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Moving Towards Evolution in Mobility with "VISION-S"
Sony's New Initiative Pursues Comfort and Entertainment
in the Realm of Mobility

In January 2020, Sony announced the new mobility concept, "VISION-S," and its prototype. VISION-S is an accumulation of Sony's advanced technologies, and a significant challenge for Sony to propose the future of mobility to the world. Currently, we are striving to move this concept forward with the aim of conducting public road tests within FY2020. We spoke to seven key members involved in the development and design of VISION-S about the process leading up to the announcement and prospects for the future.

Profile

  • Tomohiro Arikado

    VISION-S Promotion Office
    AI Robotics Business Group
    Sony Corporation
    (In charge of Human Machine Interface (HMI) Development)

  • Takuya Shoji

    VISION-S Promotion Office
    AI Robotics Business Group
    Sony Corporation
    (In charge of Autonomous Driving)

  • Tatsuya Koeda

    VISION-S Promotion Office
    AI Robotics Business Group
    Sony Corporation
    (In charge of Planning & Strategies)

  • Hidehiro Komatsu

    Studio 6
    Creative Center
    Sony Corporation
    (In charge of HMI Design)

  • Takahiro Hayasaka

    Automotive Business Div.
    V&S Business Group
    Sony Home Entertainment &
    Sound Products
    (In charge of Audio)

  • Atsushi Homma

    Automotive Business Div.
    V&S Business Group
    Sony Home Entertainment &
    Sound Products
    (In charge of Audio)

  • Takashi Nakanishi

    Automotive Sensing
    Development Dept.
    Automotive Business Division
    Sony Semiconductor Solutions
    (In charge of Sensors)

Overturning the established concept of mobility and creating a new mobility experience

──First, what is VISION-S?

Takuya Shoji (In charge of Autonomous Driving): It is a new initiative that combines Sony's technologies with the aim of contributing to the evolution of mobility. In January 2020, Sony unveiled the concept and prototype vehicle of VISION-S. It represents Sony's mobility vision of pursuing comfort and entertainment as well as safety and security. A total of 33 sensors are used to monitor the environment outside the vehicle in real time to support driving. Each seat is also equipped with 360 Reality Audio speakers for allowing listeners to feel as if they are immersed in sound from all directions. Furthermore, the car's systems and applications are constantly updated through a network connection.

──Why did you take on the mobility field at this time?

Tatsuya Koeda (In charge of Planning & Strategies): The automotive industry is going through a period of great change, often described as a "once-in-a-century transformation." We have long been discussing how best to make use of Sony's technologies and strengths in the mobility field. We ultimately decided on an approach of carrying out verification tests to evolve, with a combination of Sony's technologies and expertise in imaging and sensing, entertainment, communications, AI/cloud, and other areas.

Shoji (In charge of Autonomous Driving): To overturn the established concept of mobility and create a new mobility experience, we have developed a new vehicle and platform from scratch. Given that Sony is not a car manufacturer, this was a huge challenge. We created the VISION-S through a number of detailed discussions between members of the business planning, design, and technology departments over a two-year period.

Overcoming issues and deriving optimal solutions

──What difficulties and challenges did you encounter?

Koeda (In charge of Planning & Strategies): Historically, Sony has always applied its technologies and creativity to offer products and services that create new lifestyles. In the mobility field, safety is the most critical factor, so it was a significant challenge to find ways of providing people with a comfortable, safe, and secure driving experience using our sensing technologies.

Hidehiro Komatsu (In charge of HMI Design): Sony has produced a wide array of products in the past, but the development of a vehicle, for which safety and security are paramount, is a major challenge, and there are still a number of issues that need to be overcome. Sony is carefully checking applicable laws and ISO standards required to put these vehicles on the road and having thorough discussions on what the future of cars should look like, particularly with regard to the "digital cockpit" of tomorrow.

Shoji (In charge of Autonomous Driving): The position and specifications of each device, such as cameras, greatly affect the styling and performance of the vehicle. We are always conscious of overall optimization and have to keep various conditions in mind when searching for new solutions.

