Sony Vision-S electric sedan: Is Sony going to build a car, or what?

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Sony surprised us all when it unveiled a concept car named Vision-S at CES 2020. The electric sedan runs and drives, and it looks nearly ready for production, but the Japanese firm still hasn't decided what to do with it.

"We don't have a concrete plan at this time because our current phase is a research and development phase. We have to investigate what is our purpose in contributing to mobility service. That is our basic idea, and we have to continue the R&D phase," Sony executive vice president Izumi Kawanishi explained to Automotive News.

Sony's position is a little enigmatic and not all that regular. Rewind to January 2021: it said that it had "no plans to mass-produce or sell [the Vision-S]," though it didn't rule out moving into the automotive sector later on. And yet, for a company that publicly plans to steer clear of the car industry, it has spent what sounds like a substantial amount of money to build and test its first prototype. It enlisted the help of contract manufacturer Magna-Steyr to make the car a reality, the project began in 2018, and it is putting the prototype through its paces on European roads, so it even went through the trouble of getting it registered. On paper, it sounds like Sony is much further along than Apple.

One possibility that has often been floated is that Sony merely wants a fully functional platform in which to test in-car entertainment solution. Autonomous cars, shuttles, and trucks are ostensibly around the corner, and drivers will need to find ways to pass the time once they become passengers. While this sector remains at the embryonic stage, it could be worth billions of dollars if optimistic predictions about self-driving technology merging into the mainstream in the near future are accurate. Who better than Sony to grab a slice of it? It invented the Walkman, launched the PlayStation, and sells a full range of televisions. It's intricately linked to the entertainment industry.

"We have a lot of content — movies, music, and gaming — and we have to utilize that content and technology in the vehicle. In order to build such entertainment space in the vehicle, we need to understand the opportunity and build the right cabin system," Kawanishi noted during the same interview. Wouldn't a simulator have been cheaper?

As it stands, Sony is cautiously watching the automotive industry from a distance. Whether you'll one day be able to commute in a Sony or merely enjoy the latest PlayStation game on your way to work still remains to be seen.

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