Sony shows Vision-S concept car testing in public

Sony’s advanced electric sedan showcases technology that could appear in production cars.

A year after its shock unveiling at the CES technology exhibition, tech giant Sony’s Vision-S concept car has hit public roads for the first time in prototype form.

A new video released by the electronics manufacturer shows a prototype wearing numberplates and a camouflage-style wrap being tested by engineers, and provides a glimpse of the advanced automotive technology Sony is developing.

The Vision-S was developed as a means for Sony to showcase its autonomous driving and in-car entertainment systems, and there remains no indication that the firm could put it into series production. At its unveiling, company boss Kenichiro Yoshida said it “embodies our contribution to the future of mobility.” It features a raft of technology that showcases “the contribution Sony intends to make to realise a highly advanced autonomous driving society.”

Visible in the new footage is a fully functioning infotainment display that spans the width of the dashboard, with the central display showing a detailed digital rendering of the car’s surroundings while it is in motion. Separate tabs giving access to a suite of cameras, a music player and various other interfaces can also be seen.

While it is unclear if Sony has any plans to make its own cars, or simply intends to develop technology to sell to existing manufacturers, Yoshida said that: “It’s not an exaggeration to say that Mobile has been the mega-trend of the last decade. I believe the next mega-trend will be mobility.”

Few technical details of the concept, which is understood to have been developed and built with the help of partners including Magna Steyr, Bosch, Nvidia and others, have been made public, but Sony says it is powered by a pair of 200kW electric motors. These give it a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds, with a top speed of 240km/h.

The key goal of the Vision-S is to showcase Sony’s automotive-relevant technology. It has 33 sensors of varying types embedded within it; these can identify people and objects both inside and outside the car as part of a ‘safety cocoon’.

They include CMOS image sensors, which Sony claims offer high definition and high dynamic range while supressing LED flicker, and Solid State LiDAR.

Inside, the Vision-S features a number of Time-of-Flight (ToF) in-car sensors that can detect and recognise people within, to optimise infotainment and comfort systems.

The concept also features AI, telecommunication and cloud technology, all accessed via a large panoramic touchscreen that dominates the dashboard, and which Sony says is operated via an “intuitive user interface”.

Sony isn’t the first tech firm to show interest in the automotive world. Apple is in talks with Hyundai and others about building its long-awaited electric car, while Samsung has an automotive division working on advanced autonomous systems.

James Attwood

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