At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Sony pulled the covers off the Vision-S, a Tesla Model S-rivalling saloon. It insisted at the time that the car was a testbed for its sensor and 5G vehicle-to-vehicle technology, although the fact that the vehicle had been built and engineered by Magna Steyr – an Austrian company that already builds the likes of Jaguar’s I-Pace on contract – showed that it had the potential to become a production road model.
Fast-forward two years and the Japanese tech giant have used the same event, the CES, to announce the formation of Sony Mobility Inc. in order to ‘explore entry into the EV market’, whilst simultaneously launching the Vision S 02, an SUV iteration of the Vision S.
Sony have advised that the 02 is a seven seater and, pleasingly, all passengers will have access to their own infotainment system. Apart from that, it essentially has the same ‘framework’ as the Vision S, although Sony say that the 02 will have an electric motor apportioned to each axle. As the 02 is still effectively a concept, actual performance details have yet to be confirmed, although in 2020, Sony did confirm that the S would have a top speed of around 149mph and would sprint to 62mph in around 4.8 seconds – these stats being enabled by two electric motors.
In terms of the actual philosophy behind the S range, Sony have focused on three aspects of technology in their vehicle presentation – safety, entertainment and adaptability.
For safety, both concepts include 33 sensors that will monitor both inside and outside of the vehicle. Sony wants to ‘prove the viability of the sensing features’ by including this impressive amount of sensors on the car. This demonstrates the capabilities of the Sony’s solutions for the automotive industry.
Sony’s second focus was to demonstrate the capability of its technology with an in-car entertainment system. The models include “360 reality audio” for an “immersive audio experience” inside the car. There is also a giant panoramic screen across the dash. This pairs with two screens attached to the back of the front seats, for rear passengers.
Sony intends for the vehicles to be adaptable as well, with a “software-oriented design.” The car can be accessed via smartphone app, updated through over-the-air updates, and the car’s interface can be personalised for each driver.
While many of Sony’s fellow Japanese car makers continue to be pretty slow in making EV advancements – both Mazda and Honda have only one electric model for sale right now and Toyota and Subaru have one each coming soon – the maker of the original Walkman is steaming, sorry, charging ahead.
Whilst it’s safe to say that Sony’s technology over the years has never been particularly mind-blowing, it’s always been cutting edge, always been refined and always had a premium feel about it. With the formation of Sony Mobility Inc, there’s an absolute seriousness about turning the S concept range into reality and if the previously released images of the models are anywhere near reality, these standards will be maintained.
If Sony is going to keep pace with the likes of Tesla et al and also plant it’s flag before Apple become involved in the EV bun-fight too, it’s the 40 year reputation, as well as its solid track-record (forget the Discman!) of product development and delivery, that it needs to capitalise on…..