Chinese startup Nio is redesigning the electric vehicle (EV) from the inside out in an effort to eliminate the chore of driving and make transportation a truly comfortable experience.

A number of car manufacturers – including industry veterans like Volkswagen and Ford – have begun to take the electric vehicle market more seriously, but Nio sees a lot of room for improvement in the field.
Nio’s CEO, Padmasree Warrior, says this means approaching the EV – and the car industry in general – differently.

“The problem with today’s car is manufacturers try to emulate the smartphone interface and smartphone capability into the car. But the smartphone is not just a better cell phone, it’s fundamentally a very different device,” she said.

“We want to be the first company that builds the next generation mobile space.”

This means engineering EVs in a totally different way, in the same way the smartphone completely reimagined the mobile device. The ultimate goal is to bring automobiles into the future.

“We want humans to get their time back, free from the chore of driving,” Ms Warrior explained. “Our vision of the car is a computer on wheels.”

The future is autonomous

Like Tesla, Nio plans to integrate self-driving technologies into its vehicles. The company’s first release is an electric SUV set to debut in China in 2018. The Nio ES8, launched at the Auto Shanghai motor show, will be a seven-seater capable of Level 2 autonomy.

The SUV will serve as a testing ground for Nio’s more advanced self-driving technology. The company plans to gather as much data as it can from the vehicle and use this to build an EV with Level 4 autonomy, most likely the Nio Eve. That vehicle would be launched by 2020.

Ms Warrior said that Nio wants to build a “living space that moves you”. The company thinks autonomous vehicles should be comfortable, high-tech environments in which riders can watch movies, take conference calls and even sleep. To that end, the company is also in the process of developing wireless charging technology to integrate into its vehicles.

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