellar professionals that hail from companies such as Tesla, Ford, and Lyft, which probably lended it the vision to create Eve, a concept car that signals NIO's unique approach to driverless technology.
As reported by The Verge, the Eve concept car is designed for long commutes, and as such, the interiors have been designed from the ground up to accommodate its passengers with utmost comfort and luxury, offering the closest mobile living area experience as possible. NIO also has plans to develop the Eve's interior glass to double as smart displays, which will help inject an element of entertainment into the luxurious interior.
NIO Eve: An Inside Look
The Eve's sliding doors reveal a five-passenger interior that could easily pass up as a luxury lounge. Touch screens serve as the car's main input, but pedals and a wheel will appear should manual driving be chosen, as per USA Today's report.
While driverless technology is innovative and is progressing rapidly, no company has ever properly addressed what passengers are supposed to do inside a driverless car. Should they sit back and gawk at the landscapes as the vehicle rears forward? Should they sit still and be mindful of the wheel in case the driverless system goes gung-ho? Scenarios like these often go largely undiscussed. The lack of regard for passenger experience makes NIO's approach a welcome refresh in the string of companies too intent to move driverless technology forward that the actual experience of being in a driverless car becomes lost or set aside.
"Autonomy is about people, about freeing you from being imprisoned in your car," says Padmasree Warrior, NIO's U.S. chief executive. "Imagine a future where you can look forward to your commute, where you can be productive and not miss out on any important moments."
NIO Eve, Beautiful And Smart
But the Eve isn't just all beauty; it's brains, too. The company intends for its passengers to interact with NOMI, an "artificial intelligence engine" which controls the vehicle.
Warrior says the company plans for the car to hit stateside by 2020.
Such a target release schedule is undeniably ambitious, but glancing at Eve's other expected metrics, such as a 600-mile range, and a 10-minute wireless charging that provides 200 miles, it's clear that the car has taken liberty afforded by its conceptual status. But that's the thing: the car will definitely undergo many changes as it progressively exits its concept stage. Irrespective of tall-order features proposed by NIO, however, the core concept of comfort, entertainment, and mobility in the broadest sense of driverless cars seems like a drift in the right direction.
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