Apple working on self-driving electric car, source says

“Technology giant Apple is learning how to make a self-driving electric car and is talking to experts at carmakers and automotive suppliers, an automotive source familiar with the talks said on Saturday,” Reuters reports. “The Cupertino, California-based maker of phones, computers and watches is exploring how to make an entire vehicle, not just designing automotive software or individual components, the source said. ‘They don’t appear to want a lot of help from carmakers,’ the source, who declined to be named, said.”

“Apple is gathering advice on parts and production methods, the source said, adding that Apple appeared not to be interested in combustion engine technology or conventional manufacturing methods,” Reuters reports. “Among the high-profile hirings Apple has made from the auto industry was Johann Jungwirth, President & CEO, Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America. Jungwirth could not be reached for comment.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple’s project ‘Titan’ gears up to challenge Tesla in electric cars – February 13, 2015
Apple’s next big thing: The Apple Car? – February 13, 2015
Apple hiring auto engineers and designers – February 13, 2015

55 Comments

    1. Nothing is perfect. But from an insurance companies perspective, if they have fewer claims from self driving cars than human driving cars, they can provide lower premiums to those that insure self driving cars. Unless you think human driven cars to not run over people, its all a matter of which is statistically safer.

    2. In all of google’s test driving on real roads (I think they are getting up to 300,000 miles total so far) they have not had a single incident. This is statistically better than a human driving 300,000 miles. So yes, the insurance premiums will be lower for auto-autos.

      However, the caveat is that the google cars are over-cautious, meaning they will slow or stop for a garbage bag blowing off to the side of the road. Most passengers would be very frustrated by this level of cautious road behavior.

      The key will be the sliding parameter between caution and statistical accident likelihood. For example, if setting the caution adjuster on the car to 50% increases the likelihood of fatal accident by 3% (but still better than human drivers), would this be warranted? It will be interesting to see the debates over this.

      1. The interesting point will be when the lawsuits start.

        Someone dies when a car hits a person. Was the car responsible or was the driver? Then if the car was responsible, is the manufacturer at fault or just the insurance to be paid?

        What happens if the kid runs out between two cars and you are at 40 mph and there is no time to grab the wheel? Is it your fault or the cars fault or are we going to have everyone sue everyone, mfgr, driver, car, dead kid’s family and insurer over who is responsible?

        By the end, what do you have but a whole bunch of inattentive drivers who don’t even know how to react properly, “but officer, my car just didn’t stop itself in time, so I’m not responsible for flattening that kid, it’s the car’s fault.”

        Then the officer says, but you blew a .16 on alcohol, so I am arresting you for drunken supervision of a self-driving car.” “But officer, they sold me this so I could drink and drive safely.”

        Etc, etc.

        1. “What happens if the kid runs out between two cars and you are at 40 mph and there is no time to grab the wheel?”

          Most likely the car will see the kid before a human would and a child’s life will be saved.

          Now there’s a legacy for you.

          1. Been there, avoided the kid, because I was at 2mph, and still almost ran over him.

            I was at a stop light which turned green and I started to move and hit the brakes (foot already on the brake.) If I didn’t have my foot on, with the kid running literally into traffic with a vehicle parked on my right , I would never have had a chance to avoid hitting him.

            Absolutely no electronic detection is going to stop a vehicle when you are two feet from a car on your right and a short kit runs out unseen into that 2 foot space at maybe 8-10 mph (≈8 ft/sec) in front of you. I had .25 sec to react and luckily did so.

            If I had been driving at say 20 mph in a residential zone, there is not enough milliseconds for the vehicle to stop, even if the electronics sees the kid. The math does NOT lie. Work it out for yourself. 20 mph vehicle and 4-8 mph kid with a 2 foot distance the kid appears from out of sight to impact.

            We are not talking about rocket science here. There will be dead people if auto driving cars roam city streets and idiot pedestrians just walk or run out between vehicles.

            1. But not in enough time to avoid running him down if the number of milliseconds is too short to stop the care before hitting the kid.

