Jan 09, 2024

Afeela: The Electric Vehicle Joint Venture Between Honda and Sony

Afeela, the joint venture between Honda and Sony, is creating a high-tech electric vehicle (EV) that combines the strengths of both companies. The project aims to develop a car that functions like a computer on wheels, with personalized features, social interaction capabilities, and advanced decision-making abilities.

The joint venture, known as Sony Honda Mobility, operates independently from Honda and Sony, dividing responsibilities based on individual strengths. However, Qualcomm Technologies plays a crucial role as the third partner, providing the vehicle’s high-spec microprocessor set called the Snapdragon Digital Chassis. The Snapdragon system is capable of 800 trillion operations per second, significantly surpassing the performance of chips used in current cars.

The Afeela EV will feature 45 sensors, including lidar and eight cameras, providing Level 3 self-driving capabilities. It will also have extensive interior screens and built-in AI, offering information and entertainment for both drivers and passengers. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon digital chassis enables this advanced functionality, including the autonomous ride platform, connectivity, and digital cockpit.

Qualcomm’s involvement in the Honda-Sony project highlights the company’s growing interest in the auto industry. Bill Pinnell, Qualcomm’s vice president of product management, stated that the automotive part of their business combines various technologies, including AI, display graphics, and multimedia advancements.

To enhance the human-machine interface, Sony will utilize Qualcomm’s Unreal Engine, a real-time 3D creation tool, providing visually immersive experiences within the car. Additionally, Qualcomm is working on high-end designs for vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz 214, requiring chip technology to support high-resolution displays.

Although Afeela is a collaboration between Honda and Sony, industry experts suggest that Qualcomm’s contributions make it seem more like a Qualcomm vehicle. The electric sedan will be assembled in Ohio at one of Honda’s plants, utilizing Honda’s e:Architecture platform. Sony will contribute digital technologies derived from its movie, music, and video gaming units.

Production of the Afeela EV is scheduled to begin in 2025, with deliveries starting in 2026. It will be exported from the U.S. to Japan and will be positioned as a low-volume, niche product. Pricing details are yet to be determined.

The exterior of the Afeela will feature a “media bar,” a horizontal screen between the headlights and taillights. This futuristic accessory can be controlled through a smartphone, offering themes, weather updates, and sports information. It can also display the charging status to indicate wait times for an occupied charge port. Sony Honda plans to allow advertising from third parties on this screen, although specific details have not been disclosed.

While Afeela showcases ambitious technology, industry analysts caution that execution remains the ultimate challenge. Launching with certain technologies and providing others through over-the-air downloads and updates may be a possibility. The connected nature of the car ensures that automakers and technology providers can continue generating revenue throughout the vehicle’s lifespan.