Last year, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Sony, the Japanese multinational conglomerate company, surprised everyone by unveiling an electric car. They had given no warnings that they’re looking to enter the automotive market. This is why, the unveiling of a prototype, not a concept, was even more surprising. At the time, it was expected that Sony had unveiled the Vision-S to showcase its technology, and did not have any intention of getting into mass production.
Fast forward to the 2021 CES, and Sony has released a video of a road test it carried out in Austria. According to the technological company, they had taken the prototype back to Sony headquarters in Tokyo in July 2020. They were able to optimize their audio and sensing technologies there, before hitting the roads in Austria later in the year.
The Sony Vision-S: An Overview
The Vision-S is a luxury sedan, built mainly as a testbed for Sony’s autonomous and entertainment technologies. However, with a number of road and track tests carried out in Austria, they may be thinking of taking it to production too. But with no official announcement of its battery or its pricing, it is difficult to place it in any of the current segments.
According to Sony’s official website, the Vision-S will have a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive transmission. This will be capable of churning out 535 bhp and go from 0-60 mph (96.5 kph) in 4.8 seconds. It will be able to hit a top speed of 149 mph (240 kph).
The vehicle also contains as many as 40 sensors (including LiDAR) to help it reach Level 2 autonomy. Level 2 would give the vehicle features such as adaptive cruise control and lane changing, along with parking assist. Sony is confident that they will achieve Level 4 autonomy in a few years. The vehicular software will receive OTA updates to reach this higher level of autonomy.
A Look at the Competition
Sony hasn’t revealed the approximate pricing of the Vision-S, nor has it talked about the timeline for its launch, if ever. From the overall dimensions of the vehicle, the Vision-S lies somewhere between the Tesla Model 3 and Model S. However, the acceleration and top speed specs suggest it may go up against the smaller Model 3. It will be easier to understand the exact segment if Sony releases the battery details.
|Specs||Tesla Model 3 (depending on variant)||Sony Vision-S|
|0-60 mph (96.5 kph)||3.1-5.3 sec||4.8 sec|
|Top speed||162 mph (261 kph)||149 mph (240 kph)|
|Power output||570 hp||535 hp|
|Range||263-353 miles (423-568 km)||NA|
A Technological Perspective
Sony is one of the world’s biggest consumer electronics supplier. This makes them an important player in the technology race, something that is fast taking over the world. Considering this, it is only natural for us to look at it from a technological perspective.
The Vision-S contains a total of 40 sensors, combined on the interior as well as the exterior. These 40 sensors are divided into 18 ToF (time-of-flight) cameras, 18 ultrasonic/radar sensors, and 4 LiDAR sensors. While the exterior sensors help with the autonomous system development, the interior cameras, supposedly, can scan your facial expressions and predict driver fatigue, among other things. Features such as providing a conducive environment for the passengers if they’re seen to be tired are interesting tidbits. The software will continually develop itself based on driving habits, choice of music, and daily routine.
Instead of using a physical mirror, the Vision-S will have a digital mirror, which will combine a camera and display. The aim is to create a next-generation safety system that is easier to see than a physical mirror. This will be done using Sony-unique sensing technology and highly visible, high-brightness, high-resolution monitors, as well as HDR and other signal processing technologies.
Technological Companies Moving into the Automotive Market
There is a reason why Tesla is dominating the global electric market currently. Their ideology of being a technological company in the world of vehicles has helped them build a strong base in the industry. Peter Rawlinson, the CEO of Lucid Motors, Tesla’s latest competitor, has said something similar. He remarked that the electric vehicle industry is fast becoming a technological rat-race, which is why traditional companies find it hard to develop EVs at a fast rate.
Recently, Apple has made it clear that they are also venturing into the electric vehicle market. They are in talks with Hyundai, and an Apple car might roll onto the market by 2024. Now, with Sony also making some advances towards this market, it seems like the traditional companies will have to buck up in order to stay relevant.
Sony currently has ties with an array of partners on the Vision-S, including Bosch and Continental, Hungarian automated driving startup AIMotive, software company Elektrobit Automotive, French automotive supplier Valeo, telecommunications giant Vodafone and German car parts maker ZF Group. The collection of partners, which also includes mapping company HERE, Nvidia and Blackberry/QNX and Qualcomm, leaves little doubt that someday there will be a Sony car that consumers can buy.