              At 20 mph you are traveling almost 30 feet per second & that means about one foot every 3 milliseconds. If the kid is running at 10 mph it is one foot every 6 milliseconds. The kid can run 2 feet out to get hit in 12 milliseconds.

              If the care at 20mph locks up the tires after 50-100 milliseconds, the car already hit the kid. Then the car skids for quite a few feet likely running over the kid.

              Electronic sensors may see the kid first, but they can’t stop running the kid over. Basic physics 101.

              This is also why my guess is automatic hands off driving in residential areas will be prohibited.

            2. The physics applies wether silicon driver or carbon based driver. If automatic hands off driving saves lives – given the same physics, which form will be prohibited in residential areas?

            3. You’re right, it won’t stop in time every time. But sometimes it will be able to when a human might not. And those are the cases that matter. In the long run there will be fewer kids run over.

              And eventually, when there are enough statistics to show the improved safety. At that point it will get turned around. When a human driver hits a kid the argument will be “why weren’t you using the auto-drive?” and his liability will increase. That *will* happen. It’s a question of when, not if.

      1. There most likely will be. But there also is one of the (many) potential problems.

        The car drives itself, but the human on board has to theoretically be ready to take over in a split second in the unlikely event that something goes wrong? – so you don’t have to drive it, but have to be constantly alert in case you might have to drive it?

        It mostly defeats the whole purpose of a self-driving car.

        A self-driving car has to “just work”. Hmmm… what does that phrase remind me of?

    3. People driven cars do flatten pedestrians and crash into other cars with alarming frequency. If computer driven cars reduces automotive fatalities even slightly, then it would in a purely logical sense, make computer drivers the better choice.

      I still think you are correct, though. Computer driven cars will have to live up to drastically higher safety standards than human drivers, or face public backlash. It’s might not logical, but there’s something about computer driven cars killing people that feels much worse than a the type of car accidents we’re used to.

    4. Hey guys! Given the nosebleed level of idiotic hype as websites like BusinessInsider and even publications like the Wall Street Journal are falling all over each other to come up with more sensational, brain-dead versions of this rumor, let’s add more fuel to the fire.

      Let’s start a rumor that Apple is hard at work on a flying car.

      We can detail it with specifics that the car will be based on a ’59 Corvette convertable almost identical of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulsen’s beloved ‘Vette, Lola. That it can fly around at 200 mph. The media will eat this one up. We can do this!

      It takes so little to start a phony Apple rumor to make Henry Blodgett look like the asshole that he is. Yet, it means so much. Won’t you help?

  1. Apple customer since 1988, if they do this it will be the first Apple product ever which has absolutely zero practical use for me, but thats ok, just hope it doesn’t destroy the stock price. Maybe it would be a good idea to start a totally different company that would live or die from a practical and economic point of view. In other words, firewall it.

    1. I am skeptical that Apple intends to build electric cars. Perhaps Apple is just seeking ways in which their products can improve and enhance electric cars, or developing and patenting new technologies that will be critical for the advancement of electric car design in the future.

      Apple contracts and partners for the vast majority of its component manufacturing and assembly processes. So it would be uncharacteristic for Apple to begin making its own cars. But it is possible that Apple could develop new designs and technologies for electric cars, and then partner with Ford or GM to release a new car badge.

      Wouldn’t it be great to own a car with an engraved plate that said “Designed by Apple in California and manufactured in America.”

      1. Notwithstanding the latest operating systems and iOS issues, which are very real, what you say could be a very good thing for them. I would generally trust the OSX them to be able to adapt to automotive as long as Jonathan Ive is allowed no where near the interface and he doesn’t hide all the necessary human interface controls to be invisible.

        But not iOS, too many persistent issues there that appear, disappear, reappear etc

        That actually reminds me of a new question. If the Calendar synching and disappearing wi-fi connections issues aren’t solved, there would be no way in hell I would have it even roll my car out of the garage. Since 8.3 I can add Calendar events in iPhone, but they will not display, but they do show up on my iPad and on OSX. 3 resets later, no change. And my iPad for work has to have wi-fi reestablished at least every 15 minutes. Its getting worse with every upgrade.

