Afeela: EV Partnership Between Sony and Honda
Afeela, the new automotive partnership between Sony and Honda (the two companies have formed a joint venture called Sony Honda Mobility), recently showed off an updated version of its Afeela prototype sedan at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. While the car itself looks basically the same inside and out, the company had a lot more to say about the technology in the car – from its driver assistance tech, to entertainment features, and a platform for developers to add new features.
AI-Powered Driver Assistance Features
Unsurprisingly, artificial intelligence (AI) was a hot topic at CES in 2024. With ChatGPT having grabbed headlines around the world in 2023, automakers seemed to be scrambling to find ways to integrate the tech into their vehicles. Volkswagen and BMW, for instance, will both use ChatGPT to enhance the voice assistants in their vehicles, providing better natural-language interactions with the car. What’s interesting about Afeela is how it will use AI to power its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
The Afeela sedan is packed with sensors and cameras, and Sony-Honda Mobility says that they aim to use AI for the car’s driver assists. Using “Vision Transformer,” AI can perceive the world around it with the cameras and sensors, then can leverage machine learning to plan a path forward. Ultimately, the Afeela will offer its drivers semi-autonomous, hands-free driving capability in certain situations, such as controlled-access highways.
Afeela’s Vision Transformer is powered by Qualcomm software and hardware, and Sony and Honda claim that it have a redundant system for rock-solid security and safety.
Advanced User Interface
Being a leader in home entertainment, it’s no surprise that Sony has helped to pack the Afeela with innovative infotainment features. Sony and Honda partnered with Epic Games to develop a simulator, which can simulate numerous environmental conditions as well as other vehicles, pedestrians, difficult terrain, and weather conditions, to optimize the Afeela’s interface so it’s safe and easy to use in all driving situations.
The result is a large screen that stretches almost the entire width of the dash that incorporates augmented reality (AR). A visually-stunning 3D map forms the basis of the user experience, over which useful data is overlaid when needed. AR navigation directions are easier to understand in context, and integration with the vehicle’s sensors and safety systems provide useful visual and audible warnings.
While the digital experience is immersive, Sony and Honda say it won’t compromise safety – and also opens up additional entertainment possibilities when the vehicle isn’t in motion, such as when it’s charging. When the Afeela is parked, driver and passengers can take advantage of the powerful Unreal Engine 5.3 gaming platform, which makes the car a powerful and engaging gaming platform.
Open Source Development for Electric Vehicles
As much as it is a car, the Afeela is also a technology platform. And instead of creating a closed system like most automakers – and relying solely on knowledge created in-house – Sony and Honda say they will provide an environment for creators and developers new applications and services for its vehicle. Think of it as a smartphone operating system, but for your car.
In a statement, the two companies said they would “like to explore the relationship between people and mobility in a broad, deep, and open way. We want to promote an open development environment” for the creation of digital gadgets that will enhance Afeela drivers’ experiences. Ultimately, the open concept platform should help the community of creators and developers develop around the brand.
Sony Honda Afeela: Launching 2025
The partnership between Sony and Honda was officially launched in 2022, and the two companies unveiled the Afeela prototype a year ago, in 2023. The first vehicle from the Afeela brand will be a sleek, modern sedans with an uncluttered design and a very smooth profile.
Up front, a “media bar” uses LED lighting to communicate with the outside world. Cameras and LIDAR sensors help it read the world around it. The sensors, and Honda’s well-regarded safety systems, are said to deliver a very high level of advanced driver assistance. There’s actually a total 45 individual cameras and sensors built into the Afeela that monitor the surrounding environment and the cabin.
Inside, the Afeela sedan has a pure and simple design, with a remarkable spaciousness enhanced by a glass roof and that full-width display screen. Sustainable materials include recycled textiles and fabric. It’s nice to see a number of physical controls as well as the large touch screen, including a central control knob to operate the infotainment system.
Sony and Honda have yet to release specifications like the electric motor’s power output or the battery capacity and EPA-estimated range for the Afeela. Pre-orders for the production version of the sedan will begin in the first half of 2025, before the first vehicles are delivered in the spring of 2026.