Right now, the ‘Apple Car’ is a 2015 Lexus RX 450h SUV

“Apple is joining the fiercely competitive race to design self-driving cars, raising the possibility that a company that has already re-shaped culture with its iPhone may try to transform transportation, too,” Michael Liedtke reports for The Associated Press. “Ending years of speculation, Apple’s late entry into a crowded field was made official Friday with the disclosure that the California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in the state.”

“The permit covers three vehicles — all 2015 Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUVs — and six individual drivers,” Liedtke reports. “California law requires people to be in a self-driving car who can take control if something goes wrong.”

“The Cupertino, California, company pointed to a statement that it issued in December,” Liedtke reports. “‘Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems,’ the company said then. ‘There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation.’ released that statement after Steve Kenner, a former Ford Motor executive who is now Apple’s director of product integrity, notified federal regulators of the company’s interest in self-driving cars in a letter.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Removing the stupid humans from the driving equation will make greatly reduce accidents and traffic jams caused by general stupidity, rubbernecking, slow reaction times, abrupt, unannounced lane changes, visual impairments, lack of awareness, slack-jawed mouth-breathing, excessive speed, drunk/drugged driving, texting while driving, ignorance of laws, road rage, maladroitness, sleep deprivation, insect removal attempts, etc., etc. etc.

Gene Munster on Apple Car: Exploration does not mean a product comes to market – April 17, 2017
Apple’s Project Titan: California makes it official – April 17, 2017
Why you should get your self-driving car from Apple – April 17, 2017
Apple secures permit to test autonomous vehicles – April 15, 2017
Apple’s letter to the U.S. NHTSA reveals 30-year Detroit veteran on its stealth ‘Project Titan’ team – December 8, 2016
Apple files patent for autonomous vehicle collision avoidance system – December 8, 2016
Apple letter all but confirms plans for self-driving cars and commitment to privacy – December 5, 2016
Apple drops hints about autonomous-vehicle project in letter to U.S. transportation regulators – December 3, 2016
It’s not McLaren Racing, but McLaren Applied Technologies, that’s the apple of Apple’s eye – September 23, 2016
Apple-target McLaren is a tech company disguised as a carmaker – September 22, 2016
Supercar-maker McLaren says not in discussion with Apple ‘in respect of any potential investment’ – September 22, 2016
Apple in talks to acquire British supercar maker McLaren – September 21, 2016
Apple in talks to acquire electric vehicle-maker Lit Motors – September 21, 2016
Gene Munster gives up the Apple Television ghost – May 19, 2015


      1. “Removing the stupid humans from the driving equation …”

        Well, if we replace the word “driving” with various others, the world would be a wondrous place full of sunshine and lollipops. Thank you comrade MDN.

        How about instead we have realistic requirements for the right to drive and serious consequences for infractions?

        1. Yeah! Because humans are not living creatures, with reflexes not perfectly tuned to the high-tech world we’ve created for ourselves. Because humans are not flawed creatures, who make mistakes not out of malice, but weakness!

          Definitely! Punish people for being imperfect! Hear my authoritarian social-Darwinism roar!

          ( Until I make an honest mistake. Then, definitely cut me a break. I mean, I’m only human. )

  1. Well MDN’s take may sound like common sense, but somehow I simply do not see the market for practically every sports car or serious off roader too most like, suddenly disappearing any time soon, which means very many drivers will still wish, or in some cases with off roaders, needing to be in control. And as we all know thats precisely where sdc have their greatest problem, ie anticipating the actions of human road users. Don’t somehow see separate roads being a long term practical answer and equally I don’t see banning human drivers being feasible in the forsseable future either, with the outcry that would bring.

    So a long, long gestation period for such technology must be expected over the rediculously over optimistic forcasts of 5 years or so by some of their most deluded proponents.

  2. But… but… I like driving.

    MDN’s take may be true enough. But, rightly or wrongly, a whole lot of people are not going to be happy about giving up control of their vehicles. We may think self driving cars are cool now. But when they become the norm attitudes may begin to sour on them. In the movie Minority Report Tom Cruise’s character gets hijacked by the police in his self driving vehicle as he goes on the run. Given that self driving cars will be wired to the hilt, how would people feel if they were forced to use autonomous mode?

