You’ve heard of Sony, right? The company that brought us Walkmans, quality cameras, the Playstation, beautiful TVs, The Interview and more than half a dozen SpiderMan movies. What they’re not are car manufacturers. Yet, Sony surprised everyone at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2020) in Las Vegas last night by unveiling its foray into the motor industry with the Vision-S. The Vision-S is a concept electric car built by an Electronics & Entertainment company and it shows.
The Sony Vision-S is true to its name, a vision. What was unveiled at the CES was the prototype of a concept that Sony has developed to showcase its readiness to enter the world of cars. But like we’ve seen with many such prototypes at Expos, it’s one thing to design a concept but a whole different ball game to get them market-ready.
Credit where credit’s due, instead of just showing off unrealistic renders, bits of functionality, and a simple display on wheels, Sony went ahead and did it. They built a fully-functional prototype with all the bells & whistles to show carmakers and potential future competitors that they’re being serious and mean business.
In fact, the electric sedan features over 30 sensors inside and outside, including a Time of Flight (ToF) sensor for in-cabin experience optimization, Solid-State LiDAR for highly accurate distance measurement & collision control, and a CMOS sensor to detect objects and people accurately inside & around the car.
This means that Sony’s long-standing image sensor division’s success is now making headway into supporting self-driving tech and the mobility field, including the LiDAR and ToF camera technologies.
The major focal points of the Sony Vision-S are the user interface and the infotainment features. Unsurprisingly enough for a company with a storied history in entertainment, the car is chock-full of it. The dashboard is in fact a set of display screens placed end to end with all but one of them being touchscreens. These screens will let you access everything from vehicle settings to Sony-owned/licensed movies, music, games, and more. Backseat passengers aren’t left out of this experience, as they have their own separate seatback touchscreen each equipped with Sony’s high-end sound systems in individual headrests, which apparently makes it possible for everyone to watch different things at the same time without any disturbance.
Coming back to the front, image sensors and cameras have replaced traditional side-view mirrors. Simple, fluid gestures and swipes help control most of the vehicle’s functions via the touch displays including the ability to send whatever’s on display to all passenger displays with the help of a simple swipe. That seems more like a captain’s inflight announcement system, doesn’t it?
Sony’s implementation of the dashboard full of screens doesn’t feel forced or cumbersome here as they’ve managed to make it fit right in with the sleekness of the Vision-S. Rare as it may be, there are other instances of cars using full-sized dashboard displays. But the Vision-S just makes it look feasible.
What’s under the hood of the Vision-S?
The Vision-S’ dimensions are pretty standard for a sedan-class car. The closest comparison is to a Porsche. Sony has teamed up with car manufacturer Magna for the sedan’s engineering work. This partnership has produced a pretty good result for a first-timer. The all-wheel-drive Vision-S packs a 200kW electric motor for each axle, enabling it to go from 0-100 km per hour in just 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 240 km per hour. Tesla’s Model 3 clocks an impressive 3.4 seconds in this scenario.
Does Sony want to sell cars now? Doubt it. Sony will likely use this showcase as a way to upsell it’s sensors and mobility offerings to the industry going forward. Because car manufacturing is an unforgiving industry. Be it limited edition, luxury or street-level production, making cars takes time and a ton of resources. That’s why it’s safe to say that the Sony Vision-S is not going to hit the streets anytime soon.
But Sony ended the CES 2020 the best way a brand could – with all eyes on its brand new toy. And it totally deserves the praise for putting out a sleek, complete product in a market it was never in contention before. So if Sony ever decides to enter the world of automobiles, all it has to do is replicate what it has done here with the Vision-S, but on a much, much bigger scale.