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Sony Quietly Kept Developing Its Vision-S Concept Car With More Sensors, Road Tests

Sony said there were no plans to put its Vision-S electric sedan into production, but they've kept refining it over the past year anyway.

The Sony Vision-S concept car was one of the biggest surprises of last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, wowing us all with a seemingly production-ready electric sedan that Sony used to demonstrate all of its state-of-the-art car tech. At the time, the company said it had no plans to put the Vision-S into production, but Sony brought it back for CES this year with a few more refinements and video of it going out for road tests. 

A quick refresher: Sony, a company that’s more widely known for making consumer tech like PlayStations, teamed up with Austrian contract car-builders Magna-Steyr, longtime builders of the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen and many, many other models from the new Toyota Supra to the Jaguar I-Pace. Both of those partners gave us some hope that a production Vision-S would be well-built and have in-car tech that’s more usable than a lot of the kludgey systems out there, with a big focus on improving the entertainment half of “infotainment.” 

YouTube | Sony

Maybe they’re getting serious about further developing the Vision-S itself given the overwhelmingly positive reaction to it last year. Sony’s latest video of the car shows it testing on the road and on the track in Austria, close to Magna-Steyr’s HQ, Ars Technica reports. Magna-Steyr President Frank Klein also makes it sounds like his company and Sony are going to be working much closer on the Vision-S in the foreseeable future.

“I’m very happy to see that the Vision-S was just the starting point of our joint cooperation,” Klein explains in the video. “We see that high-tech companies like Sony have a major impact on the mobility of the future.”

So, myth plausible. There are even renders of the car in multiple colors on the Vision-S’s website, for Pete’s sake. (I’ll have mine in Blaze Red. Factory pick-up at Magna-Steyr, please.)

[English subtitles are available using the CC button at the bottom of YouTube’s player.]

This year’s virtual Vision-S review features a subtly refined car. Sony wanted to improve the Vision-S’s 360-degree camera system, so it increased the number of sensors on the car from 33 to 40. 

Sony tinkered with how high these sensors’ capabilities can go in order to present the car with as complete a picture of what’s going on around it as possible for use in safety and driver assistance systems. 

YouTube | Sony

They’ve also been refining the interior to be a more relaxing place to sit and expanding the entertainment and connectivity features available on the Vision-S, which sound more like production car concerns as opposed to a test-mule ones. 

Gesture controls, 5G connectivity, and video games are some of the highlights of the video and the CES microsite. Sony also added connectivity features to verify the security of the car.

One of the most fascinating additions that TechCrunch pointed out was an in-car camera that monitors the state of each occupant in the car—not just the driver. If a passenger nods off, for example, the car will change the temperature around that passenger’s seat accordingly. Sony’s even developing a trick lip-reading system for speech recognition, which might finally let a car (any car, I’m begging here) understand my voice. 

Of course, all of this tech could be up for sale to the highest bidder, too, as Ars Technica notes that the Sony’s Vision-S page for CES touts the adaptability of the car’s platform to multiple kinds of cars. With twin-200-kW motors, a 149-mph top speed and a 0 to 62 mph time of just 4.8 seconds despite its 5,180-pound weight, it’s definitely an impressive car. It also looks pretty fun on those twisty public roads regardless of whether you’re watching a movie in the back or in the driver’s seat.

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