If it wasn’t clear earlier this 12 months when Sony and Honda revealed the idea Afeela EV, it’s now: This new joint-venture idea automotive is all about leveraging leisure.
The corporate, generally known as Sony Honda Mobility (SHM) is a three way partnership between the Japanese leisure and tech big Sony, and the Japanese automaker, Honda. It rolled out an idea car at CES 2023 beneath the brand new model title Afeela. And now, it’s exhibiting off its plans for the inside.
SHM payments Afeela as representing “a brand new relationship between folks and mobility.” From our time contained in the cabin of the idea automotive on the Sony Studio Lot in Culver Metropolis, that “new relationship” depends closely on the whiz-bang of leisure options.
A movie show in your automotive
There are a variety of options within the Afeela that fall into the this-will-never-see-the-light-of-day class. As an illustration, there are not any door handles on the Afeela. Zip. Zero. Ziltch. That makes moving into the car a little bit of a conundrum that may doubtless be mounted with the addition of door handles within the manufacturing model.
In concept, the driving force or passenger would stroll as much as the smooth-bodied EV and one of many 45 sensor arrays and cameras positioned each inside and out of doors of the automotive would acknowledge their strategy and open the automotive door. Throughout our demonstration of the idea, nonetheless, a Honda planner opened the driving force’s facet door for us utilizing a smartphone app.
However there are different options — specifically the screens and audio system — which can be doubtless headed into the manufacturing model.
We climbed in and, upon sitting down within the plush Alcantara-like seats, the yoke-style steering wheel moved nearer as if inviting us in, whereas the light-colored seat slid barely ahead. It was unimaginable to overlook the entire screens that stretched from blocky a-pillar to blocky a-pillar throughout the bottom of the windshield.
However the of us at Sony Honda Mobility weren’t content material with simply inside screens. There have been additionally shows on the automotive’s entrance and rear bumpers that continuously cycled by a wide range of content material, together with brief animations of the film Spider-Man, the present time and temperature and sports activities scores. The upshot? Future homeowners can flip their Afeela right into a rolling billboard.
Again contained in the car, there are two smaller screens that help the outside facet digicam mirrors. These screens are angled towards the driving force on the base of the a-pillars, giving the complete expertise a type of wrap-around impact.
Whereas the display screen in entrance of the driving force and passenger didn’t seem to return up terribly excessive, from my seating place, I couldn’t see the hood of the automotive. There are additionally two further passenger leisure screens within the backseat.
The screens within the entrance of the inside are panoramic, based on my Sony Honda Mobility guides. That signifies that there are not any precise divisions between the display screen in entrance of the driving force, the show within the center or in entrance of the passenger. You possibly can simply swipe app blocks round from the passenger to the center sections of the display screen with out a stutter or soar.
The display screen in entrance of the driving force modified to match the theme of no matter leisure was being displayed on the passenger facet. The usual digital dials for pace, vary and even g-forces remained displayed in entrance of me. The colours and whites on the touchscreens appeared vibrant and clear, whereas black appeared wealthy and darkish. Once I dragged content material round on the touchscreen, there was no lag or picture ghosting, and most notably, no infuriating fingerprints on the display screen.
Underpinning the leisure programs and all these screens are quite a few “excessive efficiency” Qualcomm SoC chips and Snapdragon’s “Digital Chassis,” which is able to help the long run conditional Degree 3 autonomy that SHM says Afeela may have, based on spokespeople on the occasion.
The corporate wouldn’t elaborate additional, nevertheless it’s protected to imagine that when the Afeela involves market, it’s going to boast a wide selection of cutting-edge cellular, lidar, radar and digicam sensor tech to help the leisure and superior driver help system.
It’s not sufficient to see the content material. Sony Honda Mobility needs the driving force and passengers to have an immersive sound expertise too. The Afeela is provided with Sony’s 360 Actuality Audio system, which makes use of particular sound expertise that enables particular person sounds in music to be positioned in a 360-degree spherical sound discipline. My hosts cued up Blow the Horns by a bunch known as Soul Rebels, on Tidal, which occurs to be one of many streaming providers that provides music that’s been recorded with the intention of being loved on Sony’s 360 Actuality Audio programs, which by the way in which is identical system within the Lucid Air.
