Sony has released several videos showing the concept of their Sony VISION-S electric car first revealed a year ago at the CES surprising.
The videos offer new insights into the design and construction of the car, commentary from partners Sony is working with, and show that Sony has started testing its vehicle on public roads near its development center in Graz, Austria.
We haven’t heard much about Sony’s EV project since then last CES debut, but Sony took the opportunity from these CES only online to pull the curtain back a little more.
The start last year was pretty poor in information, so there’s not much we can build on. The announced specifications included a variety of sensors for autonomous driving, an “immersive audio experience”, a “software-oriented design”, four-wheel drive with 400 kW (536 hp) and two motors and a speed of 0 to 100 km / h 4.8 Seconds and a top speed of 240 km / h.
We don’t have any information about availability, price or battery size yet. Although there are some parts of this video showing the car’s driver and range readings, both the battery percentage and the remaining range units are set to zero so we cannot even get a glimpse of it. And Sony hasn’t said a word about production or dealer plans, which means there is still a lot to be done before the VISION-S gets into customers’ hands.
However, the new video offers some interesting insights. It switches between Japanese and English, but you can use YouTube’s subtitles for translation:
Sony claims to have increased the number of sensors for autonomous driving from previously announced 33 to 40. This doesn’t mean much on its own (cars have a huge number of sensors and types of sensors), but apparently Sony felt they needed more than originally planned.
Sony’s “software-centric design” is at the center of much of the video and shows how Sony can use its entertainment device expertise to create better software for a car.
The most striking feature of the original VISION-S concept was a large widescreen screen that spanned the entire dashboard, and Sony seems to be sticking to that as the vehicle evolves. At one point you’ll see a PlayStation controller connected to the screen playing Little Big Planet, a PlayStation game.
Sony’s partners discussed the importance of communication and cloud in today’s vehicles, and a Bosch representative praised Sony’s human-machine interface capabilities (side note: Bosch recently) took a stupid demeanor against electric vehicles, despite being a large EV supplier).
This human-machine interface appears to include face, voice and gesture recognition. Part of the video shows the thermal imaging of the cockpit while the driver performs a one-hand gesture and also shows a trained facial and voice recognition system
While Sony did not say when the VISION-S would be released, Horst Schaffer from Continental stated that he “has the feeling that everyone involved wants to get this vehicle on the road as quickly as possible”.
For more information, see another short video on “Road Testing” that does not include voice-over but shows the Sony VISION-S driving through snowy Austrian public and private roads. The car is camouflaged, but it doesn’t seem to be hiding much – especially considering we saw it without camouflage at CES last year.
When Sony first demonstrated this concept last year, we were skeptical whether it was real business or just a vehicle for Sony to demonstrate possible uses of their entertainment devices in the automotive sector.
The fact that they have stuck to the project for the past year and have an impressive list of partners in traditional automotive supply who have appeared in the video suggests this may be more real than we originally thought.
But we’re still running low on specs and the video is still filled with lots of stiff PR-style statements that make us want more. It feels like everyone has a prototype EV these days and so few of them have actually made it onto the road that we have to be skeptical of any new one we see.
As we said after the last announcement, at least Sony’s concept, in contrast, didn’t fail some other presentations have been. Nothing in the VISION-S is particularly unreasonable. It could Certainly at a reasonable but great price with the specs we’ve seen – which include many of the expected features of EV concepts these days. And Sony is big and established enough to put together the resources and partners it needs.
The face and gesture recognition features, huge screen, and a few other suggested features push the boundaries a bit, but they’re close enough to reality that you won’t immediately cry over this project.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the project is that it came from a large, old Japanese company. Sony is by no means a startup, and large Japanese conglomerates are known to be relatively conservative in their business decisions. Hence, taking a big step into a capital-intensive and fast-paced industry (especially electric vehicles) is worth a raised eyebrow or two.
Meanwhile, Japan makes embarrassingly soft commitments about green cars that seemingly protect their relentless, hybrid obsessed and Anti-EV Auto industry (see sample statements from Honda, Toyota, and Mazda). And yet Sony is pushing an interesting all-EV project.
Sony is much smaller than Toyota or Honda, but almost as big as Nissan and much bigger than Mazda. The only Japanese automaker that has consistently shown support for electric cars is Nissan, and the rest have little to nothing to offer. They have a few models to come, some of which are disappointing and some which look pretty funny although the company is obvious hostile to their existence.
So there is definitely a vacuum in the Japanese EV industry and Sony could fill it. If they do, they’ll have plenty of room to climb the ladder of the largest Japanese companies and take market share from larger companies that believe they can sit on their laurels and also by 2035, when the world continues to sell gas guzzling hybrids well above that Got out idea of burning dead dinosaur stuff to get to the store and back.
But as we always say, it’s about getting the car on the road quickly and in large numbers. Sony could take shares in these other companies, but they stand a much better chance in bringing them to market. Fortunately for Sony, much of the competition (domestically and international) pulls their feet pretty hard so they have an opening if they can bring it together fast enough.
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