Back in September, I wrote a story titled “Sony Doesn’t Know Why They Made A Car Either.” On Tuesday night, the tech giant returned to CES with not only its Vision-S sedan, but an SUV called the Vision-S 02. It also announced the creation of a new company, Sony Mobility, to handle all EV-related activities. In the last four months, Sony either figured out why it made a car or, more likely, knew it all along: It’s building cars because it wants to sell them.
“We are exploring a commercial launch of Sony’s EV,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony chairman, president and CEO, told the media on stage at the conference in Las Vegas. The Vision-S sedan started as a test bed and branding opportunity for Sony’s in-car entertainment, safety and assisted driving technologies — or at least that’s what the company told us when the all-electric sedan debuted at CES 2020. For the last two years, it’s been testing the car on public roads around the world, all the while insisting that it was nothing more than a prototype. That has seemingly changed.
The Vision-S was designed by Sony but manufactured by Magna-Steyr in Austria. The Vision-S 02 bears obvious similarity to the sedan’s clean-and-simple aesthetic and unsurprisingly is built atop the same architecture. Differences between the two vehicles are more about packaging than mechanics, as the SUV supposedly can seat up to seven — even though it really doesn’t look like it — and weighs 5,467 pounds. That’s almost 300 more pounds than the sedan.
We know about the crossover’s weight because Sony’s published it on a dedicated site, along with other dimensions and specs. That is unusual for a concept car, to say the least. Automakers typically obscure such ugly details until they absolutely can’t anymore because they’re selling the dang car. But Sony’s been acting like it’s mass producing these EVs this whole time even though it hasn’t been.
The Vision-S 02 is covered in CMOS, LIDAR and time-of-flight sensors, giving the SUV “Level 2+” assisted driving capabilities. Nothing about that is earth-shattering; quite a few cars on the road today can claim the same. It is remarkably realistic, though.
Again, this is a concept, at CES no less — a place where you can say pretty much anything you want and have it taken at face value. Sony very easily could’ve claimed its prototype was capable of “full self-driving,” as some in its position have. Nobody would have been able to get behind the wheel to prove it wrong. Instead, it’s being rational and seemingly honest. I admire that.
Sony also announced it recently conducted a 5G remote driving test, whereby a Vision-S on a test course in Germany was driven by an individual in Tokyo using what is clearly a Logitech G29 steering wheel and pedals, over a hyperfast data connection. Practical? Not really, but there’s something charming about a whole ass car being steered by someone thousands of miles away using a budget sim racing kit you could snag at Best Buy for $300.
Sony’s been pragmatic and conservative about the Vision-S every step of the way. I almost feel stupid for taking the company at its word and assuming nothing would come of it; this whole time it’s been developing its EVs like normal production cars. Now we know for a fact that’s the end goal.