For years, the Apple Car was supposed to be the biggest thing in autos since Tesla hit the scene. For many, it still is, but as Mark Gurman recently reported at Bloomberg, the self-driving EV project is going on eight years of development and is now looking at an earliest debut of 2025 — a date that’s years later than initial reports suggested — if it debuts at all. We still believe that Big Tech will be entering the car space, not as investors or partners but on their own terms, but if you want to bet on someone, don’t bet on Apple. Bet on Sony.
In January 2020, Sony shocked the audience at the annual Consumer Electronics Show by unveiling the Vision-S, an electric concept car. Many thought it was simply a showpiece, not a serious warning shot to Big Auto; we disagreed. Now two years later, once again at CES, Sony has announced they are deadly serious — by debuting yet another EV and announcing the new Sony Mobility division “through which the company intends to explore entry into the EV market,” as noted in a press release.
The new vehicle is the Vision-S 02, an SUV prototype modeled after the initial Vision-S 01, a sedan. As we reported in 2020, Sony had already begun planning for road testing of the car, and the company confirmed those tests are well underway.
While other EV makers are prioritizing things like battery range and fast charging, Sony is promoting its vision of the future of motoring through three unique pillars: safety, adaptability and entertainment. Instead of focusing on building a self-driving car from the outset, the company touts its system of 360-degree sensors and Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems (the same level currently available in Tesla, Ford and GM vehicles). In terms of adaptability, they promise a customizable in-car experience (screens are ubiquitous) and over-the-air updates, but also note that they’re cognizant of “the arrival of the autonomous driving era,” which is why they’re testing technology like remote driving.
In one test video, Sony shows the Vision-S 01 on a track in Germany being driven by someone in Japan with the help of 5G technology.
Once cars can drive themselves, what are we supposed to do while they’re whisking us to our destination? Tesla has already started incorporating video games into its cars, and Sony takes that one step further through integration with their PlayStation console. According to the company, the Vision-S vehicles allow people to play games “through a remote connection to a console at home” as well as streaming games through the cloud. That’s on top of a sound system they’re calling “360 Reality Audio” and “a high-quality movie experience” through a panoramic screen that runs across the front dashboard as well rear-seat displays.
These are still concept cars, and Sony said its new mobility company won’t be officially established until sometime this spring, but these are more promising signs than anything we’ve seen yet from Apple. Your move, Tim Cook.
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