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Autonomous car startup NIO unveiled its self-driving concept vehicle

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The company hopes to sell the cars in the US in 2020

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Chinese-backed car manufacturer NIO showcased its EP9 electric supercar last November in London, but this weekend at SXSW, the company unveiled its concept consumer autonomous vehicle, the NIO EVE.

NIO used to be known as NextEV, and is backed by a number of Chinese venture capital firms, and has hired people from companies such as Tesla, Ford, and Lyft. Just a concept at this stage, the EVE is a look at what the company feels will be the future of autonomous vehicles. Designed for regular commuting or longer road trips, the car’s designers focused on the seating areas and interior functions for the passengers. US CEO Padmasree Warrior described the vehicle as a companion and a mobile living area that will take people from place to place. To that end, the company is betting that passengers will be interested in entertainment while they ride, so it plans to have the interior glass double as smart displays.

NIO also intends to have its passengers interact with an “artificial intelligence engine” called NOMI to control the vehicle, although the car can be driven manually if needed. The company noted that it plans to bring the car to the US market by 2020, according to Warrior. That’s an ambitious goal for the company, given that it noted in its handout on the car that it’s shooting for an implausible range of 600 miles, with a wireless charging system that will provide 200 miles with a 10-minute charge. There’s a lot that will likely change, given that this is just a concept. But, it’s interesting to see the company design the car with the eye toward how passengers will keep themselves occupied while catching a ride to their destination.

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