Winning the driverless car wars

“When it comes to the glorious new future of self-driving cars, I’m something of a bear,” Megan McArdle writes for Bloomberg View. “”

“Not a radical skeptic, mind you: I think self-driving cars are coming, eventually. I just think that ‘eventually’ might be further off than people suggest. Getting to “level-four” automation — where the car drives itself, all the time, with no human input — is still a formidable challenge,” McArdle writes. “Getting to level-three automation, where the car mostly drives itself most of the time, seems imminent. But the actual advantages of level-three automation over cruise control and early warning systems seem dubious. If people are distracted when the car needs them to take over, then level-three automation could end up being more dangerous than the older systems. And if people aren’t distracted, which is to say they are grimly staring at the road with nothing to do for hours at a stretch, then it seems worse than actually driving the car.”

MacDailyNews Take: Exactly.

“Nonetheless, I do think fully self-driving cars are coming; I just think they’ll be coming closer to 2030 than 2020. Even a fashionably late arrival, however, raises an interesting question: Who will own the business?” McArdle writes. “The candidates are essentially four: Uber, Tesla, traditional car companies, or traditional Silicon Valley firms such as Apple and Google… So who wins? Trick question! My best guess is that it will be a combination: Uber will win dispatch (if it’s still around), and traditional automakers are likely to be making the cars, but the self-driving system may well be purchased from Google or Apple.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Anyone who thinks Apple will end up selling an operating system to third parties knows absolutely nothing about Apple.

If it shakes out anything like McArdle imagines, Google will be supplying an operating system — that attempts to vaguely mimic Apple’s product(s) — to vehicle makers that’s designed to track its users in order to sell advertising.

Apple will reap 95% of the vehicle market’s profits with less than 20% unit share.

Vehicle makers will go out of business or rapidly consolidate in order to survive.

Everyone who doesn’t have an Apple vehicle will lust for them either openly or secretly, some while vocally denouncing Apple and their coveted products at every opportunity in order to assuage their raging inferiority complexes.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Rainy Day” for the heads up.]

18 Comments

  1. Apple won’t reap anything, because Tim “The Steward” Cook is at the helm, and we all know how incompetent he is. This is the new Apple, hopping from market to market, completely clueless, directionless, and now visionless as well. Tim is Apple’s Steve Ballmer.

  2. I’ll posit that self driving cars will come soon, but they won’t run anywhere just from the start. They’ll probably tackle a limited problem to start with. For example, they could run only in Manhattan or the San Francisco peninsula. These are small enough areas that they could be thoroughly mapped and photographed. Shopping malls and hospitals and such could have dedicated pickup and drop off areas. These would make for good learning labs because of the limited area and high population density.

    1. If a pedestrian in NYC knows that an automaton vehicle will/must stop if its way is blocked by a pedestrian – then in a matter of days, all self driving cars will travel at an effective rate of 1mph as people take to the streets.

      Equilibrium disrupted.

    2. The video of the self-driving Tesla nearly crashing on its way to SF before the driver grabbed the steering wheel (or another video of it veering into oncoming traffic) was enough to temper all of my enthusiasm. Self-driving cars aren’t solving a problem.

      A. Self-driving cars won’t get you to your destination faster
      B. Sitting behind the wheel without steering it will be both boring and stressful (because your car might try to kill you at any moment)
      C. The technology is expensive and will dramatically raise the price of cars
      D. No self-driving car will ever be better than human drivers because of the infinite number of variables that can occur while driving and need to be responded to.

      Personally I love driving and I don’t want or need a robot to take that away from me. Automating an entire industry that humans are much better at is foolish. Once the bodies start to pile up people will start to realize what a crock of shit this industry is. Why is Google a considered so evil in everything but their self-driving car project is virtuous?

    3. What I see as the market opportunity that some businesses are angling for … are the aging Baby Boomers. They’ve been hitting retirement age for several years now and the leading edge of them are around age 70 … within five years, they’re going to want to maintain their autonomy, and one of the big gaps is from our Automobile-centric environment: they’re going to need assistance in driving their car…because the alternative is to give up driving entirely and be forced move into a Nursing Home / Assisted Living, which they’ll equate with death.

      As such, the piggy banks of all of those retired/retiring Boomers is the market opportunity. And what’s also interesting is that the generic driving duty cycle for an advanced retiree is mostly local driving (groceries, church, etc), so it is pretty well suited for a pure electric vehicle too.

      Given how many well off Boomers are already comfortable with Apple products, it sounds like a logical extension for Apple. Time will tell.

      1. It would seem that there are many people of all ages who want nothing but a lifestyle vividly displayed by the space tourists in the Pixar movie “Wall-E”. We can only hope that there are wise enough people at Apple who know that just because science enables humans to devolve into vegetables, it doesn’t mean that is the road our civilization should take. Apple would be better off supporting and encouraging users to have an active lifestyle rather than continuing to chase after profits borne from tying people to a 24/7 always-on wifi connection being actively monitored by Apple and its partners (which, like it or not, include scummy companies like Google, Microsoft, FaceBook, Twitter, Amazon, and others with loose morals).

        1. Agreed, although it would appear that the only cultivation that Apple is doing there is in fitness Apps … they’ve effectively abandoned their historical cultivation of their Applications ecosystem for Creatives .. even iLife is mostly now just iTunes for content consumption.

  3. Don’t see Apple putting its name on an embedded subsystem. If they do cars, they will be Apple products sold to Apple customers.

    If they do driverless shared fleet (doubtful, since it brings in a whole dimension of keeping the fleet clean and in good order for the next user) they will do the fleet themselves. Ubers business model depends on ripping off people who own the cars, thereby avoiding the capital investment in the fleet. Who would own the cars in the ostensible Uber robo-cab enterprise? Why would Apple sell them the cars, putting their image in Ubers hands? Just doesn’t seem likely.

  4. 2030? Self-driving cars are already available in 2015. Apparently, the author never got their Tesla software update.

    Most vehicle manufacturers that don’t have vehicles with self-driving modes by 2020 will be filing for bankruptcy by 2022.

  5. Although it is technically possible, self driving cars are a distraction. What is really needed is public transportation like buses and trains supplemented by Uber like cars feeding the system. We could easily have a pickup anywhere in a city within 5 minutes of ordering it and a drop off quicker than any personal vehicle if we put our minds to it. They could be luxurious and still cost less than the private cars and costly public roads and parking that we now use. Think about it rather than put it down.

  6. Why does everyone think that Apple will make a self-driving car ? Undoubtably they are working on something to do with automobiles but there is no evidence as to what they are up to.

    Starting with an electric vehicle and then growing from there is what Apple has done all along. The iPhone started without an app store and heaps of accessories to go with it.

    Self driving vehicles are a long way away as its not just making the vehicle itself but also the infrastructure to support them.

  7. All I want for an Apple car is that when you switch it on, the classic Mac startup sound chimes.
    Seriously though, this business will evolve. Driving assistance is definitely working itself down the food chain so more crash avoidance features are getting automated.
    Steering and direction obviously needs more work. Electric cars are limited by range and recharging time. Fuel cells are not a reality yet in production terms.
    As always Apple will launch a car when it is ready and when the market is right. So many others will experiment and Apple will take the best ideas and make it their own.

  8. Yes until that last bit I was thinking at last someone who gets it. One only has to see all the things far easier and safer to make automatic and which fail to work better or safer and you see that this new World of automatic cars is a long way off outside of helper technology and specialist and on the whole unintegrated operation with the general road user.

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