Self-driving supercar sets record at Circuit of the Americas


AUSTIN (KXAN) — As high-tech companies around the world work on creating smarter self-driving vehicles, over at the Silicon Valley-based NIO, they’re also trying to make the fastest autonomous vehicle.

Last week, the bright blue NIO EP9 supercar set its tires on the Circuit of The Americas, and it was a match made in car heaven. Without a driver or any driver intervention, the supercar set multiple lap records at COTA, including fastest driverless lap and fastest production car lap.

The car reached 160 mph and the vehicle went around the 3.4-mile track in 2 minutes and 40.33 seconds. With a driver behind the wheel, the NIO EP9 achieved a lap time of 2:11.30 with a top speed of 170 mph — the fastest COTA lap time for a production car. While the car was fast, it wasn’t as fast as one of the fastest F1 race cars. For comparison, during the 2016 US Grand Prix at COTA, the fastest lap was notched by Sebastian Vettel with 1:39.877 going an average speed of 198.7 mph.

The NIO EP9 supercar set multiple lap records at Circuit of The Americas including fastest driverless lap and fastest production car lap. (COTA)

The start-up company NIO says the technology and software behind the vehicle was accomplished from start to finish in four months. The company is focused on designing and developing high-performance, premium electric vehicles.

“We are honored to be a part of NIO’s amazing lap record and see performance and autonomy coexist,” said Circuit of The Americas’ Chief Operating Officer Katja Heim. “We all know that autonomous vehicles are part of the future and this new record is further proof.”

The company says it plans on testing its autonomous vehicles on public roads in California soon. While the EP9 isn’t in production yet, the company says it costs around $1.2 million each to build.

The company will hold a U.S. launch in Austin during South by Southwest from March 10 through March 12 at Coppertank Event Center where the NIO EP9 will be display. The company’s CEO will then deliver a keynote at SXSW on Saturday, March 11.

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