Byton took to the floor of the Frankfurt Auto Show this week to show off the production-ready version of the fully electric Byton M-Byte SUV. We loved what we saw of the M-Byte at the Los Angeles Auto Show in late 2018 and again in Las Vegas in January, but all of that had to be calibrated against the fact that it was not the production version.
As of this week, we can officially say that the majority of what we liked about the Byton M-Byte in both of our previous encounters with it has actually made it into the production version. First and foremost on that list is the expansive 48″ “Shared Experience” display that sweeps across the top of the dashboard from the driver to the passenger side. Byton has filled the display with useful, fun, and relevant information that make driving in and riding in the M-Byte an entertaining experience.
The steering wheel is also fitted with a 7″ display that I’m not totally sold on, but hey, I’m open to being proven wrong. Our minds have been trained to see an airbag there that prevents us from hitting the steering wheel in the event of an accident, and the flat panel just isn’t justified in my head, even with the lower half of the center cap still being dedicated to the airbag. It’s not just the safety of the screen, but it simply feels like it is too far down to look at safely while driving, but it is altogether possible that the M-Byte will feature so much autonomous driving tech that, from the day that it goes live, the steering wheel just won’t be that important to owners anymore. We’ll see how it plays out when we get more time in the M-Byte and behind the wheel in the coming months.
The steering wheel display is unique in that it is mounted to the dash itself, not to the steering wheel, so the display and attached infotainment and ADAS controls remain stationary while the steering wheel turns around them. It reminds me of the first time I rode a cargo bike with a front basket that doesn’t move. It was strange the first time, but quickly became second nature.
Byton clearly studied in-car passenger dynamics, as the M-Byte also has a center console–mounted display called the co-driver tablet that gives the front passenger a way to contribute to what’s going on in the car. Up above the co-driver tablet along the center of the dash is a bank of sensors that Byton says house its driver monitoring hardware. This is a key piece of technology that will become increasingly important as cars get better at driving themselves. As the cars get better, it gets harder and harder to keep humans engaged in driving, making driver monitoring a critical step in the path to getting both the cars and the humans in them safely from today’s tech to the fully autonomous vehicles we all dream about.
Byton is also working on some gesture controls that it has up and running in its demo vehicles in Frankfurt that can be used to control things that are otherwise overly complex to accomplish with one of the other interfaces. The Byton rep mentioned that it could be used to switch songs, increase or decrease the volume, and the list goes on. Gestures and user interfaces like it are generally very difficult to do right, and even more, to train users on, so we’ll be keeping tabs on the situation to see how that part of the M-Byte evolves.
On the data side of things, the M-Byte comes with a built-in WiFi hotspot that lets everyone inside get connected and stay connected. That umbilical cord connection from the M-Byte to the cloud also gives the car superpowers when it comes to servicing all of its digital bits and bytes. Byton has built capability to perform over-the-air updates on all of the systems in the M-Byte into the car from the ground up. That includes powertrains, infotainment, ADAS, and firmware.
Up top, the panoramic glass roof made the cut and has become synonymous with cutting-edge electric vehicles, having popped onto our radar in the early Chevy Bolt concepts (though, it didn’t make the cut there) before going big in the Tesla Model 3, Jaguar I-PACE, and more.
For more, check out Bjørn Nyland’s walk through of the M-Byte interior below. We also have a fresh new article coming soon.
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