Speedy car needs no driver

NIO EP9 sets world record at COTA go­ing 160 mph.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORT - By Kevin Lyt­tle klyt­tle@states­man.com

A sleek, fu­tur­is­tic sports car toured Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas last week, reach­ing a top speed of 160 miles per hour.

Noth­ing un­usual about that, right?

Not un­til you con­sider: The car had no driver.

The NIO EP9 set a world speed record, ac­cord­ing to mo­tor­sports out­lets, for au­tonomous elec­tric cars, com­plet­ing a lap of the 3.4mile road cir­cuit in south­east Travis Coun­try in 2 min­utes, 40.33 sec­onds. The same elec­tric su­per­car, de­vel­oped by NIO U.S. head­quar­ters in Sil­i­con Val­ley, also broke the pro­duc­tion car lap record with a driver be­hind the wheel, cov­er­ing the cir­cuit in 2:11.30 and touch­ing 170 mph.

So, yes, a skilled driver can still go faster than a car with no driver at all.

NIO, which re­leased a video of the driver­less car’s COTA lap, will hold a U.S. launch event for the $1 mil­lion car dur­ing South By South­west at the Cop­per­tank Event Cen­ter from March 10-12. The com­pany hopes to dras­ti­cally drop the price once the cars are mass-pro­duced.

“At NIO, we are all about rais­ing the bar for the en­tire au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, and break­ing records with the NIO EP9 demon­strates our ex­per­tise in the field,” Pad­mas­ree War­rior, CEO of NIO, said in a state­ment. “We achieved this re­mark­able re­sult in an in­cred­i­bly short time.

“Our goal is to be the best next-gen­er­a­tion car com­pany for au­tonomous ve­hi­cles. We look for­ward to shar­ing our vi­sion in Austin at SXSW.”

War­rior, a na­tive of In­dia who’s called “Queen of the Elec­tric Car Biz” by For­tune mag­a­zine, will de­liver a key­note ad­dress at SXSW on March 11 at the JW Mar­riott.

NIO, cre­ated by the Chi­nese elec­tric car startup Nex­tEV, pro­duced the ve­hi­cle in a mere four months.

The EP9’s ef­forts at COTA eclipsed pre­vi­ous marks for elec­tric cars at Nür­bur­gring in Ger­many and Cir­cuit Paul Ri­card in France, ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous mo­tor­sports pub­li­ca­tions. Dur­ing its record-set­ting laps, the EP9 was the only car on the COTA track.

“We’re hon­ored to be a part of NIO’s lap record. It is pretty amaz­ing to con­sider,” said Katja Heim, COTA’s COO. “We all know au­tonomous ve­hi­cles are part of the fu­ture, and this is fur­ther proof of progress.”

For com­par­i­son’s sake, the Austin track record is 1 minute, 39.347 sec­onds for a For­mula One car — that’s an av­er­age of 124.2 mph —1:47.412 for a WEC sports car and 2:02.135 in Mo­toGP.

The EP9 ac­cel­er­ates from zero to 124 mph in 7.1 sec­onds, ac­cord­ing to NIO, and has an in­ter­change­able bat­tery sys­tem. It is de­signed to be fully charged in 45 min­utes and have a range of 265 miles.

CON­TRIB­UTED

A driver-less car made by a Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pany set a world speed record at Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas re­cently. NIO, the man­u­fac­turer, will show­case the car and elec­tric cars at a SXSW show­case in Austin.

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