Tomohiro Arikado (In charge of HMI Development): During the development, we had various partners in the automotive industry to cooperate with and we have done everything possible to convey Sony's values and to translate their suggestions into concrete ideas.

Atsushi Homma (In charge of Audio): The most difficult part of the audio design was adjusting the sound inside the car. For the in-vehicle entertainment system, we shifted operations to nighttime, because we could only adjust the sound when both the interior and surroundings were completely quiet. To reduce the crosstalk from the seat speakers, we worked with the designers to devise optimal placements for the speakers and an optimal shape for the headrests.

Komatsu (In charge of HMI Design): The VISION-S design concept "OVAL" has the meaning of enveloping its occupants. There are three ovals: 1. Direct protection of the passengers, 2. 360-degree sensors to confirm safety around the vehicle, and 3. A connection between the vehicle and society to deliver information and entertainment. We aimed for a user experience that combines fun, relaxation, and a sense of security by merging the inner and outer environments to embrace occupants.

Three Concept for VISION-S:
Entertainment, Safety and Adaptability

──Could you also explain about the three concepts: Entertainment, Safety and Adaptability?

Takashi Nakanishi (In charge of Sensors): Regarding Safety, the vehicle uses an optimal combination of sensors with different characteristics, including cameras (CMOS image sensors), Radar, and LiDAR. The aim is to make the car safer to drive in various conditions such as night, rain, fog, and backlight. The main issue is to process large volumes of data from numerous sensors. We are trying to overcome the issues by utilizing Sony's rich development assets and image processing technology, in order to realize a safe and secure car society.

Takahiro Hayasaka (In charge of Audio): Regarding the Entertainment part, each seat is equipped with proprietary Sony 360 Reality Audio speakers, realizing a surround sound experience in pursuit of a feeling of immersion and realism that is unprecedented in in-vehicle entertainment. The driver and passenger seats both have two seat speakers and acoustic signal processing, allowing each occupant to experience a personalized space without interference from the other seats.

Arikado (In charge of HMI Development): Lastly, the Adaptability. Through its network connection, VISION-S is constantly evolving without model changes. The driver can always enjoy the most up-to-date and easy-to-use UI/UX. The AI automatically maintains comfortable conditions within the vehicle based on data collected through the sensors, the infrastructure outside of the car, and your smartphone. For example, you can set navigation, compile playlists, and turn on the air conditioner before you get into the car.

Continuous evolution to provide new value

──What is the Sony's unique feature as reflected in VISION-S?

Shoji (In charge of Autonomous Driving): Since this was a significant challenge for a non-auto manufacturer like Sony, we decided to overturn the established concept of mobility and create a new mobility experience. We have developed a new vehicle and platform from scratch.

The VISION-S Prototype was developed through discussions between people from business planning, design, and engineering divisions. People from different technology fields and corporate functions gathered to bounce ideas off each other, while paying close attention to every detail. This tendency to eschew conventional approaches and create a single product with people from a wide range of fields of expertise explains much of who we are as Sony.

──What are the prospects for the future?

Koeda (In charge of Planning & Strategies): Sony is aiming to have the prototype on public roads within fiscal 2020 and accelerating the verification of its functions to further evolve Sony's technologies. VISION-S is an example of an initiative that symbolically captures Sony's purpose, megatrends, and sustainability, so we will strengthen internal collaboration to incorporate more technologies and ideas. We will also aim to build a new mobility ecosystem by working together with various partners while refining our own technology.
While our society, values, and lifestyles have been greatly affected by the COVID-19, the demand for a comfortable space to enjoy quality time through the incorporation of entertainment and other elements is only going to rise. Moving forward, we will continue making proposals for the future of mobility while taking the social situation and customer needs into consideration. There isn't necessarily one right answer, so I would like to discuss these ideas with as many people as possible going forward.

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VISION-S Prototype Design Story
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#2 Exterior design
#3 Interior design
#4 UI/UX design
#5 Communication design

Sony's Technology 2020

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