You might think that Sony’s only contribution in the motoring industry was the Gran Turismo series. But, it’s not true. The technology giant has now confirmed that it is exploring the possibility of entering the electric car market.
Japanese company Sony has been interested in electric cars for many years. In 2020, the Vision-S 01 Concept Car was unveiled. It was created as a prototype vehicle technology testbed. Sony began testing 5G connectivity technology last year on the car.
While that machine was tested on public roads, Sony insisted it was largely being used to develop both imaging and sensing technology and ‘human-machine-interface’ (HMI) systems. It seemed like a lot to build a car and then test various systems. But it is now evident that Sony has much bigger ambitions.
Sony has unveiled the Vision-S 02, a prototype vehicle. The new vehicle is seven-seater electric SUV and Sony claims it’s built on the same EV platform and cloud computing platform that the Vision-S 0101.
Sony Mobility Inc will also be launched at the same time. It claims it will “explore entry into the EV marketplace”. Although it is not an absolute commitment, this is a significant statement of intent given Sony’s success in all areas of consumer electronics, including when it took on Sega and Nintendo with the first-generation PlayStation.
Despite having the technical know-how and experience of Sony, it is a daunting task to enter the EV market. This is due to the specialized skills required and the immense challenge of mass manufacturing vehicles. This is why very few tech companies have made the transition: While Samsung does have a small presence in Korea through a partnership deal with Renault, Dyson and Apple abandoned their recent efforts to develop their cars.
There is an enormous opportunity. Cars with electric technology, and advanced driver assistance systems, are more dependent on new technology. For example, car companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, and Volkswagen Group are trying to reinvent their businesses as software-driven technology firms.
The technology within the Vision S concepts
Sony is a company that has a strong appeal to launch a car. This is because the push toward electrification and autonomous machines has brought the automotive industry closer to the consumer electronics market in terms of technology.
Sony has been testing a variety of safety systems including CMOS image sensors and three-dimensional LiDAR scanners. Sony claims that the system transmits information to the driver via the HMI (basically, the controls and displays of the car) and the vehicle’s sound system. Sony claims that it has already begun testing advanced driver assistance systems ‘Level 2+’ on the roads in Europe.
In-car technology is being developed by the firm. The company is currently developing time-of-flight sensors (ToF) that monitor functions for driver authentication as well as passengers. This allows both voice and gesture commands to be used. Sony is working on systems that allow users to change the display theme as well as the sounds the machine makes during acceleration or slowing down.
Sony installed the concepts, as expected, with advanced connectivity systems built around a 5G wireless network. According to the company, this will allow certain vehicle settings (such as door locks) to be controlled using a smartphone. Sony will be able to provide ‘value-added offers’ on a regular schedule through the system’s over-the-air (OTA).
Sony claims that remote operation has been a key focus of its concepts, “in anticipation of autonomous driving era”. Tests are currently ongoing in Japan and Germany.
It’s very fancy technology, but I can still play PlayStation games inside it.
Sony has a long history of developing consumer technology and is currently working on a lot of new kit to improve the car’s experience. This includes seat speakers that are three-dimensional and a digital video series called “Bravia Core for Vision S”. This will allow users to view videos on either the individual rear-seat display screens or the front panoramic digital screen (presumably when it isn’t being used).
Sony claims that the Vision-S Concept can be connected remotely to a PlayStation console at your home. This will allow you to stream games via the cloud. Gran Turismo could be played in your car!
What will Sony Mobility do other than ?
Sony Mobility isn’t content with exploring a market for EVs. Sony Mobility has been given the task of using AI and robotics technology “to help realise a world in which everyone can live in harmony, with robots, on a daily basis.” This includes the development of its autonomous entertainment robot Aibo and its Airspeak drone.