At long last, Sony Honda Mobility Inc. has revealed its first car. The joint venture between the entertainment giant and the new automotive icon unveiled a new prototype EV sedan, dubbed Afeela, at the 2023 CES event in Las Vegas with the goal of “changing the definition of what a car can be”. It’s a tall order from the outset, but the first look at the concept car didn’t disappoint, giving auto fans all the more reason to get excited.
On paper, the collaboration is a bonafide winner. Consumer electronics giant Sony is able to bring its technology and user-focused strengths to the table while Honda supplements some much-needed automotive experience. That said, the Afeela is more about the connected world of software and networks than driving or the usual attributes that one associates with a car. According to Sony Honda Mobility Inc., the brand Afeela will spawn a new range of cars starting with this sedan due for launch in 2026.
As you might expect, there is a whole lot of technology crammed into this car, starting with as many as 45 cameras and sensors inside and outside the vehicle, together with 800 TOPS of maximum computing power for ECU. To power all that tech on board, SHL has partnered with Qualcomm Technologies for using the Snapdragon Digital Chassis that will be used in important features including AD/ADAS, HMI/IVI, and telematics.
“The car is becoming increasingly connected and intelligent, and how we experience our vehicles is changing,” Cristiano Amon, president and CEO, Qualcomm Incorporated said. 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.”
Interestingly enough, the introduction of a Qualcomm digital chassis wasn’t the only mobile-focused feature added to the Afeela platform. Sony Honda Mobility Inc. also confirmed that it had a goal of “seamlessly integrating real and virtual worlds”, whihc of course includes the metaverse. To make the prospect of exploring new entertainment possibilities, the organisation tapped Fortnite developer Epic Games, which will reportedly work on an augmented reality navigation tool that makes use of Afeela’s sensing technology.
“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,” Kim Libreri, CTO at Epic Games said. “Together with them, we look forward to bringing you exciting updates within this revolutionary space.”
The shape, not unlike the Hyundai Ioniq, is conservative but also loyal to the usual EV design cues auto-lovers have become accustomed to – namely, aero-enhancing wheels and a swoopy shape to get as much range as possible. The design is streamlined with minimal fuss while digital mirrors and a light bar complete the simple yet futuristic look of the car. It isn’t as sharp looking as a Tesla with a clear focus on appealing to a wider palate in terms of being a generic EV shape.
Inside, it’s even more technology-obsessed, albeit with a simple canvas while Augmentation, OTA updates and Level 3 autonomy are also there. The raft of cameras, sensors and cloud-based connectivity govern the interior experience with a Tesla-like yoke steering wheel being thrown in for a bit of spice.
“The design of this prototype aims to create a new value standards for mobility,” Sony Honda Mobility Inc. representative director, chairman and CEO Yasuhide Mizuno told attendees at CES 2023. “As we reach an inflection point where the elements of a car is shifting from power and performance to software, networks, and user experiences, we reexamined the individuality and form of vehicle design up until now, and by further refining, we aimed to highlight the essential values and sublimate them into a pure and strong design.”
Clearly, Sony Honda Mobility Inc.’s focus with Afeela is to be a mobility solution device rather than just a ‘car’. The future does point towards more connected cars and autonomous technology but Sony and Honda won’t be alone in the quest to change the automobile. There’s a long list of rivals already queueing up to take that mantle, so what’s another range-busting EV to add to this mix?