    Perhaps interstate highways might be one place where the government could enforce use to vastly reduce accidents. Most people would acquiesce because driving on interstates is boring. Of course, most accidents occur only a few miles away from home, so that solution will have limited effectiveness.

    It will be very interesting to see how all this plays out. Will self driving cars be seen as liberators of driving monotony? Or will they be seen as the nanny state’s newest instrument to coddle and control people? Only time will tell.

    1. There are too many variables on normal roads for Autonomous driving for the near term. The best we can hope for right now is Autonomous driving limited to highways and freeways where it can move traffic efficiently by monitoring speed, maintaining distance, changing lanes and enter and exit those roads safely. On exit to normal roads the driver MUST take control. Maybe one exception to that rule would be automated parking.

      1. You raise a good point. The last 100 yards, without standard roadway markers, will remain tricky. I will point out that self driving cars already enter an exit freeways without incident. The technology will continue to improve. But for jollies let’s play this out.

        In a few short years autonomous vehicles become wildly popular and achieve a 20% penetration of the North American market. Then the statistics start to come in. Auto accidents are on the decline with the percentage of autonomous vehicle accidents in the low single digits. Insurance companies begin offering discounts for using the autonomous mode. The long distance trucking industry embraces autonomous vehicle use as a cost saver, to the detriment of tens of thousands of truck drivers nationwide. Safety groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving press Congress to mandate autonomous equipment in vehicles. With the support of the insurance industry, Congress passes a law mandating that by 2030 all new vehicles sold in the United States have autonomous vehicle equipment as standard. Autonomous vehicles are seen as giving freedom to those who by disability or age cannot drive. New laws are passed allowing the elderly and disabled to purchase and use autonomous vehicles without the need for a driver’s license. The law is soon expanded to cover everyone. A few years down the road over half the population no longer bothers to get a driver’s license. A driver’s license and driving your own vehicle soon become the privilege of the upper middle class and the wealthy. Across the nation attitudes begin to shift. The general public sees that those wealthy people who continue to drive their own vehicles are the primary cause of motor vehicle accidents. The statistics prove it and the insurance industry agrees. Congress decides to act…

        I’m not saying that this will happen. But a lot of financial and political forces will come in to play to push vehicle design and user privileges in that direction.

        1. Yes, those roadway markers are important but among what I considered the variables that currently discourages automated vehicles is relatively minor. I was considering that highways and freeways do not have to contend with wildlife crossings, pedestrians suddenly entering traffic, traffic intersections (cars, trains, raised bridges), and special conditions like “do not pass vehicle while stopped” (e.g. school buses).

          One feature I would really like to see implemented in automated vehicles is pothole avoidance. 😀

          1. I think it’s safe to say that pothole detection and avoidance will be implemented, if it already isn’t, with a much quicker and smoother response than a human could muster. The autonomous AI will also handle traction control and the suspension to maximize comfort in almost any condition.

  3. Well, the peanut gallery has spoken. And their comments are pretty negative. I, for one, disagree. Self-driving vehicles will be amazing and much welcomed. The time for autonomous vehicles is now. We have the technology. It is just a matter of time and ironing out some algorithms.

    Self-driving vehicles will be welcomed by many, and the economic consequences will be huge. For example, truckers now can only drive for 11 hours (per 24) before having to take a required 10h break. (And they cannot be “on duty” — e.g., loading/ unloading/ etc. for more than 14 hours before taking a mandated 10h break.) So some of them drive fairly fast to cover their required miles during their allowed “driving/ work hours”. Now imagine a truck driving cross country 24/7 at the most fuel-efficient speed. Wow. Most diesel engines run best at a steady load. No payroll. No short driving days …before human drivers would have to take a mandated 10 hour break. Think of the economic savings! Throw into the mix electric semi-trailers (à la Tesla) with battery change stations strategically placed across the country, and we are talking HUGE economic efficiencies.

    We occasionally drive cross country, pretty much all of which is on Route 80. I have a funny photo of my GPS screen that says: “In 650 miles, go straight”. It would really not be hard to program trucks to drive this cross-country route, believe me.

    Same for cars. It is just a matter of time. It is already happening. A number of car companies are already offering, or planning to offer, “assisted highway driving”. I think it is brilliant. (Have you ever driven across, say, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, or Utah? Just point the car and go…

    I am looking forward to autonomous driving. And I already wish autonomous driving would take over the controls of some of the drivers I see on the roads who are reckless, distracted, or incompetent.

