Contained in the Sony-Honda Afeela idea
If it wasn’t clear earlier this yr when Sony and Honda revealed the idea Afeela EV, it’s now: This new joint-venture idea automobile is all about leveraging leisure.
The corporate, referred to as Sony Honda Mobility (SHM) is a three way partnership between the Japanese leisure and tech large Sony, and the Japanese automaker, Honda. It rolled out an idea car at CES 2023 beneath the brand new model identify Afeela. And now, it’s displaying off its plans for the inside.
SHM payments Afeela as representing “a brand new relationship between individuals and mobility.” From our time contained in the cabin of the idea automobile 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 automobile
There are numerous options within the Afeela that fall into the this-will-never-see-the-light-of-day class. As an example, there aren’t any door handles on the Afeela. Zip. Zero. Ziltch. That makes moving into the car a little bit of a conundrum that can doubtless be fastened 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 automobile would acknowledge their method and open the automobile door. Throughout our demonstration of the idea, nevertheless, 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 are 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 unattainable to overlook all the screens that stretched from blocky a-pillar to blocky a-pillar throughout the bottom of the windshield.
However the people at Sony Honda Mobility weren’t content material with simply inside screens. There have been additionally shows on the automobile’s entrance and rear bumpers that always cycled by means of a wide range of content material, together with quick 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 in entrance of the driving force and passenger didn’t seem to come back up terribly excessive, from my seating place, I couldn’t see the hood of the automobile. There are additionally two further passenger leisure screens within the backseat.
The screens within the entrance of the inside are panoramic, in accordance with my Sony Honda Mobility guides. That implies that there aren’t any precise divisions between the display in entrance of the driving force, the show within the center or in entrance of the passenger. You’ll be able to simply swipe app blocks round from the passenger to the center sections of the display with out a stutter or leap.
The display 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 velocity, vary and even g-forces remained displayed in entrance of me. The colours and whites on the touchscreens appeared vivid 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.
Underpinning the leisure methods and all these screens are a lot of “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, in accordance with spokespeople on the occasion.
The corporate wouldn’t elaborate additional, nevertheless it’s secure to imagine that when the Afeela involves market, it’ll boast a big 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 desires 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 know-how that permits particular person sounds in music to be positioned in a 360-degree spherical sound subject. My hosts cued up Blow the Horns by a bunch referred to as Soul Rebels, on Tidal, which occurs to be one of many streaming companies that gives music that’s been recorded with the intention of being loved on Sony’s 360 Actuality Audio methods, which by the way in which is similar system within the Lucid Air.
Whereas the audio system within the idea had been fastened, 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 modify their aural expertise. The horns had been heat and alluring, 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 to regulate quantity, Afeela will provide some type of gesture management with regards to market in 2026. For instance, you would probably 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 films and gaming. Sony is a serious media and leisure producer, and we acquired to expertise the Afeela on the principle studio lot. The Afeela was preloaded with Spider-Man: No Method Residence, a Sony manufacturing from 2021, and our hosts cued it up towards the tip of the film so we may watch a quick clip.
The colours had been clear, vivid and crisp although the scene itself was considerably dim; the audio matched the standard of the photographs. Whereas it was taking part in, the spokesperson slid the display from in entrance of his passenger seat to the center of the display, and the system didn’t stutter or skip. Customers of the infotainment system within the Afeela idea also can 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 group loaded up the PS4/PS5-compatible recreation referred to as Sackboy: A Large Journey and performed it briefly utilizing a wi-fi PSP controller, once more demonstrating the seamlessness of the display 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 problem. 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 shifting car seems like a recipe for catastrophe, you’re not unsuitable. That’s why SHM has included what it describes as a “Degree 3 automated drive beneath restricted situations” 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 in a roundabout way (nonetheless TBD) whereas they had been driving the car. In different instances, 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 excitement and the options, it’s clear that the brand new Sony Honda Mobility firm is leaning closely on the way forward for automobile journey as an leisure extension. We have now 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 automobile.
Consuming media in a car may change into 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 each one these video games, apps and films would require a subscription to entry, very similar to Netflix. Plus, it’ll require stable broadband connectivity and processing energy to work as seamlessly because it does within the static idea automobile. And naturally, it must have proficient automated driving options that might enable a driver to observe a display as an alternative of the street forward.
Sony Honda Mobility spokespeople additionally stated that it plans to give attention to digital gross sales for the long run Afeela car, somewhat 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.