At Sony's media preview at CES on Monday, the company's biggest news wasn't the details of the upcoming PS5, or the 85-inch 8K televisions, which neither came as surprises. Instead, the biggest buzz was when they drove an actual Sony electric car onto the stage.
To be clear, it was only a prototype--a proof of concept, really. We don't know anything about any specs of the vehicle because Sony isn't selling it, at least not yet. But it has a name and everything: Vision-S.
Car makers introduce prototype vehicles all the time and many of them never actually roll off a production line. And while Sony's version may not be available at a dealership anytime soon, you're likely going to want one if you're eyeing an electric car. What's more, Tesla should pay attention.
A Record of Innovation
Sony makes everything from motion pictures to gaming consoles to broadcast video equipment. They invented portable music with the Walkman. That's why, despite the fact that it came as a surprise to just about everyone in the room, when Sony's President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida introduced that car it seemed plausible that they might actually make one. Especially since other tech companies (ahem, Apple) have been rumored to be working on automobile projects for a few years now.
Plus, it looked really good. which is a statement all on its own. The look was like something somewhere between a Telsa Model 3 and a Porsche Cayman.
Of course, Telsa isn't likely worried about some concept car from an electronics maker. After all, the Model 3 is the most popular electric vehicle by a long shot. It's not even a competition. In fact, it outsold all of the other major models combined by a factor of three.
Technically, Sony's preview was just meant to prove to other car makers that its technology is viable, and Sony has recruited a range of partners from Bosch to Magna and Blackberry. To be clear, this car definitely packs some serious technology.
According to Sony, "a total of 33 sensors including CMOS image sensors and ToF sensors are embedded within the vehicle, in order to detect and recognize people and objects inside and outside the car, and provide highly advanced driving support."
Still, you don't create a drivetrain, motor, and battery platform just because you want to demonstrate that your camera sensor and LiDAR technology are good stuff. You do it because you want to send a message.
Why It All Matters
And Telsa should pay attention, if for no other reason than it hasn't perfected one of its goals: Self-driving cars. In fact, every time a Telsa vehicle is involved in a car accident anywhere, the headline almost always has to do with its self-driving capabilities.
That's not a knock on Telsa, or even self-driving cars, but clearly we haven't quite mastered that yet. Which is a good reason for any entrepreneur, because there's a good chance that there's something your business hasn't quite mastered, but someone else probably has.
Sony isn't a car maker, but it knows what it's doing when it comes to camera sensors. That could be exactly the innovation we need for self-driving cars to become a reality. Let's hope, for all of our sake, the auto industry is paying attention.