During the pandemic, Sony has been making a mint with PlayStation 5 sales and streaming content through the PlayStation Network. But in a surprise move, it jumped into the EV market with the launch of its Vision-S sedan.
Just think — in a few short years, you could be driving a PlayStation car.
Sony’s diverse business holdings
Many consumers know Sony as the manufacturer of PlayStation and related products. But the company has long been involved in far more than gaming.
Originating during the postwar period, Sony began as a small electronics shop in Tokyo. As it started developing branded consumer electronics, it became a highly profitable multinational corporation in the ’60s and ’70s. Despite a drop in consumer electronic sales in the ’80s, popular products — such as the Walkman, Discman, and floppy disk, as well as early PlayStation console generations — helped Sony regain its footing and then some in the ’90s.
As the internet grew, Sony aggressively pursued new businesses that linked consumer electronics like movies and music to the internet. After purchasing Columbia Pictures in 1989, Sony developed multiple blockbusters, including the early-2000s Spider-Man trilogy, the XXX franchise, and the current James Bond film series. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony’s television and film production unit that houses Columbia Pictures, also produces TV staples like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Sony Music Entertainment is the second-largest music company and owns the publishing rights to music from superstars like Taylor Swift, Bob Dylan, and Eminem.
Sony has also held considerable market share in the television and digital camera markets for decades. It’s a leading manufacturer of CMOS sensors — a type of image sensor widely used in smartphones and digital cameras. Sony Financial Holdings provides financial products, primarily to Japanese consumers. Sony has even made acquisitions in healthcare and biotechnology.
But electric vehicles? It’s not so far-fetched considering Sony’s forays into automotive technology to date.
Sony’s forays into the automotive world
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As its history shows, Sony has never been afraid to pursue nascent technologies it believes will make a significant impact. And given its bench of consumer electronics engineering talent and global reach, Sony is willing to bet on the growing EV market. The company had helped popularize the lithium-ion battery in the 2000s. It sold that business, but Sony continued work it had begun in 2015 with ZMP Inc. on commercial drones and self-driving automobiles, HEXUS reported.
So company-watchers were perhaps less shocked than the average PlayStation enthusiast when a Sony executive began speaking to the press about EVs. In a recent interview with MotorTrend, Izumi Kawanishi, senior vice president of Sony’s AI robotics business, announced the company viewed mobility as the next frontier. He discussed Sony’s Vision-S EV sedan, which debuted in January 2020 at the Consumer Electronics Show. And though it may have flown under the radar, this new EV is notable for more than Sony’s first foray into automotive production.
The Vision-S at a glance
The best way to discuss the Vision-S is not in terms of typical automotive performance standards like horsepower and handling. (But for those interested, it boasts 536 hp and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds MotorTrend reports.)
The Vision-S is a concept EV capable of limited autonomous driving and loaded with Sony technology features. Because it’s built for autonomy, it’s best judged primarily on two measures. One is its performance as a self-driving car, a developing category that itself has seen mixed success so far. And assuming you’ll hand the Vision-S the reins, it’ll also treat you to a surfeit of entertainment options. Those should also be assessed.
Sony’s EV comes equipped with more than three dozen sensors. They detect people and objects in and around the car and measure distances in real-time for better, safer autonomous driving. The current model is capable of autonomous parking and advanced driver assistance but not yet complete self-driving. However, according to Kawanishi, fully autonomous driving is the goal. The Vision-S also comes with an immersive sound system and a panoramic dashboard display to watch videos instead of the road.
Indeed, Sony has crammed this EV with so many entertainment options that it’s hard not to think of it as a PlayStation car. You can even play PS games on the Vision-S’s 10-inch infotainment screens. But before you rush to buy a Vision-S, understand there are no production plans for it yet, per Kawanishi. Right now, Sony is perfecting its self-driving tech and entertainment options.
But who knows? If Sony leverages its significant licensing expertise, you might see many of the Vision-S’s innovations in new car models soon.