Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A white EV charger is shown at a Honda dealer.

Car of the Future? Honda and Sony Join Forces for Upcoming High-Tech EV

Back in the day, cars used to be simple mechanical devices designed for getting people or cargo from one place to another, but as technology has become an increasingly important part of our lives, they’ve become essentially computers with wheels. Just about every option on the market today, from commuter sedans to pickup trucks, comes with a touchscreen-based infotainment system, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and sometimes even a built-in personal assistant from Google or Amazon. As more and more cars embrace these technologies, we have to wonder, what’s the next step? What will the cars of the future have to offer?

Well, the answer could be available at your local Honda dealer as early as 2025. The automaker, known for its well-built and reliable lineup of cars, SUVs, and trucks, is teaming up with Sony to create high-end electric vehicles. This is part of Honda’s larger goal to shift entirely to vehicles powered by electric motors or hydrogen fuel cells by 2040, but the joint venture with Sony goes further than just replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors. These cars will reportedly be decked out with cutting-edge tech like next-level automation and even metaverse entertainment. Let’s take a closer look at what we know so far about this exciting project.

The Partnership

Honda and Sony first announced their plans to work together on EVs back in March of 2022. A few months later, they officially established Sony Honda Mobility Inc. (SHM), a new company that would allow the two brands to closely collaborate on creating the upcoming vehicles. Honda will be contributing decades of experience making quality cars, as well as its latest safety and environmental technologies. Meanwhile, Sony will be bringing in its expertise in the fields of digital imaging, telecommunication, and entertainment technologies. SHM’s stated goal is to “move people through the pursuit of innovation with diverse inspirations.”

Neither Company Is a Stranger to Electric Vehicles

Honda has multiple plug-in hybrids in its lineup today, including the high-end Accord sedan and the CR-V, a versatile SUV that’s beloved by adventurous road trippers and growing families alike. Both of these vehicles use cutting-edge battery and electrified motor technologies that are applicable to building fully electric vehicles. In fact, both even have an “EV mode” that allows them to be powered exclusively by the electric motor under the right conditions.

Honda also has a new EV currently in the works. The Prologue is set to debut for the 2024 model year, giving drivers a great option that’s both spacious and highly energy-efficient, with zero emissions. This rugged and versatile SUV will be prepared for everything from daily commutes to adventurous weekend getaways. While not all of the details have been released yet, Honda has revealed several images showing off the car’s futuristic styling and fully-equipped interior.

Believe it or not, Sony also has a bit of experience creating EVs, albeit only concept cars. The Vision S-01 sedan and Vision S-02 compact SUV were unveiled at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show. The presentation at CES included a film of the vehicles being driven on public roads, making it clear that they were fairly far along in the production process. The interiors are, of course, tech-heavy, with touchscreens that practically cover the entire dashboard.

Made in America

While not much is known about the design of SHM’s upcoming EV, the company has announced that it will be built at a Honda factory in North America. While both Honda and Sony are Japanese companies, Honda already operates several plants in the U.S. and recently announced plans to re-tool three of its plants in Ohio so that they can produce EVs. This is good news for American consumers, as some of the federal tax incentives for EVs only apply to vehicles that are built in North America.

Level 3 Automated Driving

Senior Honda Executive Yasuhide Mizuno has stated that SHM has plans to offer drivers Level 3 automatic driving under limited conditions and to enable Level 2+ driver assistance in even more situations. What exactly does that mean? Well, whether or not a car is autonomous isn’t a binary; it’s a gradient. The level system is a universal way to sort vehicles into categories:

  • Level 0 – No Automation: a human driver is responsible for all functions of the vehicle, such as steering, braking, accelerating, and navigating traffic
  • Level 1 – Driver Assistance: under some circumstances, the car can either adjust the steering or the vehicle’s speed, but not both at the same time
  • Level 2 – Partial Automation: under certain conditions, the car can steer, accelerate, or brake but must be under constant active human supervision
  • Level 3 – Conditional Automation: the car can do most aspects of driving on its own, including taking the environment around it into account, but the system will prompt the human driver to intervene if it runs into a situation it can’t handle
  • Level 4 – High Automation: the vehicle is able to operate without any human input but is limited to only certain roads or areas
  • Level 5 – Full Automation: the car is now considered “driverless” and can fully operate on any road no matter what the circumstances

Level 1 has become fairly common in recent years, and Level 2 is on the rise. To see Level 3 reached on a wide scale would certainly be a big change. This goal shows that SHM isn’t content to play it safe and will be taking on ambitious plans that could change the game for drivers everywhere.

Metaverse Entertainment

Cars already offer plenty in the way of on-road entertainment. Music, audiobooks, and podcasts are all easy to listen to while driving, and many vehicles offer screens for backseat or shotgun passengers that let them watch movies and TV or play video games while en route. If SHM does get to a new level of vehicle autonomy, then it’s possible that drivers could partake in more visual entertainment as well, only needing to provide input when the system notifies them that they need to take the wheel.

With Sony’s experience creating all kinds of entertainment, from movies to video games, the possibilities are endless. SHM has revealed that it’s looking into incorporating the metaverse into its entertainment system, which could give drivers exciting new ways to connect with friends and family on the road. The company has also mentioned its goal to move people not only through physical space but through emotional space as well. In situations like traffic jams and long stretches of driving, which are often accompanied by stress, burnout, or even road rage, that sounds like a promising addition to the driving routine.

Our Overall Impression

There are all kinds of startups popping up and claiming that they’re going to revolutionize the auto industry, but what SHM has going for it is Honda’s long history and reputation for reliability. Honda is known not for making flashy cars that are full of gimmicks and fads but vehicles that keep drivers happy for years and years, even when they see heavy use day in and day out. Having that kind of solid foundation to build on makes this admittedly ambitious project seem a little less out there.

Not all of the details are in, and even things that have been revealed, like concept cars and estimated dates, are likely to change as the project develops. But what has been announced has us excited to see where this partnership will lead. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on SHM as more news is announced. After all, they might just be the force behind the car of the future.

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