I’m a big proponent of the Vision-S, Sony’s running prototype shown at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show to demonstrate the safety, entertainment and assisted-driving technologies it intends to offer established automakers for future models. Sony and its partners at Magna Steyr and Bosch have done such a good job in assembling the Vision-S, I believe, that were they interested in mass producing the car it’d really have something to offer the market.
Unfortunately, though, Sony isn’t interested in producing the Vision-S. Not that there was ever reason to think it was, but the company reconfirmed to Car and Driver that the Vision-S remains a one-of-one testbed for its automotive technologies and nothing more.
A Sony spokesperson told Car and Driver: “At present, we have no plans to mass-produce or sell the vehicle. With mobility expected as a major megatrend into the future, we’re exploring how Sony can contribute in a meaningful way to the era of autonomous driving.” Some of those contributions could be entertainment related, the spokesperson indicated, saying, “Through our strengths in imaging and sensing, we aim to contribute to both safety and reliability in autonomous driving, while also delivering a powerful experience leveraging entertainment in the mobility space.”
This has been Sony’s line all along, mind you, though it’s nevertheless disappointing to hear again. The Vision-S didn’t turn up at CES only to be stored in a museum weeks later, the fate suffered by so many concepts. It first returned to Magna Steyr’s factory in Austria to prep it for public road trials. Then it went to Tokyo so Sony could improve its in-car entertainment suite. This month, it came back to Europe — wearing a new livery, no less — to commence testing.
Sony must know the Vision-S has its fans. After all, the company is still publishing videos and updates every couple of weeks to keep interested folks informed of its latest activities. I love that! It’s like postcards from a friend who moved far away — who you’ll probably never see in person again — but are nevertheless pleased to see is living their best life.
As Car and Driver points out, the Vision-S is still in active development. Apparently Sony’s goal is to embed a PlayStation and 5G connectivity in the car. The PlayStation thing is funny to think about, because I’m not sure where they’d find the space for a PS5 (it doesn’t fit in some people’s living rooms, for crying out loud). Additionally, the car’s current assisted-driving stack can handle something between Level 2 and Level 3 capabilities — meaning it can steer, accelerate and brake itself, but only in specific scenarios — though Sony’s eyeing Level 4 in the future.
The Vision-S is going to get smarter and better in the months to come, and I’m excited to follow its progress. Remember, Sony: It’s never too late to reconsider. At least put it in Gran Turismo 7 for me.