The biggest surprise at CES 2020, at least for us, wasn’t some game-changing foldable smartphone or a robot that can wash the dishes for you. Instead Sony, a company that’s famous for making consumer electronics like the PlayStation and Walkman, and for starting the mirrorless DSLR trend, announced a car. It’s a battery-electric vehicle called the Vision-S, and Sony says it’s part of the company’s efforts to pursue safety, reliability, comfort, and entertainment in the area of mobility. It also looks pretty good, if a bit plain, considering it’s the firm’s first car.
At the moment, details are scarce. Sony hasn’t claimed estimated range, power figures, or any of the other numbers that automakers usually use to grab headlines when they announce a new EV. Instead, the Vision-S seems to be more of a showcase of what Sony can supply to automakers moving forward.
The Vision-S is equipped with 33 sensors, including CMOS image sensors and time-of-flight sensors embedded within the vehicle to help detect and recognize people and objects inside and outside the car. The concept also has solid-state LiDAR in the car to measure 3D distances in real time. All of this is there to support safer, more advanced autonomous driving.
Of course, if the car can drive itself, then that means there’s more time for consuming entertainment while you’re in it. To that end, Sony has included its “360 Reality Audio” tech for an immersive sound experience, while a panoramic front display spans the dashboard and can be used to show a range of content through the car’s proprietary UI. Sony doesn’t seem to view this car as a car at all, but rather a place where “revolutionary in-car entertainment experiences” are now possible thanks to new technologies.
Sony says it worked with Bosch, Continental, Genetex, Nvidia, and Magna (all massive suppliers to auto and other industries) to help develop the Vision-S. As for other features, we note side-view cameras, ventilated front disc brakes, and some pretty comfy looking back seats complete with screens on the headrests of the front seats. Does this mean Sony is going to build a car, adn that car companies like Tesla, Porsche, and other EV makers should sit up and pay attention? Probably not. But it is no doubt jockeying for a prime spot at the supplier table as the world moves relentlessly towards driverless vehicles.