Autonomous Vehicles

Sony and Yamaha will build this boxy mobility van

It's based on the SC-1 New Concept Cart shown back in 2017.

Amusement park attendees, your ride has arrived.

Sony

The Sony-Yamaha SC-1 Sociable Cart could only come from Japan with its boxy, robotic look. And if you like it, there's good news -- it's actually going into production.

The SC-1 Sociable Cart, based on Sony's SC-1 New Concept Cart, will enter production via a partnership with Yamaha, the companies said last Wednesday. The SC-1 New Concept Cart debuted in 2017; since then Sony put the boxy mobility van into prototype testing on a Japanese golf course. 

Following feedback from the trials, Sony and Yamaha created what you see here. Unlike the original concept, the SC-1 Sociable Cart has room for five passengers instead of three and a longer operation time thanks to replaceable batteries. Other improvements include an even smarter feedback system with the inclusion of more image sensors. Sony said the front and rear scopes are improved, specifically. An operator can also control the vehicle via a cloud system.

The wildest part of the SC-1 Sociable Cart is the fact it actually doesn't have windows. The mentioned image sensors instead capture the scenery and display the outside world on monitors for passengers. While that sounds unnecessary, Sony said it allows anyone onboard to see the world in high resolution with feeds displayed only in focus all the time. Further, passengers can see things at night in crystal clarity.

With no windows comes great opportunity for advertisers, and this is where it starts to sound rather cumbersome. The Japanese company said the van's artificial intelligence can gather information about the ages and genders of people outside the vehicle to display interactive and custom advertisements. Yay, ads. Meanwhile, the inside can take advantage of mixed-reality technology with overlays cast onto the screen displays. Think of a program to display interesting facts as the SC-1 Sociable Cart crawls by a tourist area or something along those lines.

All the while, a lidar system ensures the van sees the world and drives autonomously and provides opportunities for "deep learning analysis" to become a better driver after every trip.

Locals will find the boxy people mover employed at places such as amusement parks, golf courses and other similar facilities by the end of this year.

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