Sony shocked the automotive world two years ago at CES, rolling out a fully functional electric vehicle concept, and officials revealed plans at CES Tuesday night to get into the auto business through a new operating unit, Sony Mobility Inc. — plus it showed another new concept vehicle: Vision-S 02.
The Japanese electronics giant has long produced a variety of products for the industry, including radios and other infotainment offerings, but also components involved in the growing complexity of new vehicles, especially sensors.
So many watchers have focused on the in-again/out-again moves by Apple and Project Titan, Sony almost got to make this move under the radar, although it’s been testing an earlier concept, the Vision-S 01 in Europe through much of this year.
The mobility unit, which will launch this spring, will not be limited to just electric vehicles, noting in a statement that Sony Mobility will “aim to make the best use of AI and robotics technologies, help realize a world where everyone can live in harmony with robots on a daily basis, fill people with emotion, and contribute to society.”
However, it’s also set to include EVs, although the level at which it will compete hasn’t been determined yet, according to Sony Chairman and Chief Executive CEO Kenichiro Yoshida during press conference. “We are exploring a commercial launch of Sony’s EV,” he said.
While the Vision-S 01 sedan has been tearing up the countryside in Europe, the new concept looks ready to compete on the top stage: crossovers. It looks much like a Tesla Model Y — the company’s top seller — or a Ford Mustang Mach-E, but it’s bigger. In terms of specs, they’re limited. The all-wheel drive ute is powered by two 200 kilowatt-hour motors and achieves a top speed of more than 112 mph.
Now how fast it gets to that 110-plus and how far it’ll drive on a single charge are official mysteries, but multiple graphics on the specially established website for the new vehicle, show it with a range of 333 km, or 206 miles, after having used some of the battery. Like so many current EVs, it uses a skateboard-style platform. Officials note the EV-specific platform can be configured to produce a variety of vehicles.
The seven-seat utility vehicle not only offers more space and slew of Sony’s top infotainment technology, but also it’ll use the aforementioned sensors to make a safer and more autonomous vehicle.
“Safety has been our No. 1 priority in creating a comfortable mobility experience,” Yoshida said. “That has not changed when building this SUV. A total of 40 sensors are installed inside and outside of the vehicle to monitor safety.” The initial concept car in 2020 featured 33 sensors.
The Vision-S 02 will use a wide range of safety features, Sony claims, including Sony’s in-house technologies, such as “high-sensitivity, high-resolution, wide dynamic range CMOS image sensors and LiDAR sensors that accurately sense three-dimensional space.”
The short-term goal is for Level 2 advanced drivers assistance systems, although one of the videos released in concert with the debut showed a test of remote driving via a 5G connection linking Tokyo and Germany in real-time.
A captive audience
Forget having to partner with a content provider, the massive dashboard as well as rear seat screens offer the entertainment company option after option for alternative revenue streams. Movies? Check. Video games? Check. Music (remember music?)? Check.
Yoshida noted it was a way for a “creative entertainment company to redefine mobility.” Some of the technology in the vehicle was on full display during the short video that was part of the reveal, especially the swatch of high-definition screens stretching from pillar to pillar across the dashboard, similar to the Hyperscreen found in the Mercedes-Benz EQS and the soon-to-be-released Cadillac Lyriq.
It’s not just the screens, it’s also the seat speakers, which create a three-dimensional sound field. Combine those with the streaming service compatible with “360 Reality Audio,” the result is an immersive music experience as if passengers are surrounded by the live performance of a favorite artist, the company claims.
In addition, to provide a high-quality movie experience, Vision-S includes the fully integrated digital video service “Bravia Core for Vision-S.” The service enables shared or individual video playback on the front panoramic screen and individual rear-seat displays.
Further extending the possibilities of in-vehicle entertainment, gaming capabilities have expanded to being able to play PlayStation games through a remote connection to a console at home, in addition to the ability to play streaming games through the cloud.