Sony’s entry into the EV market confirmed with Honda collaboration on the Afeela

Three years ago at the last CES before the pandemic, Sony launched the Vision-S prototype, signalling its intention of entering the EV market. Now at CES 2023, having teamed up with Honda last year, the partners have presented the Sony Honda Afeela EV.

After quite a bit of fanfare around the VISION-S back in 2020, the project went quiet. We weren’t particularly surprised; tech companies entering the world of car production isn’t ever going to be straightforward as it would be if car companies wanted to do the reverse.

You’re unlikely to see a Vauxhall television any time soon and for good reason; for all the talk from carmakers about becoming tech companies, their expertise is in making things with wheels that move. Not streaming Disney+ – which is why in-car tech only really works properly when manufacturers partner with tech companies.

Sony’s collaboration with Honda – called Sony Honda Mobility (SHM) – is what was needed to make the Vision-S a reality. Now dubiously called the ‘Afeela’ (let’s hope there’s not an RS version so nobody has to explain why they have an Afeela RS), SHM’s goal is to have cars on the road in 2026.

There’s plenty of fluffy rhetoric about the Afeela at this stage, but sadly little on the powertrain side. Perhaps that’s understandable given Sony’s desire for the car to be a tech-fest. To that end, according to SHM the Afeela prototype is equipped with 45 cameras and sensors inside and out, alongside 800 TOPS (trillion operations per second) or processing power – which is way more than Tesla’s current 72, already considered to be rather a lot.

The Afeela will use this power for a couple of things: Level 3 autonomous driving (hands off) in highway driving and Level 2+ (driver assisted) in urban settings; a new level of cloud-serviced connectivity where virtual reality and actual reality ‘seamlessly integrate’ through work with Epic Games; and finally (perhaps more usefully given the above), advanced collision avoidance and mitigation.

As well as being a nerd’s wet dream, the interior is designed to ‘wrap the occupants in a soft cocoon’, providing a ‘comfortable atmosphere designed to be as simple as possible, minimising distracting ornamentation and colours’.

On the outside, some of the Vision-S’s design characteristics have been maintained, offering a simple, clean look. It also features a ‘Media bar’ which ‘allows intelligent mobility to express itself to surrounding people using light, enabling interactive communication between mobility and people’.

Quite how that looks and whether people will understand it remains to be seen, though we envision (or perhaps hope for) something akin to the scene Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the aliens finally interact with humans…

SHM is aiming to have the Afeela ready to order in early 2025, on general sale later that year, and on the road in spring 2026 in North America.

#ev-technology #ev-autonomous-driving #electric-vehicles

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