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Sony electric car stuns CES, designed as connected tech showcase

Nobody saw this slippery EV coming, let alone the Vision-S connected car platform underneath. Here's what it means.

Sony -- yes, Sony -- made a car.

Sony
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Sony took Las Vegas by surprise on Monday when it used its CES press conference to debut a fully baked concept car. Built to showcase and test its new connected car platform, Vision-S, the electric car is a prototype and isn't necessarily supposed to be an indication of Sony's ambitions to sell its own cars, at least not anytime soon. 

The car was built by Sony's AI and robotics team -- the same crew that makes the company's cute robotic dog Aibo. The concept doesn't even have a name just yet (its code name was Safety Cocoon), although the Japanese company says it has been fully road tested. According to Sony, this is to ensure the vehicle and its platform Vision-S will comply with applicable safety regulations.

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Vision-S, which was outlined briefly on stage during the press conference, takes advantage of Sony's expertise in sensors, imaging and entertainment to be used in the next generation of electric vehicles. Sony already supplies these technologies to Japanese automakers but wants to make its individual products into systems that can be supplied as an all-in-one solution.

No word yet on what powers the Vision-S, or if it shares a chassis or anything else with other vehicles. Currently, the prototype features 33 sensors placed around the car, which can detect people and other vehicles both inside and outside the car to provide driving support. It also incorporates Sony's 360 Reality Audio to provide an immersive audio experience, with speakers built into each of the car's seats. A panoramic screen faces the front seat to display a diverse array of content accessed through an intuitive user interface.

Expect to see more of Vision-S from Sony and Japanese auto makers in the future -- even if Sony's own car never ends up hitting the road.

CNET's David Katzmaier contributed to this report.