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IMAGINE HONDA AND SONY TEAMING UP to produce a car!?!. No, wait; you don’t have to imagine, because the Sony Honda Mobility Afeela (pronounced a-FEEL-a) was introduced at the 2023 International Consumer Electronics Show. Afeela’s website offers a spiffy video. And “Autonomy, Augmentation and Affinity” even gives the rationale of its name. Here are tidbits gleaned from these videos and from other Internet sleuthing.
Joint Venture. These days, combining a carmaker with an electronics giant makes good sense. As noted by Hans Greimel in Automotive News, February 2, 2023, the auto industry is on the verge of change: “Sony, inventor of the Walkman, and Honda, purveyor of the breakthrough CVCC engine used in the first-generation Civic, are pioneering a new cross-sector approach that marries consumer electronics with passenger cars, as automobiles become software-centric computers on wheels.”
Greimel quotes Sony “bringing a new twist to the automotive mix with a toolbox of digital technologies and its library of media content, courtesy of the company’s movie, music and video gaming units. Afeela has also signed a partnership with Epic Games, creator of such hits as Fortnite, to develop an on-the-go entertainment space that ‘seamlessly’ integrates the ‘real and virtual worlds.’ ”
One example of the CES Afeela concept car suggests the novelty of this integration: Front and rear facias contain “Media Bars” which can be programmed to display messages on everything from battery charge to local weather to the latest sports scores.
Super Chips. Greimel says, “To power all this digital gadgetry, Afeela’s midsize sedan will get a high-spec microprocessor set from partner Qualcomm that is capable of rifling off 800 trillion operations per second. The chip sets in today’s cars, by contrast, typically range from 10 to 50 trillion operations per second.”
Level 3 Autonomy. It’s expected that production Afeelas will offer Level 3 autonomy. This level assumes “full control of the vehicle, but only with narrow parameters, such as driving on a freeway, but not during merges or exits.”
A Honda, Sorta. “The first Afeela,” Greimel notes, “will be engineered by Honda, built at a Honda assembly plant in Ohio and exported from there to Japan and Europe. It will be based on Honda’s e:Architecture platform, a dedicated in-house EV platform.”
However, Greimel says, “This also made it clear their venture is not beholden to Honda. Sony Honda Mobility, they insist, is an independent joint venture.”
It’s unlike Honda’s upmarket Acura sibling, for example. Indeed, Greimel cites concerns about this from Honda and Acura dealers.
Online Sales, Cloud Updates. Greimel writes, “Retailing will be through online sales and leases. Leases are expected to be five years or more, compared with the industry’s typical turnover of three years….”
The company envisions the Afeela being “software-defined.” Updated functions such as enhanced autonomy and infotainment would be downloaded from the cloud. “Designers from Sony and Honda,” Greimel says, “strove for clean, technical, timeless exterior styling, with rounded edges and minimal creasing. The look has to last up to a decade.”
Check out Frankie Cruz’s article in Car and Driver for more of what’s known about this new marque. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2023
An interesting post, Dennis. The discussion about software and microprocessors reminded me of some of the tech problems that are bleeding over into our vehicles. Who hasn’t had to reboot a laptop or smartphone that started acting wonky? Well, even my ten year old set of wheels has had to be restarted/rebooted on several occasions due to a computing malfunction screwing the whole car up.
As we get more drive-by-wire controls and computer-operated vehicle systems, will problems transcend the occasional nuisance I encounter? I sure hope manufacturers do a better job at building in better offline defaults, backups, and self correcting processes to deal with the inevitable glitch. Or will Afeela be as infallible as Tesla Autopilot?
I have a Bolt. The fan community recommends carrying a 10mm wrench around all the time, to do the “10mm reset” – disconnect, the (after 5 minutes or so) reconnect the 12V battery effecting essentially a cold boot. (Pull the plug, ta-DA!). I think I’ve had to do that maybe once in 3 years of driving an EV. Never had to do it before that, even in a Prius. Driving a rolling computer, indeed!