Whereas the audio system within the idea had been mounted, Sony Honda Mobility spokespeople confirmed that they are going to be adjustable sooner or later car in order that shorter or taller drivers and passengers can alter their aural expertise. The horns had been heat and welcoming, whereas the groovable bass-heavy rap appeared to stand up from beneath the seats. That’s as a result of, within the idea Afeela, there are particular person audio system in every headrest, in addition to audio system beneath the seats that supply a comparatively visceral expertise when listening to music. The Sony Imaginative and prescient-S, which resembles the Afeela however debuted in 2020, additionally had the identical audio system.
Whereas my hosts opted to make use of the amount slider overlaid (or the dial that rests in entrance of the middle armrest) on the display screen to regulate quantity, Afeela will supply some type of gesture management in relation to market in 2026. For instance, you would doubtlessly management issues like quantity by placing your finger to your lips such as you’re shushing a chatty moviegoer, and the music would get decrease.
Then there’s the choice for motion pictures and gaming. Sony is a significant media and leisure producer, and we received to expertise the Afeela on the primary studio lot. The Afeela was preloaded with Spider-Man: No Manner Dwelling, a Sony manufacturing from 2021, and our hosts cued it up towards the tip of the film so we may watch a short clip.
The colours had been clear, vibrant and crisp although the scene itself was considerably dim; the audio matched the standard of the photographs. Whereas it was enjoying, the spokesperson slid the display screen from in entrance of his passenger seat to the center of the display screen, and the system didn’t stutter or skip. Customers of the infotainment system within the Afeela idea may also decide to point out the identical video on all of the accessible screens directly or enable every particular person passenger to customise their leisure.
We additionally checked out the PlayStation integration within the Afeela. The SHM crew loaded up the PS4/PS5-compatible recreation known as Sackboy: A Huge Journey and performed it briefly utilizing a wi-fi PSP controller, once more demonstrating the seamlessness of the display screen on the entrance of the EV by sliding the sport from the center to the passenger facet and again whereas they performed, with out a difficulty. The 3D graphics for all of the shows had been made utilizing the Unreal Engine by Epic Video games, which is the creator of Fortnite, and who SHM says they’re working with to “construct new values and ideas for mobility.”
Conditional Degree 3 autonomous driving?
If all this leisure in a transferring car seems like a recipe for catastrophe, you’re not fallacious. That’s why SHM has included what it describes as a “Degree 3 automated drive beneath restricted circumstances” and “Degree 2+ driver help” in what it phrases “city driving.”
The spokespeople on the occasion confirmed that the leisure options can be blocked off from the driving force’s imaginative and prescient not directly (nonetheless TBD) whereas they had been driving the car. In different circumstances, like throughout restricted Degree 3 driving, the driving force can be permitted to see and work together with the content material.
Afeela: A model new leisure platform
With all the thrill and the options, it’s clear that the brand new Sony Honda Mobility firm is leaning closely on the way forward for automotive journey as an leisure extension. We’ve screens that enable us to eat inordinate quantities of data and media within the palms of our arms, however the one place that our media consumption has been restricted is within the automotive.
Consuming media in a car may grow to be the ultimate frontier for main tech and media gamers like Sony — and the corporate seems to acknowledge that.
Representatives on the occasion did say that every one these video games, apps and films would require a subscription to entry, very similar to Netflix. Plus, it’s going to require strong broadband connectivity and processing energy to work as seamlessly because it does within the static idea automotive. And naturally, it must have proficient automated driving options that might enable a driver to observe a display screen as a substitute of the highway forward.
Sony Honda Mobility spokespeople additionally stated that it plans to concentrate on digital gross sales for the long run Afeela car, slightly than a seller mannequin. Orders open in 2025 with supply happening, beginning with North America, someday in 2026. There’s no phrase on pricing or deposit particulars but.