THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
January 6, 2023 at 17:10 JST
Honda Motor Co. is joining a growing list of automakers seeking a new future in electric vehicles by cooperating with Sony Group Corp. and shifting its thinking on the driving experience of the future.
Sony Honda Mobility Inc., a joint venture between Honda Motor and Sony Group, released its prototype Afeela EV on Jan. 4, one day ahead of the start of the CES 2023 technology trade show in Las Vegas.
Sony Honda Mobility aims to use the Afeela to move away from the old mindset of a car interior as being a place to drive and instead providing a new experience as a place to relax and be entertained.
Although Japanese automakers have built up a long history of improving driving functions and fuel efficiency, company officials realize that alone will not help in the future.
“We will not survive by simply continuing on the business path we had established,” one Honda Motor executive said. “We learned new ways of thinking from Sony and we will also have to take advantage of this kind of technology when we develop our own EVs.”
Along with music and movie software and video games developed by Sony, the Afeela will also include other software developed in cooperation with Epic Games, the maker of the popular online videogame “Fortnite.”
Honda decided to join hands with Sony Group not only because of the entertainment software it possesses, but also because Sony is the world leader in manufacturing image sensors that will be installed throughout the Afeela.
Honda officials approached Sony Group counterparts in the summer of 2021 and younger staff from the two companies teamed up in a series of study sessions which led to the establishment of Sony Honda Mobility in autumn 2022.
The plan is to start Afeela sales in the North American market in spring 2026. The Afeela is also to be sold in Japan, but it is not clear when it will become available.
Displays have been installed in the dashboard and in front of the rear passenger seats so those in the car can enjoy movies and music and play video games.
Information technology giants such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc. are also teaming up with automakers around the world to provide their computer and communication software as well as jointly develop software to be used in the EVs to be manufactured.
Renault SA, which is negotiating changes to its capital partnership with Nissan Motor Co., announced in November that it would be cooperating with Google in developing the software platform to be used in its EVs.
Google is also collaborating with Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to develop this kind of software.
Mercedes-Benz AG of Germany is meanwhile cooperating with the U.S. semiconductor manufacturer NVIDIA Corp. to develop the operating system for its vehicles.
Apple is cooperating with Nissan and Honda, among other automakers, to link iPhones with displays in vehicles to allow for greater control of some car functions, such as air conditioning.
(This article was written by Kenta Nakamura and Daisuke Igarashi in Las Vegas and Junichi Kamiyama in Tokyo.)
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