The bar has been set, at least until another self-driving car takes its place

Five years ago, the thought of seeing autonomous cars on the road seemed like a far-fetched reality. These days, autonomous cars are touted as the future of the auto industry, and one car that prides itself on being able to drive by itself has set the performance benchmark for all the rest of the autonomous driving world to challenge. The Nio EP9 may not be a household name yet, but it recently made a strong case for itself at the Circuit of the Americas when it lapped the 3.4-mile circuit in 2:40.33, doing so while achieving a top speed of 160 mph and setting the record for the fastest self-driving car around the track.

Just as important (maybe even more so) is the 2:11.30 lap time it posted with a driver behind the wheel of the car with a top speed of 170 mph. All the same, the lap time is the fastest lap time around the famed circuit for a production car. The EP9’s achievement is a big milestone in it of itself, especially when you consider that the Aston Martin Vantage V8 racer that won a pole position in the GT-class car during the 2016 Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas managed to post its fastest lap of 2:04.61. Let it be said then: the EP9’s lap time with a driver behind the wheel is only seven seconds off the pace of track’s GT-class lap record. That’s impressive in any language.

Granted, the EP9’s record lap time might still ring hollow for some skeptics who believe that more autonomous cars should post their own lap times around COTA to “validate” Nio’s fastest lap around the track claims. But that’s neither Nio’s nor the EP9’s issue. All it can control is the lap time it posts; if somebody wants to put the EP9’s lap time in its proper place, that’s on them to make it happen.

Either way, there’s no denying that the Nio EP9 is a potent piece of autonomous driving machinery. The startup company says that its pride and joy is powered by four electric motors that combine to produce a staggering 1,341 horsepower. That allows the car to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds and 0 to 124 mph in 7.1 seconds. Top speed is reportedly begged at 195 mph to go with a 265-mile range.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

This is a big leap forward for autonomous driving technology

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Say what you will about those who promote autonomous driving technology, but you can’t deny that there is some significant progress being made in the push towards making self-driving cars a real thing in the auto industry. The accomplishments achieved by Nio and its EP9 self-driving electric hypercar paint a clear picture of that regardless of whether the records themselves hold up in the future.

But this is also isn’t about setting records or showing how far Nio has come as a start-up manufacturer, although to be fair, the company deserves massive credit for getting this far without experiencing all the ills that befall new companies that put ambition above everything else.

More important than all of that is the effect these record-setting laps have on the legitimacy of electrification and autonomous driving technology. Let’s face it; a lot of people are still skeptical about the tech, and they have good reasons for that. It’s new. It’s unproven. It’s still subject to a lot of testing, not to mention stringent regulations. All fair points.

But what Nio accomplished with the EP9 tells us that there’s been enough progress in these fields that a car that nobody believed could exist a few years ago can now go about set lap records in one of the best racing circuits in the U.S. Ultimately, Nio accomplished something that’s bigger than the records themselves to the point that it doesn’t matter if the numbers stand or not. What they’ll remember is that an electric autonomous driving vehicle set the record when nobody thought it could and it did so on its own merits.

For now, though, Nio’s next big event is at the Coppertank Event Center in Austin, Texas where it’s scheduled to unveil the EP9 electric autonomous driving hypercar from March 10 to 12. If you’re in the area, make sure you circle those dates on the calendar and check the car out.

Who knows, one of you might be swayed enough to make a deposit on the car, even if Nio itself hasn’t said how much the car is going to cost. Previous speculation suggests that it could fetch close to $1 million, which would be right around what a lot of people expect it to go for, even without knowing that we could be looking at a potentially record-breaking hypercar.

Press Release

See the world’s fastest autonomous electric car during SXSW in Austin, TX at the NIO U.S. launch event

NIO EP9 - the world’s fastest electric car set a new world record for the fastest self-driving car at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas

NIO EP9 achieved a lap time of 2 minutes 40.33 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph without a driver at COTA

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NIO EP9 also beat the fastest lap time for a production car with a driver at COTA, clocking 2 minutes 11.30 seconds and reaching a top speed of 170 mph

NIO will hold a launch event to announce its U.S. brand and vision in Austin, Texas from Friday, March 10 through Sunday, March 12 at the Coppertank Event Center

Webcast for media on Friday, March 10 at 10a.m. (RSVP)

SXSW keynote by Padmasree Warrior, NIO U.S CEO on Saturday, March 11 at 11a.m. at the JW Marriott, Salon 5-6.

