Nio wants to sell a Level 4 self-driving car in US in 2020

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Nio Formula E race car, EP9, ES8 and Eve concept car

Nio Formula E race car, EP9, ES8 and Eve concept car

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Chinese electric car startup Nio’s first volume model, the ES8 SUV, will enter production in China in late 2017. (The company has already built a handful of EP9 supercars.)

The ES8, unveiled in April at the 2017 Shanghai auto show, is a premium SUV with third-row seats and a swappable battery system. Tesla announced a swappable battery system as early as 2013 but abandoned it in 2015 due to low take-up rates, and Honda on Thursday said it was looking into one.

In an interview with Business Insider, Nio’s U.S. chief, Padmasree Warrior, said the ES8 will feature Level 2 self-driving capability, the most advanced level on sale today. A Level 2 self-driving car can operate on its own in limited situations but requires constant monitoring by a driver in case it runs into the trouble.

Warrior said Nio will use data collected from the ES8 to perfect the company’s self-driving system. Jamie Carlson, who previously worked on self-driving technology for Tesla as well as Apple’s automotive project, is heading Nio’s self-driving team.

2018 Nio ES8

2018 Nio ES8

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Nio in March said it was working with Mobileye and Nvidia on self-driving tech. Mobileye, which was recently acquired by Intel, is an expert in sensor technology while Nvidia is one of the leaders in artificial intelligence.

In 2020, Nio plans to offer an electric SUV in the U.S. At this point, the company is hopeful of having its self-driving system at Level 4 capability. A Level 4 self-driving car will allow a driver to take their eyes off the road for extended periods, albeit only in limited conditions. And in certain situations, such as rough weather or changed road conditions due to an accident or road works, the driver will need to take over after being prompted well in advance. Should the driver fail to take over control, the car will be able to safely stop by the side of a road.

The ultimate goal is a Level 5 car where no driver is required.

Nio’s Eve concept car unveiled in March at the 2017 SXSW in Austin, Texas previews the company's U.S.-bound SUV. It’s not clear at this point if we’ll also get the ES8.

Nio Eve concept, 2017 SXSW

Nio Eve concept, 2017 SXSW

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