About two years ago Sony showed off at the Consumer Electronics Show with a semi-autonomous EV called the Vision-S. The mere existence of the car left everyone confused – Sony is not a car maker, and the tech giant announced that the Vision-S would not be produced. But Sony makes a lot of things that run In cars, and so the Vision-S was intended – at the time, anyway – as a test and performance of all as it does a supplier.
Vision-S has done those things. In the many months since the introduction of the car, it has been sent back and forth Between Europe and Japan for real-world testing and further changes, at Magna-Steer’s factory in Austria and Sony’s facilities in Tokyo. At least two Vision-S prototypes have been built and they are still operating on public roads. What will happen after that, it seems, the top Sony executives have absolutely no idea.
Izumi Kawanashi, senior vice president of Sony’s AI and Robotics division, shared as much Automotive News in the weekends:
“We don’t have any concrete plans at this time because our current phase is a research and development phase,” he told Automotive News. “We have to examine what is our objective to contribute to the mobility service. This is our core idea and we have to continue with the R&D phase.”
This apparent lack of direction is simultaneously surprising and not. On one hand, Sony portrayed the Vision-S as a tool for developing everything from sensors and computer vision to in-car audio and gaming. On the other hand, many tech companies also make these products, and you don’t see them taking off and building whole cars for fun.
On Kawanishi’s question, it seemed that the question of Sony’s “purpose of contributing to the mobility service” was clear from the start. Sony Electronics President Mike Fasulo justifies the Vision-S in this way Time At CES in January 2020:
It’s built around our core technologies, or at least the parts we’re focusing on, which are safety, security, and entertainment. The reason we designed the car was [Sony CEO Kenchiro Yoshida’s] See, from scratch to understand what engineering feats are all about, so that we can deliver what we do best when it comes to trends in automobiles, autonomous or otherwise.
It makes sense to me, plus it turns out to be a clever marketing move at a time when Apple has been and still is working on the car for the better part of a decade. has nothing to show for its efforts. Yet, after so much research and development, Sony still stands The crisis over what role it plays in this era of electric, autonomous cars.
It almost makes you wonder if the company entertains second thoughts about putting the Vision-S into production. Kawanishi reiterated to Automotive News that that is still not happening, lest one lives up to their expectations. Less than that, maybe it’s tying up with a major automaker or several? The project could go a number of ways, and we’ll just have to wait and see which direction it goes. At the moment, it’s somewhat counterproductive to reflect on Sony’s execution with little more than a shrug on two years of work.