One of the more intriguing stories to have emerged from the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas over the past few years has been Sony’s electric vehicle. The Japanese tech giant stunned people in 2020 when it debuted the Vision-S, a handsome EV designed to showcase Sony’s sensors and camera tech on the outside and its entertainment portfolio on the inside.
The following year brought more developed prototypes of the Vision-S into view; then, in 2022, it took an SUV version to CES as well. At that time Sony told the media it was exploring commercial possibilities for a Sony EV, and last March it announced a strategic alliance with Hondawith the latter providing vehicle body engineering and after-sales support, and Sony providing the electronics, sensors, networking, telecom, and infotainment.
For CES 2023, Sony’s automotive ambitions have become a lot clearer. Sony Honda Mobility, the joint venture, is launching a brand called Afeela, which it says is because “feel” is “at the center of the mobility experience,” as people feel “mobility as an intelligent entity” and mobility feels “people and society using sensing and network IT technologies.”
The car has changed a little since we saw it last year, but the dominant design cues remain reminiscent of Porsche and Lucid—I’m far from the only person to think it looks like a 911 Targa from the rear wheels back, and there’s a strong touch of the Lucid Air to the front of the new EV.
Something to note on the exterior is a light bar at the front that the Afeela can use “to express itself to surrounding people using light, enabling interactive communication between mobility and people,” including displaying text messages like greetings or displaying the current weather. (One wonders if there’s an ability to display mirror-image text to show messages to cars in front…)
The people inside the Afeela EV might not notice anything going on outside, however—Sony wants the car to be a conduit for its entertainment offerings, whether that’s movies or music or gaming. To that end, SHM has signed a deal with Epic Games to develop new entertainment.
“At Epic we are passionate about cars and the automotive industry, and we couldn’t be happier to see Sony and Sony Honda Mobility enter the innovative world of mobility and automotive technology. Together with them, we look forward to bringing you exciting updates within this revolutionary space,” said Epic CTO Kim Libreri.
Afeela isn’t promising a fully autonomous future—not yet at least—but SHM says that it will develop a partially automated (so-called “level 3”) driving system for highways as well as a so-called “level 2+” system for use in more built-up environments. The Afeela prototype packs a total of 45 cameras and sensors inside and out to enable a host of advanced driver assistance systems.
Both the entertainment and the ADAS features will require processing power, and SHM has chosen Qualcomm as its partner in this realm.
“The car is becoming increasingly connected and intelligent, and how we experience our vehicles is changing. The Snapdragon Digital Chassis serves as the foundation for next-generation software-defined vehicles, enabling new mobility experiences and services. We are excited to collaborate with Sony Honda Mobility to deliver on our shared vision for the car of the future,” said Qualcomm President and CEO Cristiano Amon.
SHM says that it will spend the next couple of years turning the Afeela prototype into a production car. It plans to start taking preorders in the first half of 2025, with production beginning in one of Honda’s US factories. Cars will go to Japan and Europe first, with North American deliveries planned for spring 2026.