Cars and Trucks

No, Sony Says, It Won’t Build Vision-S Concept Car for Consumers

  • Sony tells Car and Driver that it has no plans to mass-produce or sell its Vision-S concept but instead is using it to test technology so it can be part of the autonomous-vehicle future.
  • The company is leveraging the knowledge it has acquired from across many aspects of its business, from cameras and computing to its entertainment division.
  • Even if we won’t get a Sony car anytime soon, this project could lead to future autonomous vehicles with PlayStations and cutting-edge audio onboard.

    Sony genuinely surprised the attendees of the annual CES technology conference in 2020 with its Vision-S show car. Earlier in January 2021, the technology and entertainment company did it again at CES 2021 with footage and an announcement that the Vision-S was being tested on public roads to optimize safety. So, naturally, the idea of Sony eventually building and selling the Vision-S seemed plausible. The reality, Sony tells us, is that it’s a test bed for Sony technology, helping to make sure the company is part of the era of autonomous driving.

    A Sony spokesperson told Car and Driver: “At present, we have no plans to mass-produce or sell the vehicle. With mobility expected as a major megatrend into the future, we’re exploring how Sony can contribute in a meaningful way to the era of autonomous driving.” Some of those contributions could be entertainment related, the spokesperson indicated, saying, “Through our strengths in imaging and sensing, we aim to contribute to both safety and reliability in autonomous driving, while also delivering a powerful experience leveraging entertainment in the mobility space.”

    It’s not entirely surprising—but we’re a bit disappointed. The Vision-S looks stunning, and driving a car built by the same company that brought us the Walkman and the PlayStation seems like a natural progression for the technology giant.

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    To tackle self-driving, the concept in its current form uses 40 sensors, four of which are lidar, as part of its Safety Cocoon that monitors both the interior and exterior and creates a 360-degree view of the world. It currently has a Level 2+ driver-assistance package, but Sony hopes it will be upgrading it to a Level 4 system, where, with software upgrades, the vehicle drives itself in most situations without the need for a driver.

    On the entertainment front, the company is talking about something it calls 360 Reality Audio, which creates an audio sphere around the heads of all the occupants using speakers in the headrests for optimized audio for everyone in the car. A longer-term goal is to add a PlayStation with a 5G connection for online gaming in the vehicle.

    The Vision-S was built with help from partner Magna Steyr, and it gives the automaker the opportunity to test all these technologies in an environment completely controlled by Sony. There’s no need to compromise based on what’s currently available in the market, and because it’s not using an automaker’s pre-installed hardware and software, there are fewer limits to what Sony can achieve.

    Meanwhile, the Apple Car Looms

    Speculation about the Vision-S coming to market comes at a time when reports about a car from another technology giant, Apple, have started to proliferate. The iPhone company’s long-rumored electric car has once again started grabbing headlines with speculation that it will go into production in 2024 and that Apple will be teaming up with Kia to build it, none of which either company has confirmed.

    Sony Vision-S interior

    Sony

    Even though it’s not coming to a driveway near you, the Vision-S isn’t going away anytime soon. Sony plans to continue to test and share the progress it makes with the vehicle. The spokesperson’s statement does leave the door cracked slightly for the possibility of a mass-produced Sony vehicle in the future. But even if that doesn’t come to fruition, if PlayStations start showing up in self-driving cars that are using Sony optics and sensors to see the world, the prototype Vision-S concept will have done its job.

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