LAS VEGAS - Although this is not the first time that an electronics company has announced a car, the Sony Vision-S Concept, revealed at the CES Show this week, is a very different proposition to the Daewoo and Samsung vehicles that have come out of South Korea.
It must be said off the bat, however, that the Japanese electronics giant is not about to enter the car market any time soon, but rather this concept car is a clear indication that it has considered such a move.
For now though, what we have here is far more than just a pretty face and body (do you really still want that Tesla?). As you’d expect from a company like Sony, the Vision-S Concept is a showcase of the technologies that Sony has developed so far in the area of mobility. Which is a great deal, as we’ll get to in a moment.
First, let’s get the car questions out the way. The Vision-S is built by Austrian car manufacturing specialist Magna Steyr (which also produces the Supra, by the way). Formed around a dedicated and modular electric car platform that places the batteries in the floor, the vehicle is powered by two electric motors (one on each axle) that produce a total of 400kW, and according to Sony the vehicle will sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 240km/h.
It’s also got air suspension for a cushy ride, but it’s the tech that you’re really looking forward to in this high-tech sedan.
The concept incorporates Sony’s imaging and sensing technologies as well as on-board software that’s regulated by its AI, telecommunication and cloud technologies, in order to continuously evolve and update its features.
"Immersive" sound system
And what would a Sony car be without an impressive sound system? To that end, the company devised a ‘360 Reality Audio’ system that is said to provide a “deep and immersive” audio experience through speakers built into each seat to encapsulate occupants in the sound of their choice.
The system uses object-based spatial audio technology to make people feel like the artist is performing right in front of them. Thus each musical element, such as vocals or instruments, can be placed in a spherical sound field based on the artist’s intended position.
The unique sound experience is complemented by images, videos and intuitive user interfaces designed to transform the car into a true leisure space that its occupants will want to retire to.
Seamlessly connects your gadgets
The dashboard is dominated by a panoramic screen that allows a wide variety of content to be viewed by the driver and passenger.
This car was also designed to seamlessly transfer all of the convenience and entertainment features that were in the palm of your hand before you entered the vehicle, into its on-board systems. If a passenger was listening to music on their earphones before getting into the car, it will be automatically transferred to the car’s speakers as the person gets in. Likewise, a map that the driver is viewing outside the car will automatically display on the car’s panoramic screen when the driver enters the car. It can even detect if a passenger is sleeping, in which case it will automatically control the climate around that seat to a suitable temperature.
The AI system was also designed to continuously learn the preferences of its driver and passengers, from cabin temperatures to music, driving setting and routes. It will also be continuously updated over time, with cloud-based artificial intelligence interacting and learning as part of the sensing system.
Advanced driving support
The bottom line is that Sony has created a virtual lounge on wheels here, of the kind that we’ll see when the autonomous era arrives at some point in the future. Although the Vision-S doesn’t appear to be fully autonomous, it does have 33 sensors that allow it to detect and recognise people and objects inside and outside the car in order to provide advanced driving support.
“Sony is working to thoroughly understand the mechanism of cars – to not only comprehend how they are made and the challenges they present, but also their relevance to society,” Sony said in a statement.
“Towards this goal, Sony has developed a car that is both driveable and gives full consideration to safety. The car represents a fusion of Sony's technology and creativity. It is a glimpse into the future of mobility, encompassing the evolution of safety, comfort, entertainment and adaptability.”
The Vision-S is a fascinating concept, but if it ever became a reality, Sony would have some serious catching up to do if it is to knock Tesla off its sales-dominating throne.