Chinese tech company LeEco (formally known as Letv) released a visually stunning concept car in Beijing on April 21. Known as the LeSee (“See” standing for “Super Electric Ecosystem”), LeEco CEO Jia Yueting claims that the concept car will have self-driving and self-parking capabilities that will be able to operate based on vocal commands given by the owner into an app-connected smartphone.
Another potential face of future automotive technology, the vehicle has a one-piece glass roof that stretches from the windshield to the rear window, face- and emotion-recognition features, shape-shifting seats, a bumper-level external LED display and colour-changing lighting. Its fashion-forward luxury is topped off with a segmented steering wheel that folds away during autonomous operation, leaving the driver-turned-passenger with more space for activities.
LeSee’s significance is not confined to its status as an interesting and perhaps even promising concept car. It’s also the brainchild of a company that ranks among marquee investors in Faraday Future, enabling the US-based electric-car startup to finance its $1 billion clean-sheet factory located in the Nevada desert. While Faraday has only revealed its racecar-like one-seater, the FFZERO1 supercar, the company has made mediatized waves in terms of its flexible architecture and enormous funding achievements. That said, the startup has yet to reveal a series-production model.
So LeEco may have a few more cards, and futuristic cars, up its sleeve than simply the LeSEe. The Chinese tech mogul announced a partnership with boutique British carmaker Aston Martin last Februrary, with the intention reportedly being to enable Aston Martin to build its first battery-powered model. This model is expected to be a new version of the Rapide saloon and to produce as much as 1,000 horsepower. Could the future of that Aston be told within the LeSee car’s ambiguous, concept-car architecture? Will the electric Aston’s fairing in the automotive market inform the future of Faraday? For the moment, it’s a difficult read.
That said, creating a production car with driverless functionality is considerably harder than proposing to make a new kind of smartphone or monitor. This concept car is impressive, no doubt, to the point that it cannot be ruled out as another car-show, attention-grabbing but overall fruitless endeavor. Jia Yueting’s heavy investments are another indication of how serious the concept behind this concept car is. These investments paired with the development of relationships with Faraday and Aston Martin could prove to be the appropriate recipe for major growth and financial success. Perhaps the CEO is making some excellent choices in terms of becoming a significant competitor in the race towards electric, autonomous vehicles affordable enough to be sold at high volumes, with even higher profits.
LeEco may just have a chance at carving out a position for itself, but it will have to face steep competition. Tesla and Google are hot on the tail of autonomous and electrical innovation, plus General Motors has finally managed to point its enormous infrastructure towards the goal of creating an affordable plug-in. Toyota has a head start in terms of hybrids, and the Nissan Leaf has been a player for decades. We’ll just have to see how LeEco fairs.
About the author anna