On February 23rd 2017, the NIO EP9 set the COTA track record with a time of 2 minutes 40.33 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph. On that same date, the NIO EP9 also beat the fastest lap time for a production car with a driver. The lap time clocked 2 minutes and 11.33 seconds and a top speed of 170 mph. (Photo: Business Wire)

February 27, 2017 09:33 AM Eastern Standard Time

SAN JOSE, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Today, NIO, a next-generation car company, announced the fastest ever autonomous lap at the Circuit of the Americas Race Track in Austin, Texas. On February 23, the NIO EP9 drove autonomously without any interventions, recording a time of 2m 40.33s (two minutes, 40.33 seconds) at a top speed of 160 mph. The same day, the NIO EP9 also beat the fastest COTA lap time for a production car with a driver, achieving a lap time of 2m 11.30s (two minutes, 11.30 seconds) and reaching a top speed of 170 mph.

The technology and software which delivered the world’s fastest autonomous lap was developed by the engineers at NIO U.S. headquartered in Silicon Valley. This tremendous feat was accomplished from start to finish in just 4 months.

A few months ago, on October 12, 2016, the NIO EP9 set a record at the Nürburgring Nordschliefe and lapped the 20.8km ‘Green Hell’ in 7m 05.12s, making it the fastest electric car in the world.

With four high-performance inboard motors and four individual gearboxes, the EP9 delivers 1-MegaWatt of power, equivalent to 1360PS (1342BHP). The EP9 accelerates from 0-124 mph in 7.1 seconds and has a top speed of 194 miles per hour. With an interchangeable battery system, the EP9 is designed to be charged in 45 minutes and has a range of 265 miles.

Padmasree Warrior, CEO of NIO U.S said, “At NIO, we are all about raising the bar for the entire automotive industry. Breaking records with the NIO EP9 demonstrates our automotive and technology expertise to be a leader in the global market. Our Silicon Valley team brings together the best talent from automotive and software domains, which helped us achieve this remarkable result in an incredibly short time. Our goal is to be the best next-generation car company, by delivering autonomous vehicles with amazing experiences for people all over the world. We look forward to sharing our vision for the car of the future in Austin, Texas at SXSW in March.”

COTA COO, Katja Heims said: “We are honored to be a part of NIO’s amazing lap record and see performance and autonomy coexist. We all know that autonomous vehicles are part of the future and this new record is further proof.”

NIO will hold a U.S. launch in Austin, Texas from Friday, March 10 through Sunday, March 12 at Coppertank Event Center. The autonomous NIO EP9 will be on display. NIO executives and staff will be onsite to share our vision for the future of autonomous vehicles. Padmasree Warrior, NIO U.S CEO will deliver a keynote at SXSW on Saturday, March 11 at 11a.m. at the JW Marriott, Salon 5-6.

For media not able to attend the showcase in person, NIO will have a webcast event and Q&A session at 10a.m. on Friday, March 10. If you are media and want to attend the webcast or come by our showcase please contact NIO (events@nio.com) for credentials or questions.

ABOUT NIO:

NIO is a global start-up, designing and developing smart, high-performance, premium electric vehicles. NIO has thousands of world-class R&D and design experts from around the world with significant technology and management background from leading automobile and high tech companies. NIO has more than 2,000 employees in San Jose, Shanghai, Munich, London and eight other locations. In October, NIO USA announced that it was issued an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit by the California DMV and it would begin testing on public roads under the Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program guidelines as it progresses on its path to bring autonomy to market. Investors include Tencent, Temasek, Sequoia Capital, Lenovo, TPG and other world-renowned investment institutions. The company is also involved in the FIA Formula Championship, the world’s first single-seater, all-electric racing series. The NextEV NIO Formula E team won the inaugural drivers’ championship title in 2015.

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