Several tech giants are jumping on the electric vehicle bandwagon. The likes of Apple failed at it, but others are forging ahead. Huawei and Xiaomi have already rolled out their EVs in China. Thanks to its joint venture with Honda, Sony appears to be on the same track. The JV is called Sony Honda Mobility (SHM), and their first EV will be a Tesla-rivalling electric sedan under the Afeela monicker, made right here in the U.S.

We know little about the Afeela EV's production version so far. However, the JV showcased a concept with several interesting features at the Consumer Electronics Show last year. The concept flaunts a huge digital real estate, with multiple screens at the front and the rear. Sony Honda Mobility is advertising it to be a futuristic, AI-driven, streaming- and gaming-oriented cockpit where you have multiple activities to engage in at your fingertips.

And Sony being Sony, the Afeela EV would also be a PlayStation on wheels.

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Tech giants enter the automotive playground.

As electric cars transform into gadgets on wheels, with software-dependent features, autonomous driving capabilities, and giant tablet-like infotainment systems that control most functions, tech giants are entering the game with partnerships with established automakers.

During a technology demonstration at the Westfield Topanga Mall in Canoga Park, Los Angeles this week, a Sony Honda Mobility spokesperson walked us (virtually) through some of the quirky features of the Afeela concept. One thing that stood out, was the exterior display at the front, sitting flush between the headlamps. SHM calls it the “media bar.”

“It can reflect information from inside the vehicle and is highly customizable,” Raisu Williams, a product specialist at SHM told InsideEVs.

2024 Sony Honda Mobility Afeela prototype

The exact type of the exterior display is undisclosed (LCD, LED, OLED?) but Williams said you could interchangeably show several things. The screen can be controlled via a smartphone app. It can display a mileage map between two cities, say Happy Birthday, display someone’s name, or even turn the whole thing into a battery status indicator while charging.

The media bar can also display your favorite graphics. “Crunchyroll, Spiderman, Gran Turismo, and many different things,” Williams said. The bar has a 30-character word limit, but that could change in the future.

When asked if the owner could scream at the driver in front (With capitalized bold letters and exclamation marks), Williams said there would be some limitations to ensure owners don’t type in something offensive.

2024 Sony Honda Mobility Afeela prototype

“People could use profanity, so we’re going to see what the limitations are. We are also discussing how to keep it safe from things like fender benders. So we’ll have more information on the safety aspect as we approach the launch,” Williams said.

On the inside, the Afeela EV concept has a massive display spanning the width of the dashboard. There’s a Model S-like yoke steering, with buttons for media controls on the right, and ADAS on the left.

When asked about the difference compared to screens on Tesla, Lucid, or even the MBUX Hyperscreen on Mercedes-Benz EVs, Williams said compatibility with PlayStation and the ability to have a broad-ranging customization would rank at the top.

2024 Sony Honda Mobility Afeela prototype

As of now, PlayStation controllers will not be offered with the EV. Customers would need to have their own PS4 or PS5 consoles and controllers.

There are five screens in total. Three upfront make up the gauge cluster, central infotainment screen, and passenger display.

However, the central display can merge with the passenger display to create one giant screen. “If the driver wants to start driving, but the passenger wants to continue streaming a film, you can simply ‘bar swipe’ the central screen into the passenger screen,” Williams said. There will also be safety measures in place to ensure the screens don't distract the driver.

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Sony Honda Mobility is also marketing the Afeela EV to be ready for Level 3 semi-autonomous driving. It will use Qualcomm’s Digital Chassis Platform for the computing demands from the ADAS functions and the interior and exterior screens.

Huawei and Xiaomi have already done what Apple couldn't. Huawei launched its Luxeed X7 electric sedan in China towards the end of last year, and deliveries of the Xiaomi XU7 EV are expected to begin soon. Huawei has relied on Dongfeng Motors to roll out its EV, while Xiaomi partnered with the Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC).  

Whether or not Sony succeeds at this project like its Chinese rivals remains to be seen. But partnering with Honda seems like a sensible move instead of going solo. Pre-orders for the Afeela EV will be open next year, and it’s expected to enter production in 2026.

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