Ah, the remote controlled car!!! Long a technological wonder reserved for the silver screen, it’s now become something of a reality – from none other than a Chinese automaker!
That would be BYD, one of China’s biggest car manufacturing companies, which introduced what it claims to be the first remote-driving-enabled five-seat sedan late last week – the BYD “Su Rui,” pronounced “sir-ee.”
Now, it’s got nowhere near the remote-control capability of the slick BMW James Bond used in Tomorrow Never Dies, but who knows? Perhaps in the future we might control a BYD sedan the way Pierce Brosnan did in that 1997 Bond cinematic classic.
[You can catch a few glimpses of that famous remote-controlled "Beamer" at work in the trailer for Tomorrow Never Dies below.]
Right now, however, BYD’s remote driving control technology is much more limited, and deliberately so. The company said it’s really aimed at Chinese consumers who are faced with daily parking constraints – using parking spaces so small even the mirrors touch vehicle-to-vehicle – as well as allow for assisted passenger pick-up from shared parking during inclement weather.
That’s a big deal as over 80% of Chinese live in apartment complexes or multi-dwelling units and don’t own their own garage for private parking, BYD said.
[Below you can watch the official TV commercial highlighting the remote-controlled properties of the BYD Su Rui.]
The company said controlling vehicle starting, stopping and steering remotely is accomplished via a hand-held unit no larger than a standard smart-key fob.
In a range of 10 meters (roughly 30 feet), the driver can start the car, move it forward and back plus turn it both left and right – all at a restricted speed of 2 kilometers per hour, which equates to about 1.2 mph. The car’s climate control system can also be controlled via the remote device as well, BYD said.
[Here’s another demonstration of the Su Rui’s remote-driving system.]
BYD is selling its new Su Rui sedan equipped with the remote driving system with a starting price of 65,900 yuan – roughly $10,365 – for the base model equipped with a 1.5-liter gasoline engine. It’s also available with an optional turbo-charged, direct-injection engine (TID) mated to a seamless dual-clutch transmission for 99,900 yuan – equivalent to $15,710 in U.S. currency.
The car also comes equipped with Bosch’s ninth generation electronic stability technology, a tire pressure monitoring system, electronic parking brakes, blind spot visibility systems, color reversing video surveillance systems, remote control power windows, 13 types of intelligent voice guides and a 5.1 channel, 10 speaker system with independent power amplification for what BYD calls an “in-car cinema experience” like no other.
It’ll be interesting to see how Chinese drivers react to – and ultimately take advantage of – this new kind of remote driving technology. Frankly, BYD needs hit with this one too as its profit has fallen sharply this year in the face of slumping demand for new cars as well as the removal of Chinese government subsidies for car purchases.
Maybe – just maybe – remote controlled cars will give BYD the lift it’s looking for.