In 2020, Sony showed off an electric vehicle called the Vision-S at CES. It was packed with sensors, displays and speakers to show how Sony envisioned the car of the future. Representatives of the Japanese manufacturer at the time said that this was a concept they did not plan to produce entirely.
But in three years, the situation has changed. Sony partnered with another Japanese company, Honda, in the spring of 2022, and they jointly formed Sony Honda Mobility in the summer. At the time, the press release said, “The company’s aim is to develop cutting-edge technologies that respond to people’s behavior and emotions.”
Sony has already demonstrated what that means at a press conference at this year’s CES 2023 trade show in Las Vegas. The electric car also refers to emotion in its name: “There is a word at the very heart of the motion experience. emotion”said Yasuhide Mizuno, president of Sony Honda Mobility. That’s why the car is called Afeela.
From both major companies, Afeela took the best they had to offer at the moment. Honda supplies the battery, electric motor and advanced steering. From afar, the offered sedan looks a bit like a Porsche 911 or Lucid Air.
Honda is truly committed to electric cars, launching its first Insight hybrid in 1999. Honda has stated that by 2030, 40% of its sales will focus on electric cars. In its development, it also cooperates with the American company General Motors, where it is developing the Prologue SUV.
Passenger entertainment has been taken care of by Sony, which not only produces high-end televisions and screens, but also controls a large part of the entertainment industry. That’s why the presentation was full of examples from Spiderman movies or hit games available on the PlayStation 5 console.
An interesting detail that aims to strengthen the emotional bonds with the car is the extroverted screens. The owner can even use the app to decorate a colorful look or car with one click and turn it into an advertisement for, for example, his favorite game or TV show. This is done with a screen on the hood of the car that needs to “communicate towards the environment”, whatever that means. It is best seen in the video below.
An assembly of the multimedia equipment of the Afeela prototype:
The four-door sedan has screens inside for both front and rear passengers. On the back, it will be possible to play games by connecting to a home game console or cloud services remotely. Plus, Sony is promising a rich source of movies, TV shows, and music, possibly in exchange for some sort of monthly subscription.
The American company Epic Games, known for its rendering engine Unreal Engine or the gaming hit Fortnite, is involved in the design of the user interface.
Epic Games’ Kim Libreri said that the interactive and photorealistic display of the environment on the driver’s screen is the most natural way to visualize important data in the car. It will likely have a similar view of the surroundings of the vehicle that Tesla popularized with its “almost self-driving” car.
“In the future, the car will become an important meeting place. Not only for passengers, but also for their friends and colleagues,” believes Libreri. “Digital will be a constant feature of our lives.”
Maybe self driving will come
Sony also made sure the car was full of sensors: “This is our concept of the human relationship with mobility, which can detect human emotions and use the capabilities of sensors and artificial intelligence,” said Mizuno.
Cameras constantly monitor the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Inside, they watch, for example, if the driver is busy driving and climbs behind the futuristic-shaped steering wheel. However, over time this may be possible and the driver’s attention may not always be needed.
Not just cameras, but radars, ultrasonic sensors, and a laser three-dimensional sensor known as a lidar are also outward facing. This shows that Afeela has passions for autonomous driving: “Our aim is to achieve self-driving at level 4 for some specific conditions and at level 2+ in the city and in a number of other situations,” he says. These are much more modest and realistic goals than Tesla promises, for example.
Especially with autonomous driving, it would make sense to turn the car into a living room where people can watch movies or play games. Once autonomous driving is perfected, everyone (including the person sitting in the driver’s seat) will be able to have fun. However, we will have to wait a few more years for that.
Qualcomm’s recently launched Snapdragon Digital Chassis solution will provide the high performance needed for autonomous driving and multimedia entertainment. This is to combine the computing power intended for entertainment electronics with electronics intended for vehicle control and management, thereby achieving substantial savings in the number of chips that have been insufficient in recent years only in the automotive industry.
The price of Afeela electric cars is not yet known, but according to the manufacturers, it should be adjusted to compete with other premium electric cars. It is therefore possible to speculate on prices starting above the 1 million CZK mark. Sony Honda Mobility will receive first orders as early as 2025, and the first customers in North America will receive their cars in spring 2026. The new car is supposed to be produced in the USA, but it is not yet clear which of the twelve American factories it should be. The cars will arrive “a little later” in Europe and Japan.
Source: Seznam Zpravy
I am Ruby Schultz, a journalist and author with experience in the news industry. I have worked at several top-tier publications, such as The News Dept., where I primarily cover technology news. My work has been featured in prominent outlets like The New York Times and Wired Magazine.