Driverless vehicles something that many thought would be a thing of the distant future, are inching closer to reality than ever before, and NIO is looking to accelerate that process. The Chinese car manufacturer is looking to sell its Level 4 self-driving model in the U.S. starting in 2020. NIO was founded in 2014 as NextEV, but has since changed its name to NIO. Nio has raised over $1.1b to date from several investors, including Tencent (a 5% owner in Tesla Inc.) and VC firm Sequoia Capital (an early investor in Apple, Google, Stripe, Youtube, and Instagram).
A Level 4 self-driving car allows a driver to take their eyes off the road for extended periods of time, but only in limited conditions. In situations like rough weather or changed road conditions, the driver will need to take over after the vehicle gives them a prompting in advance. If the driver fails to take control of the vehicle, it will safely stop by the side of a road.
The company’s ultimate goal is what tech aficionados dream of, a Level 5 car that is totally driverless. NIO also announced it was entering its local Chinese electric car market back in May, and has plans to ship its Eve concept car to the states.The Eve concept car, which gives you a good taste of NIO, can be seen below:
“We’re excited about having autonomous electric cars for U.S. consumers in 2020,” NIO’s U.S. CEO Padmasree Warrior said at the reveal of the Eve concept car, according to Motor Authority.
The company is also behind the electric ES8, which as of now is only available in China. NIO is working with image recognition firm MobileEye and artificial intelligence leader Nvidia on the self-driving vehicle. MobileEye previously worked with Tesla before the two engaged in a corporate clash.Warrior said Nio collect data from the ES8 model to perfect the self-driving system that will be in the 2020 model, according to Motor Authority.
Jamie Carlson is at the helm of NIO’s self-driving team. Carlson worked as an autopilot firmware engineer for Tesla, as well as a part of Apple’s Special Projects (presumably with Apple’s famed self-driving car division). The self-driving SUV will put the company in direct competition with Tesla, Waymo, Uber and others who are jockeying for positions in the increasingly crowded self-driving tech space.