Sony, arguably one of the biggest consumer electronics manufacturers, startled everyone as they ventured into the world of automobiles when they revealed their prototype car “SONY VISION-S” at Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It was rumored to be only a testing bed but however recent on-road testing footage at its Tokyo HQ has raised some eyebrows. Does the Vision –S possess the specs or performance to beat the Teslas?
Has Sony Officially Revealed A Car To Beat Tesla?
Unexpected Reveal at CES 2020
The Consumer Electronics Show or CES, as it is known globally, held every January is the global stage for innovation, a platform to launch products, engage with global brands and define the future of the tech industry. Such was the case at CES 2020 for the Automobile fans. As the show went on people attending CES and the ones following online were with an amazing lineup. The lineup included giants like Mercedes Benz revealing their Avatar inspired concepts car “VISION – AVTR”, Lamborghini showcased the latest Huracan that was equipped with Alexa (you can now order your favorite cuisine while driving at 200!).
New entrants in the Electric Vehicle world like the Russian-based Yandex has demoed its self-driving tech with Toyota Prius sedans kitted out with the system. Fisker revealed its all-new all-electric SUV called the Ocean. Byton also revealed its M-Byte electric SUV, which comes with a massive 48-inch display inside the cabin and is expected to go on sale later this year. However, the biggest surprise by far was when Sony rolled in their pretty functioning concept car the “VISION -S”.
“It (Vision S) embodies our contribution to the future of mobility and contains a variety of Sony’s technologies,” Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told the crowd at CES.
To make the concept car, Sony has partnered up with companies like NVIDIA, Bosch for the software and it has been confirmed by Sony CEO that the transmission system has been developed by Magna Steyr.
Some specs of the Vision-S, according to Sony, are as follows
|Drivetrain||Pair of 272hp Electric motors|
|0 – 100 kph||4.8 sec|
The specs regarding the range, charging rate, etc have not been released by Sony. These specs are not at Tesla Model S or Tesla Roadster’s level But the acceleration and top speed figures are at par with the Tesla’s Model 3
The key goal of the Vision-S is to showcase Sony’s automotive-relevant technology. It has 33 sensors of varying types embedded within it; these can identify people and objects, both inside and outside the car as part of a ‘safety cocoon’. They include CMOS image sensors, which Sony claims offer high definition and high dynamic range while suppressing LED flicker, and Solid-State LiDAR. Inside, the Vision-S features several Time-of-Flight (ToF) in-car sensors that can detect and recognize people within, to optimize infotainment and comfort systems.
The concept also features AI, telecommunication, and cloud technology, all accessed via a large panoramic touchscreen that dominates the dashboard, and which Sony says is operated via an “intuitive user interface”. The infotainment panel has is throughout the dash system consisting of 3 huge touchscreens. For ease in navigation across the touchscreens, the car is equipped with a trackball located where generally a manual stick shifter would be placed. The rear passenger also gets to enjoy this plethora of infotainment devices as the car is installed with two more touch screens attached to the back of the driver and co-driver seat. Sony wants every passenger to make the most of this selection and has also provided every passenger with its own set of speakers placed at the rear of the headset.
To top all this Sony has pre-installed all Sony movies and music with the car. The car is rumored to have a price tag of 40,000$-50,000$.
The Long-Term Gameplan
To establish a company in a high risk – high reward kind of industry is always a tough call. A company has to certainly ‘Hope for the best but prepare for the worst’. All the luck in the world sometimes isn’t enough to keep a company ashore. During the automobile sector crisis of 2008-2011, almost 4 renowned brand names went bankrupt for example Hummer, Pontiac, Pontiac, Saturn, etc.
On the flip-side with the correct timing and business plan, several companies skyrocketed their stocks in a short amount of time and the epitome of this being Tesla. With the emergence of the electric and autonomous vehicles which in principal are run by a software brain, it is no surprise that various tech companies are trying to enter the market. The best way to do this is by investing in a start-up already working on it. The prime example of this is the start-up names Rivian.
Rivian announced in February 2019 a $700 million funding round led by Amazon. More deals and investments would follow, including a $500 million investment from Ford – along with a promise to collaborate on a future EV program — and a $350 million investment by Cox Automotive in September. The company closed the year with an announcement that it had raised a $1.3 billion round led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. with additional participation from Amazon, Ford Motor Company, and funds managed by BlackRock.
Marching along the same line Sony has invested a whopping $5.3 billion in their autonomous project Vision-S. Sony which is a giant of Consumer electronics are already a company leading in terms of manufacturing image sensors as depicted by the image below,
Moore’s law, a historic trend rather than a physics law, famously states that every that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years, though the cost of computers is halved. However, with the nature of high level – high-speed computing that is expected of these chips and transistors, the law doesn’t hold its ground. Sony has realized this and instead of entering the automobile industry has started creating its domination in such auxiliary industries. The increase in the use of these technologies is becoming inevitable, making it a perfect time for start-ups to enter this market. Sony however is no start-up, being well established through their Playstations and other consumer electronic products, it is a no-brainer for them to capitalize on this situation.
To distribute flawless sensors that will hold up their performance in the actual world mere box with sensors mounted on it won’t cut. The Vision-S was birthed by Sony to become the perfect test –bed for their multiple sensors. By collaborating with several companies Sony was able to make the concept car a reality. The testing videos are proof of Sony’s intention to be the spearhead in the image sensor market.
Although Sony hasn’t made Vision-S a production model as of now it has the potential to be one of the best Luxury Evs with ample on-track performance. At this point, it cannot compete with Tesla as a production car but Sony has made a statement when it comes to sensor technology. This could force many companies to rethink their plan to produce sensors in-house and outsource it to Sony.