Sony pushes toward the EV market with SUV prototype and mobility brand
What once seemed more like the punchline of a joke or answer to a riddle is moving closer to reality. Sony stunned CES crowds two years ago when it showed the Vision-S concept car amongst its usual sea of high-def TVs and high-res audio equipment, and now it takes the ever-important step of showing the SUV version. The all-electric Vision-S 02 debuts just ahead of an official Sony Mobility marque that will further explore the possibility of a production EV.
The Vision-S concept wasn't a pleasant surprise merely because it was a Sony car, but more so because it was a very nice concept car, period. A sleek, curvy four-door fastback any auto enthusiast attending CES 2020 would have gladly taken out for a test spin. It packed in a 536-hp electric drive and an overloaded suite of Sony tech running bumper to bumper.
In fact, it was the long list of autonomous and digital tech that made it easy to dismiss the Vision-S as nothing more than a flashy tech showcase, a voluptuous show model meant to draw attention to the real meat Sony was selling. But by the end of 2020, Sony was testing a fully developed prototype on the roads of Europe – perhaps more than a fancy piece of merchandising, after all.
Testing continued throughout 2021, and now that CES 2022 has rolled around, Sony demonstrates that it's more committed to mobility than ever, revealing the Vision-S 02 as a seven-seat complement to the original Vision-S. More importantly, Sony announced plans to establish Sony Mobility Inc. in spring 2022 (Northern Hemisphere) in an effort to accelerate its mobility proposal development. The new operating company will explore the possibility of entering the EV market, so drivers of the future may indeed be taking the wheel (or at least the traditional driver-side seat) of a Sony.
The Vision-S 02 prototype shows how Sony's connected vehicle platform can easily translate to a different vehicle type optimized for a different breed of customer. The concept relies on the same EV/Cloud platform and entertainment hardware as the original Vision-S 01 sedan, incorporating a full 360-degree suite of sensors, including LiDAR and high-sensitivity, high-resolution CMOS image sensors. Sony is performing verification testing on this hardware in Europe toward the release of Level 2+ advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on public roads.
Like any good all-electric SUV concept, the 192.7-in (489-cm) all-wheel-drive Vision-S 02 has its eyes on youthful, energetic drivers living the "active lifestyle." It offers plenty of space for a fast-growing outdoor gear collection or faster-growing family, the two rows of rear seats folding flat for plenty of cargo room. Sony also mentions a four-seater for those who value rear legroom over room for extra passengers.
Beyond space, the Vision-S 02 interior is heavily focused on entertainment technology, an area in which Sony has much more proficiency than it does auto development. The full-width digital dashboard and seat back-mounted screens serve as displays for the "Bravia Core for Vision-S" digital video service, offering passengers the ability to play a single movie or video across the car or play different content on individual screens. Occupants can even play video games, pulling in gaming content from the cloud or, alternatively, a remote connection to a home PlayStation console.
Immersive 3D audio comes through via seat speakers, and music can be played through "360 Reality Audio" streaming. Gesture and voice control of various interior systems and features make operation more user-friendly.
5G connectivity is critical to many of the safety and multimedia features of the Vision-S platform, and last month Sony ran its 5G system through an intercontinental test. Using low-latency video and control transmissions, a Tokyo-based control team was able to operate the prototype Vision-S 01 on a German test course. It went down like so:
Sony introduced the Vision-S 02 and its mobility plans at its CES press conference Tuesday night. The SUV concept will appear alongside an original Vision-S 01 prototype at its CES exhibit, when the show officially opens on Wednesday. Unlike the last time around, we feel confident we'll be hearing much more about the Vision-S after CES ends on Saturday.
The two-minute introductory clip below doesn't provide any additional information, but it takes a quick, scenic trip in the Vision-S 02.