CES 2020: Sony’s electric car surprise

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In a tradition for car enthusiasts dating back to 1989, the new year would begin in Detroit, US with the traditional January hosting of the Motor City Show. After 30 Michigan winters, everyone finally had enough, so the 31st edition of the Detroit motor show is due in June, without all the mush. It won’t be the same… but then again, it hasn’t been for a while.

Las Vegas’ annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) replaced Detroit as the calendar kick-off event several years ago and the car manufacturers have settled in nicely. Consumer electronics and cars? Sony’s in on it.

The big surprise of CES 2020 took place on Sony’s stand when the Japanese brand revealed its new Vision-S concept car on the opening night of the show.

Companies like Nissan, Hyundai, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Fiat carried the old-guard with AI and zero-emissions concept cars of their own, but the Vision-S intends to showcase Sony’s technical capabilities in the future of personal mobility.

A total of 33 sensors, as well as radar and LiDAR, provide a 360-degree virtual view of the car’s surroundings to enable driving assistance and self-parking. Sony says the Vision-S – a zero-emissions electric car – corresponds to level two autonomy on a scale of five the industry uses as a yardstick, with the aim of reaching level four in the future – no driver attention required. Level five is classified as ‘steering wheel optional’.

The concept’s cameras detect pedestrians and road signs, and digital dash displays replace conventional exterior mirrors. With two 200kW motors driving all four wheels, the 2 350kg Vision-S is quoted as being capable of 240km/h and reaching zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, although Sony is more interested in talking about cloud AI, over-the-air updates, and 5G connectivity.

To make the car architecture possible, Sony worked with old hands – Bosch and Magna Steyr – which manufacture almost plug-and-play electric car drivetrains and platforms. Sony even makes mention of SUVs and two-door coupés regarding the modular platform under the Vision-S body. There may be some real intentions behind the Vision-S, which comes across as more than just your usual show car featuring a functional interior dominated by door-to-door screens and a 33-speaker surround sound system.

Moderate styling cues that follow themes set by the Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model 3, and Lucid Air concept make the styling of the Sony Vision-S almost conventional, whether or not it’s meant to look like a production-ready vehicle.

Show cars from brands outside of the motoring clique tend to be exactly that: showy. Sony’s effort in Vegas looks more convincing than that.

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