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NIO unveils new self-driving electric car concept, says they’ll have autonomous cars in the US by 2020

Electric and autonomous vehicle startup NIO unveiled a new concept today to set the tone for its upcoming mass market car. That’s after first showcasing its tech in a $1 million supercar last year.

In Austin for SXSW today, NIO laid out its “vision” for the future of autonomous cars and the“NIO EVE” concept is the first embodiment of that vision.

The biggest announcement is that NIO plans to have autonomous vehicles on US roads by 2020.

Padmasree Warrior, US CEO for NIO, said about the announcement:

“We’re excited about having autonomous electric cars for U.S. consumers in 2020. Today we also unveiled our vision for the car of the future, focused on delivering unmatched user experience through leading edge, software defined hardware. In 2015, commuters in the U.S. spent over 8 billion hours in their cars commuting. NIO’s autonomous electric cars will make your journey safe, productive and enjoyable. Our cars will be your companion and will know your needs, they will be a welcoming living space that moves you. We look forward to producing the first of the next generation of cars for the U.S. consumer. We know you will be delighted by NIO.”

It’s clear from the concept that the focus is autonomy, but all of NIO’s vehicle will also be battery-powered.

In press release, the company described the interior:

Doing away with conventional A and B pillars of the car and using optimized door cuts, the comfortable and inviting interior is accessed through a wide forward-sliding door. The fixed seats are belted and positioned to deliver flexibility and an enhanced feeling of openness. In the primary seating area, a discrete folding table creates work or play space, while a luxurious seat that reclines and allows for relaxation or even sleep. The forward two seats, accessed from the main interior, enjoy an enhanced panoramic view, with digital displays provided on the active glass when needed to support non-autonomous driving. EVE is designed from the inside out for autonomy.

Based on NIO’s language that EVE is “the embodiment of their vision”, I wouldn’t expect the production car to look too much like this concept.

As we previously reported, NIO is an EV startup primarily well-funded by Chinese venture firms, like Tencent, and tech entrepreneurs, like William Li from Bitauto, but it also has a strong engineering presence in the US led by Warrior.

We previously reported that the company has been hiring autonomous driving experts from Tesla and Apple when it was still called ‘NextEV’.

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