Seven things I learned about the Sony car while playing Gran Turismo inside one

You know how Sony’s making a electric car with Honda that’s coming in 2026? Sony Honda Mobility is now letting journalists seriously touch its Afeela prototype — and play with a Gran Turismo video game version of the car while sitting inside the actual machine.

That’s why I drove to PlayStation’s North American headquarters last week, to try an Afeela inside an Afeela and touch the things we couldn’t touch before. But I got a bit more than I bargained for!

Here’s my quick 50-second video of the experience, and a short list of the new things I’ve learned.

1) Don’t expect test drives anytime soon.

No, before you ask, they didn’t let me drive the actual Sony Honda car. I grabbed the wheel and pushed the pedals, but they did nothing — in game or otherwise. “We will provide journalists with the opportunity to test drive as soon as possible in line with the vehicle development schedule,” reads a statement from Sony Honda Mobility via third-party spokesperson Glenn Mandel.

I’m hearing test drives aren’t coming this year — next year is possible — but it might even be 2026 before a journalist gets behind a working wheel.

2) There’s now a physical button to let you open the door.

There used to be two ways to open the prototype’s door from outside. You could press a button in the Afeela’s smartphone app, or let a camera system open it for you after it recognizes your face. The latest prototype has a third method, though: a physical button mounted underneath the window that can send the same signal. I pressed it, and it worked great. Sony Honda is still deciding how to authenticate you, though — reps couldn’t say if it would use a keyfob or some sort of digital car key like UWB to know it’s you nearby.

That’s me pressing the door opening button. Not clear what the strip above it is.
That’s me pressing the door opening button. Not clear what the strip above it is.Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

3) The Afeela won’t let a driver see what’s on the passenger’s screen.

The Afeela’s extra-wide screen is one of its most striking features, but Sony Honda doesn’t plan to let the driver see the entire thing while in motion. Instead, it’ll use some sort of privacy filter to wall off the passenger’s section of screen so they can continue to watch without distracting the driver.

“Specifications for mass production have not yet been decided, but we plan to install a mechanism that cannot be seen from the driver’s side while driving so that the driver can drive safely,” SHM tells us.

4) There probably won’t be an actual PS5 inside.

I played Gran Turismo 7 on the Afeela’s screen, streaming wirelessly from a nearby PS5 using Sony’s PS Remote Play app. There isn’t an actual PS5 console in the car, and there’s currently no plan to change that. In January, Sony Honda Mobility president and COO Izumi Kawanishi told me it was still undecided whether a real PS5 would appear, but SHM is now “assuming remote play instead of installing a PS5 console.”

It’s also not clear if you’ll be able to use the Afeela’s own steering wheels and pedals to play anything.

5) The Afeela’s “personal agent” might prompt you with questions.

Sony Honda inked a deal with Microsoft last year to create a “conversational personal agent” for the car, and while there’s no firm details yet on what that actually means, I’m hearing the goal is for the car’s AI to prompt you with questions after attempting to anticipate your needs.

“We are considering the possibility of two-way communication between people and cars, and we are also developing an interactive personal agent using Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service in collaboration with Microsoft,” writes SHM when I ask. “We believe that since it will grow depending on the user, we will be able to communicate according to the user’s preferences.”

6) There’s a good reason Sony Honda didn’t let us touch the car at CES.

I go over this in the video, but many pieces of the prototype are currently just mockups, not functional yet. That includes fancy things like the digital side mirrors and rear view mirrors, but also mundane bits like turn signal stalks, sun visors, glove and storage compartments, and most parts of the touchscreen user experience.

I could scroll around a map of Las Vegas, but couldn’t tap on any of the pins; I could scrub through a playing video and sling it to the driver’s or passenger’s side of the screen with a gesture, but couldn’t fire up a lot of other features on the touchscreen or in the companion smartphone app. I’m not dinging SHM, though; Sony Honda has been completely transparent that this is a prototype, and has a couple more years to figure it all out.

7) The Afeela doesn’t necessarily need to be a rolling Sony ad.

Yes, the current prototype has a ridiculous digital billboard across its front bumper that displays Sony properties like Spider-Man and Horizon Forbidden West, and lets you tune the car’s digital motor sound with noises inspired by Sony properties up to and including the Crunchyroll anime streaming service. But a spokesperson tells me Sony Honda is looking to partner with non-Sony entities too — and I was able to display any text I liked on the bumper screen just by typing it into the phone app.

The prototype Afeela’s screen can display text of your choice.Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

I chose “The Verge,” of course.

Author: Sean Hollister
Source: Theverge

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