This year's SXSW festival had a plethora of news and discussion about autonomous cars, but perhaps none was more exciting than the NIO EP9. The car was first shown off in November in London when it ran the Nürburgring Nordschleife track in record time.
If that sounds unfamiliar, you might be more interested in its colloquial name: The Fastest Self-Driving Car in the World. Not only is it fast, but it looks pretty good too:
The Street reports that the EP9 set the world record at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, with a stunning lap time of 2 minutes and 40.33 seconds, reaching a high of 160 mph—all that without any interference of a driver.
This only makes sense, given that that the EP9 can reach 124 mph in 7.1 seconds, with a top speed of 194 mph. From this test, it seems like NIO's created what looks like a SAE Level 4 car, though its operating boundaries are currently unknown and are likely fairly limited.
The car is self-driving and, like the Teslas, also electric. The best part? This car will charge faster than your iPhone, taking around 45 minutes. The company has said they could give the cars 200 miles of charge in just 10 minutes.
This wasn't the only autonomous car NIO brought to the festival, also showcasing the five passenger NIO EVE which is scheduled to hit the market in 2020. While the EVE might not satisfy your inner speed demon, it should make you geek out a bit.
According to Mashable, the large glass panel that stretches over the entire top of the car has augmented reality functions. With EVE, you can lounge back and watch a movie, video chat a friend, or get useful information about the stars you are driving under at that exact moment.
These cars are still in the concept stage, of course, and aren't available to purchase. The Chinese company seems very ambitious in its goals, potentially to the point of them not being attainable. According to The Verge:
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
So if you're in the market for a new car, you might want to hold out for a couple of years when you'll be able to purchase your own luxurious robotic chauffeur. As we've argued before, there's really no reason to buy a new car now, with all the autonomous innovation that's happening.