Why Byton will fail

Byton, an electric car company that plans to challenge Tesla for superiority in the space, is destined to fail because of one fatal flaw. Announced officially at CES, on paper it looks like a true challenger to Tesla. Byton is led by ex-Apple and ex-BMW employees, a seemingly brilliant collaboration to create a Tesla killer.


Unfortunately it suffers from one fatal flaw, cognitive load. Cognitive load is how much info people are processing at any one time. Cognitive load is tied to working memory, the more information in that short-term memory the higher the cognitive load. The concept of cognitive load is why UIUX is better when simpler. A simple user experience minimizes cognitive load, thus not creating too much strain.

If you look at the most successful products, it is not ones that are crammed with features that generate a lot of checkmarks on a comparative analysis. It is products that have very few options but generate tremendous value. Uber is the example I always use. It is valued at tens of billions (and would be even more if they could get their PR improved), and when you open the app you are asked where you want to go, and then you are given 3 or 4 options to get there. You are not picking the color of the car that collects you, the height of the driver, what route they will take, etc., which is all handled by Uber. Apple is another great example. The iPhone and iPad have virtually no extraneous features or settings, they are clean, elegant machines.

While Byton is co-led by ex-Apple personnel, they did not seem to get the memo on cognitive load. As the BBC writes when seeing the car, “in front of us is a huge display that stretches out across almost the entire dashboard. During the day it is bright white, but at night it inverts to be less distracting…. A tablet computer is situated in the middle of the steering wheel, while an extra screen can be found on the back of each front seat. The main display can show any number of things – video clips, calendars, mapping, health data and so on. As you sit in the car, internal cameras will determine who you are and load your profile, adjusting the driving seat position and other customizations.”

Byton interior

This setup is not what people want. While it sounds great on a feature list and is compelling when reading about it, it almost certainly will create an uncomfortable and unenjoyable experience for users. People want a clean, simple experience that delivers to them the information or entertainment they want when they want it, even if they do not realize it immediately. They do not need multiple screens and computers that turn their vehicle into the space shuttle. By not realizing the importance of cognitive load, the Byton team has doomed its startup to failure.

Key takeaways

  • Byton, an electric car company led by ex-Apple and ex-BMW personnel, unveiled their Tesla-killer at CES
  • The design team failed to take into account cognitive load, how much info people can or want to process at any one time.
  • The Byton fails by featuring a huge display that stretches out across almost the entire dashboard, a built in tablet computer and extra screens.

Author: Lloyd Melnick

I am GM of Chumba at VGW, where I lead the Chumba Casino team. Previously, I was Director of StarsPlay, the social gaming vertical for the Stars Group. I was also Sr Dir at Zynga's social casino (including Hit It Rich! slots, Zynga Poker and our mobile games), where I led VIP CRM efforts and arranged licensing deals. I have been a central part of the senior management team (CCO, GM and CGO) at three exits (Merscom/Playdom, Playdom/Disney and Spooky Cool/Zynga) worth over $700 million.

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