        There is one positive aspect. I am learning to be less dependent on it.

  2. In 2996, Ed Colligan (CEO of Palm; remember Palm?) said:

    “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. (…) PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

    One could argue the same can be said for the auto industry. They have learned and struggled for decades (a century) figuring out how to make a decent car. In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if it took a company like Apple to “walk in and figure this out”.

    I must admit, though, it seems completely bizarre that Apple, a high technology company, decided to venture into a completely unrelated industry. That would be like a concert violinist deciding to become an NBA basketball player.

    1. I assume that was in 1996.

      Apple wanted to play nice and just start with the entertainment hub in their cars. Those idiots should have started offering Apple’s CarPlay in all their cars by now. You all should have played with Apple when they offered to just supply the IT part of the car like you let Microsoft do for years. Bad move. Can you see what is comming now to your market? No. You will!

      Ask the CD suppliers, walkman manufacturers, … and maybe a call in to Blackberry if you can’t see what is about to hit your market.

      “Think Different” or close the doors like Dell did. And Tower Records, all the walkman manufacturers, … How are those resumes going in the watch industry?

    2. The difference there is that Palm and others thought Apple was making a phone, while what they were really doing was making a computer that also could make phone calls.

      In this case they really would be making a car. It’d be a stretch to say they’re making a computer that also can drive itself around.

    3. Apples interest in electric self-driving cars is more aligned with them as a company than you might think. Future CarPlay technology and Apple services would no doubt be VERY attractive.

      I can hear the Gaagle fans now saying Apple “ripped off” the self-driving car idea from them. Not truly in Gaagle’s DNA nor the trust.

    4. “They have learned and struggled for decades (a century) figuring out how to make a decent car.”

      You mean that same car industry that was forced, kicking and screaming, to put seat belts and airbags in their cars?

  3. After 30 years of using Macs, I would say to Cook “Go ahead and make a great auto.”

    But, if you expect me to buy it, it had better have a very very long lifespan, with upgradability, fixability and most certainly replaceable batteries, UNLIKE MY MAC BOOK PRO!

    1. For you, a better solution is a Yugo (and an Android). You can do a complete engine overhaul with a simple set of socket wrenches and a few screwdrivers. And you can definitely replace everything by yourself (battery, distributor cap, fuel pump, carburettor, valves, pistons…). And you can easily swap battery on the Android as well…

  4. I don’t care how great it is, if it’s made in China like most of their products I’m sure as hell not buying one. A phone or laptop is one thing, but a car is an entirely different matter.

    1. And why is that? I’m sure Chinese made cars will eventually make their way across America; for now, EU and the rest of the world have the not-so-unique privilege of driving these. And you’d be quite surprised to know that, much like with everything else (like the Macs and iPhones), Chinese cars can be quite luxurious and reliable (in addition to being cheap). Remember, they like copying others; one can see a lot of Mercedes and BMW in Rexton and other Ssangyhong vehicles…

  5. In a way, when we ride as a passenger (especially if in the back seat with no access to the controls) in a human–controlled car, we are experiencing what it would be like to be alone in self-driving car.

    In both cases we have to trust that the driver (human or machine) will do a good job, because in an emergency there is little or nothing we can do.

    Flying as a passenger on a commercial flight is the same scenario.

  6. I just realized something that I and probably many of us aren’t considering that has been mentioned as part of the whole concept before.

    If we ultimately have self-driving cars, the only way the system will really work is that every vehicle on the road must be self-driving and communicating with all the other vehicles it is interacting with, and with the traffic control system.

    That’s makes it a whole ‘nother ball game.

      1. In such a world, I’d be inclined to stay home and never go out.

        I have spent most of my life learning other drivers’ habits and propensities, and avoiding their lapses and self-advertised excesses. As a result I feel battlefield tested, and am confident on the road at present..

        Bring in robots and I would need to start over.

Leave a Reply to John Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.