    1. MDN is right (and so are you).

      Autonomous driving will save humanity lives. In America, over 30,000 people die in auto accidents. Among young Americans, this is the leading cause of death, ahead of suicide, homicide or illness (over a third of those deaths are caused by car crashes).

      More importantly, for vast majority of Americans, driving isn’t a fun activity; it is something they do to move from one place to the other. While some of them may enjoy this activity some of the time, vast majority of time, they would prefer to be doing something else, rather than navigating the rush hour traffic.

      Fewer than one in five Americans have ever driven a manual transmission (“stick-shift”) car. More tellingly, only about 5% of new cars in US are sold with that third pedal. Manual transmission is one of those features in a car that “real” drivers love (“No self-respecting car lover drives an automatic!”). That number continues to drop (in the 80’s, over a quarter of all cars sold in the US had a manual gear shift). So, the reality is that the percentage of “real drivers” (people who love the act of driving a car) is rather insignificant for automakers to consider when deciding the path to continued automation of the driving experience.

      Autonomous driving today is probably in the same state as were cars in the early years of Ford Motor Company. Ford’s famous quote (“If I asked people what they wanted, they would have told me faster horses!”) is fully applicable. Today’s research indicates that people are actually scared of the idea of autonomous vehicles. In a way, this is exactly the same as ten years ago, when Blackberry reigned supreme. If you asked all those BB users back then what they thought of on-screen touch keyboard, they would have responded to you that the idea is ridiculous “…because it doesn’t have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine.” (quoting Steve Ballmer there). There are no smartphones today with physical keyboards (with any meaningful market penetration).

      Common sense tells us that autonomous driving is coming soon (finally) and it will, without a doubt, overwhelmingly take over, reducing traffic accidents (and deaths), reducing traffic congestion, improving travel speeds and most importantly, liberating massive amounts of time spent focused on driving. Americans spend 25 hours per month driving. That’s almost an hour a day (average numbers, which include city people like me, who use public transport, and drive once every three months). If I had to drive that much every day, I’d be thrilled to have a car that would take over the chore of driving, while I’m doing something that’s actually productive.

      1. You have mentioned that research has indicated that people are actually scared of the idea f autonomous vehicles. Is that from the driver perspective or the pedestrian? The ‘loss’ of control as a driver may play into the fear for those in the car. The ‘missing element’ of non-verbal cues between driver and pedestrian for those crossing at non-light intersections may be resulting in the fear for those outside the vehicle.

        1. If I remember well, the fear is from the occupant’s (the car becomes the driver), perspective, although I’m not sure the survey made distinction in the questions asked. People of driving age (and with valid license) were surveyed, but their responses may have reflected both viewpoints.

    1. My wife has driven a Lexus Rx400h since 2006. It is a hybrid gas-electric AWD luxury SUV. The ride is comfortable, smooth, and quiet. The car has been trouble-free for 11 years now and still looks great. Performance is there if/when needed. It gets relatively good mileage of 27 mpg for a car this heavy and nice, although I wish later models could get _at least_ 30 mpg (this is where the gallons-consumed-per-year v MPG curve begins to taper off substantially, indicating declining marginal returns to additional increases in fuel efficiency). All around, the Lexus Rx400h has been a fabulous car for us.

  4. Most of the driving we do is mundane and can consume a lot of our time. Having automation take over more of the activities during that time will make commuting far easier. It also should reduce gridlock which is often caused by drivers drivnig to close together and having to break suddenly. It is also the major cause of freeway accidents which creates even more congestion.
    Fully automated cars as the majority is still a long way off. But automation is being introduced at various levels. My new car has variable cruise control and will match the speed of the car ahead. It can break to a full stop in that mode and can restart from a full stop (once I touch the gas). It has made my commute far less stressful and obviously safer.
    I disagree with the authors comments. This is very much a nascent field so the comment about Apple entering later in a very competitive area is BS. As we very well know Apple often come into a new area and completely change the rules (music players, smartphones, tablets etc). They have received approval to enter the testing phase. It may still be a year before we see a car on the road but I for one would be interested to see what they have achieved.

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