Unveiled at CES 2020, and road-tested in Austria in 2021, the Sony Vision-S looks ready for series production. And yet, the Japanese consumer electronics giant said it’s not planning on leaping into the automotive industry.
“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,” a company spokesperson told Car & Driver. Note that the statement stresses there are no current plans to build the Vision-S or something like it. It does not fully rule out moving into the EV segment in the coming years.
Sony went through the trouble of building a fully functional car, hiring Magna Steyr to fine-tune it, and registering it in Austria to put it through its paces in real-world conditions. What’s the point, then? Officially, the firm simply wants to test new technologies, notably features related to autonomous driving and in-car entertainment. One possibility is that, when cars drive themselves, passengers will be able to play their favorite PlayStation games online while they’re traveling thanks to an in-car 5G connection. Building a car from scratch gives Sony the ability to control what it develops without having to work around hardware and software created by another company.
We’re still rather perplexed by the Vision-S (pictured). Carmakers test futuristic new features on a regular basis, yet they rarely create a completely new car for the sole purpose of evaluating what it’s like to embed an armada of sensors underneath the bumper or to hardwire a gaming console into the wiring loom. Even Google, whose revenues comfortably eclipse Sony’s, didn’t start from scratch. It began testing its technology in a Toyota Prius.
Design fuels our doubts, too, because Sony’s first car looks pretty good. It appears almost ready for production. At 192.7 inches long, it’s not overly forward-thinking, and it’s not a science experiment-esque sedan cobbled together with parts from various bins. It even has an independent air suspension that adjusts the ride height.
Time will tell whether Sony’s ambitions are bigger than it lets on, or if the Vision-S will be remembered as the exception to the rule. In the meantime, motorists who want to drive a vehicle developed by a company better known for music players than Nürburgring records will need to wait until the long-rumored Apple car makes its debut. It’s allegedly being developed by Kia, and it could land in Apple stores in the first half of the 2020s.