Sony’s CES 2022 conference was certainly surprising. Everyday devices like TVs, headphones and the likes were largely overlooked so that the company could focus on more attention-grabbing announcements: PSVR 2 and its Sense controllers, Tom Holland interviewed about the Uncharted movie, and Sony even setting up its own electric car company, Sony Mobility.
Sony has been testing a prototype electric vehicle, the Vision-S (opens in new tab), “on public roads” over the past year, and Sony seems to be confident enough to have set up its own company to pursue car development and production further.
A blog post from Sony states that "In order to further accelerate and make new proposals that further evolve the mobility experience, Sony will establish an operating company 'Sony Mobility Inc.' in the spring of 2022, through which the company intends to explore entry into the EV market."
The new Vision-S 02 model is being considered for a future commercial release. It's an all-electric SUV. It’s a seven-seater and includes a host of advanced sensors and safety systems, including the environment-mapping lidar sensors used in autonomous vehicles as well as modern iPhones.
What’s interesting is that Sony chairman Kenichiro Yoshida described mobility as an "entertainment space", which makes Sony’s interest in the space a bit clearer. The manufacturer is probably most famous for its range of games consoles – most recently the Sony PS5.
The Vision-S boasts 360-degree audio, and rear-seat displays as well as a “front panoramic screen” to entertain passengers (or drivers, when you’re parked).
You can even “play PlayStation games through a remote connection to a console at home, in addition to the ability to play streaming games through the cloud” – which could improve on the suite of games available to play in Tesla cars (Cuphead, Stardew Valley, Fallout Shelter, alongside others).
Don’t expect any Vision vehicles to come with a built-in PS5, then – there probably aren’t enough of them to go around – but Sony’s knowledge of entertainment systems from consoles to TVs and audio equipment is clearly shaping the overall experience of the Vision-S.
Look ma, no hands!
Electric vehicles are clearly a growth industry, with automaker Tesla weathering its own volatile share price to triple in stock value over the past two years. With Apple likely set to release its own autonomous electric vehicle (the Apple Car) in the years ahead, too, it makes sense that other big players want to get a look-in.
As reported by Reuters (opens in new tab), Sony’s share price jumped by 4.2% in Tokyo after the announcement, too – so it’s clear there’s some interest in Sony expanding its operations in this way.
But the real white whale for the car industry is fully autonomous vehicles, able to ferry passengers around safely without a driver's hands being required by law to be on the wheel.
It’s been a thorny topic in the media, though, given that drivers using Tesla’s limited autopilot functionality – likely to give someone a false sense of security – have still been involved in crashes. Uber, too, has had to halt its own self-driving car trials after high-profile collisions with pedestrians in the US.
Sony is working on “remote operation” using the benefits of high-speed data transfer over 5G, and says it is developing the Vision-S range “in anticipation of the arrival of the autonomous driving era.”
We welcome Sony entering the market – more competition can only be a good thing – though there will be plenty of potholes to avoid and obstacles to overcome before autonomous cars become truly safe and viable. In the meantime, you may be able to park your Vision-S car and play some Horizon Forbidden West in the near future.
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