CES 2020: Sony’s Electric Car Boogaloo Does More Than Take On Tesla

Sony surprised the world at CES this year by unveiling the PlayStation 5 logo. Despite it being exactly what we would have expected from the company, it also shadow dropped an entire concept car. Many believe that Sony did this so you never have to walk, man.

CES has seen various car manufacturers showcase their tech-based concepts for the future to the automobile. Well, I would never have expected a company like Sony to dabble in the automotive industry, but the same argument could be made when they invested in the very first PlayStation. Either way, it’s here and it’s a very real, very well thought out concept car that seems to be more than just a glorified tech demo.

The Vision-S concept car was unveiled on the opening night of the show and it’s still mind-boggling to say Sony and concept car in the same sentence. However, Sony isn’t exactly a stranger in the automotive industry, partnering with Ford to provide their sound systems. That being said, this an entire car, and one that packs a lot of futuristic features too.

Companies like Hyundai, Nissan, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat made their attempts with AI and zero-emissions concept cars, but the Vision-S aims to showcase autonomous driving and various other features that just make the idea of the futuristic car less petrol-head crazy, and more of a Cinema Nouveau experience.

A staggering total of 33 sensors, as well as radar and LiDAR, provide a 360-degree virtual view of the car’s surroundings to allow for self-parking and driving assistance. The Vision-S currently has a rating of level 2 on the autonomy scale of five, intending to reach level four in the future (no driver attention required). Level five means that a steering wheel is considered optional.

This being an electric car, the Vision-S gets all its power instantly during acceleration, getting the car from zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 240km/h. Despite that, Sony would rather focus on its cloud AI, the ability to get over-the-air updates, and 5G connectivity.

However, Sony needed some help to make the car architecture possible, so they went to Bosch and Magna Steyr – which manufacture plug-and-play electric car drivetrains and platforms. Sony’s car isn’t the only thing looking at the forward, as the tech giant seems to be looking at two-door coupés and SUVs using the Vision-S’ platform. The company may have some real intentions with the Vision-S, which means that it’s more than just a show car featuring a larger than life interior filled with pillar to pillar screens.

That being said, the styling is rather modest for a concept car. The Vision-S looks more like a production-ready car than that of the usual concepts. That wouldn’t be a surprise, because Sony seems armed and ready to take this car to market. Many believed that Sony would be simply showcasing their tech and then selling it to other manufacturers, but it would appear that the company aims to take the electric car market by storm.

The design seems very conservative, with the varying degrees of grey and light colours that blend in with over-arching pillars along the sidewalls. Everything is still unapologetically Sony, and the minimalist in me adores it. The steering wheel is just the right blend of futuristic and practical. While the screens look incredibly distracting, a side view shows that the dashboard curves in, meaning that drivers can still pay attention to the road. The exterior design screams Tesla Model 3 and that’s a very good thing. The Model 3 isn’t overly stylish, but it can still stand out in a crowd. You wouldn’t necessarily confuse this with anything else, mind you.

There are still various aspects of the car that still remains unknown. We don’t know if Sony are any good at tuning the suspension, or if we should be worried about range anxiety if the Vision-S ever comes into production. However, we know that it boasts some of Sony’s best in-house tech. The car has what Sony has dubbed “360 Reality Audio”, which is said to provide an immersive experience to the occupants in the vehicle.

Usually, a show car from a non-car brand is exactly that. They just bring it out like a show pony, show off their fancy design skills and what could be, then chuck it into storage and it will never see the sun again. But Sony’s pitch seems to be much more realistic.

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