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Sony joins race to develop electric cars

·2 min read
Sony chief executive officer Kenichiro Yoshida speaks about Sony Mobility Inc. after unveiling the Sony Vision-S SUV prototype electric vehicle during the Sony press conference ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show - PATRICK T. FALLON/ AFP
Sony chief executive officer Kenichiro Yoshida speaks about Sony Mobility Inc. after unveiling the Sony Vision-S SUV prototype electric vehicle during the Sony press conference ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show - PATRICK T. FALLON/ AFP

Sony is gearing up to join the electric car race, with the Japanese electronics giant setting up a dedicated division despite never making a vehicle.

Kenichiro Yoshida, chief executive, said the company would launch Sony Mobility in the spring and “explore entry” into the industry.

Speaking at the CES technology show in Las Vegas, he also showed off a new prototype SUV in addition to an existing model it has been testing for just over a year.

Sony, best known for its PlayStation games consoles, cameras, movie studio and record label, has little heritage in making cars.

However, it has a lucrative business in image sensors that are likely to become increasingly important for safety features and ultimately self-driving technology, as well as making autonomous robots and drones.

Technology companies are also looking towards cars as the next frontier in entertainment. Sony said its Vision-S prototype cars could stream games from its PlayStation consoles to screens in the vehicle and would boast surround sound from its audio systems.

The Sony VISION-S 02 (L), an SUV prototype vehicle, and the VISION-S 01 sedan concept (R) are on display during a Sony media event for CES 2022 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on January 4, 2022 in Las Vegas - Alex Wong/ Getty Images North America
The Sony VISION-S 02 (L), an SUV prototype vehicle, and the VISION-S 01 sedan concept (R) are on display during a Sony media event for CES 2022 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on January 4, 2022 in Las Vegas - Alex Wong/ Getty Images North America

Apple has been researching ways to enter the market, while China’s Xiaomi and Huawei are also looking to develop their own vehicles.

Other tech companies have struggled, however. Google’s driverless car spin-off Waymo has said it does not plan to manufacture its own cars, while Dyson scrapped plans to develop an electric vehicle.

Sony first unveiled a prototype vehicle two years ago, and began testing it in December 2020 on European roads.

It allows drivers to use their own sounds such as music or speech when accelerating and slowing down to replace the traditional noise of petrol-powered engines.

Sony is also testing 5G connections on its cars, which it said could allow them to be driven remotely.

Shares in Sony rose more than 4pc in Tokyo following the announcement, reflecting the insatiable demand for electric car stocks.

Sony has a long history of diving into projects that struggle to achieve traction, such as the Betamax video, Aibo robots and its MiniDisc music format that was quickly rendered obsolete by MP3 players.

However, the company was a leader in professional video in the 1980s with the Betacam and Hi8 formats, while its Trinitron televisions were long considered the best on the market.