We do not know if it will be manufactured in series, but it is a car, It has four seats, is electric, four-wheel drive and assembles the latest technology in connectivity and security. And it is not manufactured by a car brand. It’s called Sony Vision S, and just introduced by the Japanese electronics giant at the CES Hall, which is held these days in Las Vegas (USA).
East Drive station from Sony It is a rolling compendium of all the technology that Sony already supplies to manufacturers such as Toyota or Lexus, from radars to image sensors to detect everything that moves around the car through sound equipment. But it is also a warning for the automobile industry, another one, of how large technology companies want to eat a part of their business.
Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony Corporation, explained in the presentation of Vision S that if “the mobile has been the mega-trend of the last decade, I think the next will be mobility.” Translate mega trend by mega business and we will understand why the Japanese company joins other large technology corporations that have put the automobile sector in their sights.
And it is not strange, because the business that is coming in the coming years is an abundant and succulent cake. According to the consultant McKinsey the total value that will move, only around the data and the automotive sector, will reach 750,000 million dollars (671,500 million euros). For Michele Bertoncello, partner of the consultancy, that value includes both “the new revenue generated and the cost reduction that will be achieved”. In addition, this figure will account for a quarter of total industry revenue, in McKinsey calculations.
From the Google firefly to the iPhone with wheels
With such a volume of business ahead, the strange thing would have been that the big technology conglomerates had not set their sights on the world of cars. Every time there was a rumor that one of them was going to put a car on the street, alarms have sounded at the headquarters of major car manufacturers. And there have been a few in the decade that we just left behind.
The first rumors came even before the 10’s began and Google starred. In May 2009, the company already announced that it was working to manufacture an autonomous car. The objective, as explained by its leaders then, was “Reduce road deaths.” The so-called Google Self-driving Project was born, with a fleet of Toyota Prius full of sensors and cameras that traveled in tests half a million kilometers through several states of North America.
In 2015, Google designs its first car, the Firefly (Firefly in English), known for its strange egg shape with wheels and for having had more than one road incident. By the way, with mockery included of some leaders of the automobile industry. That same year the Firefly made its first trip in Austin (Texas), transporting a blind person completely autonomously.
A year later, Google renamed the project as Waymo and creates the company of the same name to continue developing the autonomous car. In 2017, the alliance with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) arrives and Waymo begins using Chrysler minivan cars adapted with Google technology to make them autonomous. With that car, and not with the Firefly ovoid, it is the one that during 2018, in the city of Phoenix (Arizona), Waymo One, a taxi service carried out by autonomous cars, is launched. Also in 2018 he started using Jaguar I-Pace electric. Since then, and until the end of 2019, the company says it has already made more than 100,000 trips. In Waymo they hope to implement this service in more cities in the United States, but they depend on the legislation of the different states, where they have to have authorization for autonomous cars to circulate. They are also developing autonomous trucks for road transport.
Google estimates that it has already made more than 100,000 trips with its Waymo project
At the moment, the Google company already has in Phoenix more than 1,500 people subscribed to a service that, with a simple app installed on their smart mobile phone (smartphone), call your taxi.
Although it gives us the impression that smartphones have been with us for a lifetime, the one that marked their takeoff and opened the door to a multitude of services, Apple’s iPhone, arrived in 2007. Before, in the early 2000s, the co-founder of the company, Steve Jobs, speculated on being able to make a car and put it on the market in 2008. Finally, efforts focused on the launch of the famous phone.
But with the iPhone launched and with sales to mansalva, the idea of manufacturing a car was not completely abandoned. In 2008, Jobs returned to the load and met with British designer Bryan Thompson who, at the time, was developing a “disruptor” car within the automobile industry, called V-Vehicle. Finally, after a first meeting inside the car in the gardens of Jobs’s house, the project between the two did not go ahead.
Apple did not abandon the idea and the Titan project was born. Speculations of all kinds skyrocketed. And more when, in 2015, in the Californian headquarters of the company began to see vans loaded with cameras, sensors and radars everywhere. The arrival of the iPhone with wheels seemed imminent. Some car manufacturers put the batteries.
Like Volkswagen, which in 2016 already announced a new generation of electric vehicles presenting the prototype ID. Christian Senger, then head of electric mobility recently arrived at the German company, explained that the brand’s future cars could be updated, new features acquired for them through additional software, and even left the door open to other companies to develop applications For your cars. Does it sound to you? Apple’s shadow stalked.
The business is in what is not seen
However, released by 2020 the Apple car has not reached the roads. And no surprises are expected because from the company in Cupertino (California) where they see the business is not to manufacture a car – let’s call it hardware -, but in the technology that it may need. Tim Cook explained that autonomous driving systems are his goal, qualifying them as “The mother of all artificial intelligence projects” in which the company is involved.
The intangible, like software, will take the place of the physical, the car, in generating benefits. Car manufacturers are also convinced of this. Perhaps one of the best definitions of how the business has changed has been given these days by Henrik Fisker, thin advisor of the small electric car construction company that bears his last name: “people have suddenly felt that their smartphone was more important for your freedom than your car. ”
And to present his latest model has not gone to a traditional car show, say the one of Detroit, but he has done it at the technological CES in Las Vegas. And there he has also explained that he expects to obtain benefits from software updates and other improvements that will be offered throughout the life of the vehicle.
In this CES meeting, Amazon Web Services, another of the technology giants, has also presented a new service of cloud computing aimed at car manufacturers to be able to update the security and software features, control the condition of the vehicle, access the car’s sensor data, create new utilities or apply artificial intelligence models to the information. Amazon, in addition, is already present in many of the cars that we can buy today at dealerships. He does it through his Alexa voice assistant, integrated as standard equipment in many models.
Ken Washington, chief technical officer of Ford, explained at CES that his company takes “very seriously” the importance of all this technological environment of data, artificial intelligence, etc. that moves around the car. “I have seen how the Internet came into our lives, what happened to the companies that took it seriously and what with those who ignored it,” says the executive.
In the presentation of the Vision S prototype, Sony president Kenichiro Yoshida said that the company he runs wanted to “redefine the interior of the car with a place of entertainment.” They could define it as Drive station.
What the Japanese company wants is “to inspire new emotions through revolutionary experiences of car entertainment,” he says in a statement. That is why it has provided the Vision S interior with a plethora of devices to make the trip more pleasant: a “360 Reality Audio” sound system, a large panoramic screen in front of the front seats.
At the moment, in front of the one on the left, there is also a steering wheel. But Sony’s bet looks further: on the arrival of autonomous cars. If the steering wheel and the pedals disappear, there is no need for the occupants not to look at each other, they can sit facing each other. The interior of the car becomes a small room in which we will travel connected, becoming a place for work or leisure: we can from listening to music and reading, to compete in network with the last game of the Play, see the chapters that We have pending our favorite series or even hold a videoconference work meeting.