Apple scales back its ambitions for a self-driving car

“As new employees were brought into Apple’s secret effort to create a self-driving car a few years ago, managers told them that they were working on the company’s next big thing: A product that would take on Detroit and disrupt the automobile industry,” Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for The New York Times. “These days, Apple’s automotive ambitions are more modest. The company has put off any notion of an Apple-branded autonomous vehicle and is instead working on the underlying technology that allows a car to drive itself.”

“A notable symbol of that retrenchment is a self-driving shuttle service that ferries employees from one Apple building to another,” Wakabayashi reports. “The shuttle, which has never been reported before, will likely be a commercial vehicle from an automaker and Apple will use it to test the autonomous driving technology that it develops.”

“Five people familiar with Apple’s car project, code-named ‘Titan,’ discussed with The New York Times the missteps that led the tech giant to move — at least for now — from creating a self-driving Apple car to creating technology for a car that someone else builds,” Wakabayashi reports. “The project’s reduced scale aligns Apple more closely with other tech companies that are working on autonomous driving technology but are steering clear of building cars… Apple’s testing vehicles will carry employees between its various Silicon Valley offices. The new effort is called PAIL, short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the address of the company’s main office in Cupertino, Calif., and a few miles down the road from Palo Alto, Calif.”

“From the beginning, the employees dedicated to Project Titan looked at a wide range of details. That included motorized doors that opened and closed silently. They also studied ways to redesign a car interior without a steering wheel or gas pedals, and they worked on adding virtual or augmented reality into interior displays,” Wakabayashi reports. “Apple even looked into reinventing the wheel. A team within Titan investigated the possibility of using spherical wheels — round like a globe — instead of the traditional, round ones, because spherical wheels could allow the car better lateral movement. But the car project ran into trouble…”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: So, Apple’s going to make a vehicle operating system and license it out to other companies because that’s what they do…. Oh, wait.

According to Wakabayashi’s report, “Steve Zadesky, an Apple executive who was initially in charge of Titan, wanted to pursue the semiautonomous option. But people within the industrial design team including Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief designer, believed that a fully driverless car would allow the company to reimagine the automobile experience, according to the five people. Last year, Apple started to rein in the project. The company tapped Bob Mansfield, a longtime executive who over the years had led hardware engineering for some of Apple’s most successful products, to oversee Titan. Mr. Mansfield shelved plans to build a car and focused the project on the underlying self-driving technology.

We wonder, especially after looking at/ trying to use abominations like the Apple TV’s Siri Remote (that could’ve been designed by a random guy plucked off the street), is Jony more disappointed or pissed that he’s not going to get to build a car?

Or could this simply be that Apple wants to get the hard stuff (autonomous vehicle OS) done first and will wait do the easier stuff (vehicle hardware) later (based on when and if they succeed with the software)?

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s ‘Project Titan’ remains as fuzzy as ever – June 14, 2017
Tim Cook says Apple is focusing on an autonomous car system; does not rule out making own vehicles – June 13, 201
How Apple is training testers for self-driving Apple Car – April 24, 2017
Apple permit reveals self-driving car testers include NASA roboticists – April 24, 2017
Apple + satellites = ? – April 22. 2017
Why Apple may be interested in space satellites – April 21, 2017
Apple’s self-driving car test program revealed in new document – April 21, 2017
Analyst: Apple ‘almost certainly’ exploring making a whole car but there’s a big challenge – April 18, 2017
Right now, the ‘Apple Car’ is a 2015 Lexus RX 450h SUV – April 17, 2017
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

85 Comments

  1. This idea was the definition of insanity from the start. An “electric only” car in a market that is about 95% internal combustion with gas prices at historic lows, a project driven by politics more than sense, and hubris. While Apple was wasting huge amounts of money on this stupidity, it let its computers languish, let SIRI turn into a joke versus Amazon, did nothing to promote Apple Pay, dismantled its very good line of Airport products and let Apple TV turn into an industry joke. The car is probably the best indication of the incredibly poor leadership at Apple, which is doing well in spite of its management, still coasting on Steve Jobs iPhone and computer creations.

    1. Re Kent:
      The future of autos and trucks is electric- regardless of the cost of fossil fuels. Ford Motor Company replaced Mark Fields precisely because he was not adapting the company to the realities of the future fast enough with they legendary (among business types) James Hackett who transformed Steelcase during his tenure. Ford is still family controlled (40%) and survived the Depression and the Great Recession as a private company- unlike GM who was bailed out by DuPont in the Depression and the Taxpayers about 8 years ago.

      Away from Ford, Quandt family controlled (50%) BMW is also driving headlong toward electric propulsion. Do you really think they are doing this for anything other than sound business reasons?

      There are many arguments for replacing the Otto 4 cycle ICE with an electric platform, some relate to the environment, but many more relate to performance, reliability, repairability, ease of assembly and life cycle.

      1. I’ve been driving an e-bike since last May for short trips, man I love that thing…if Apple could make a car that’s as dependable and easy as that e-bike, I’d take back every insult I’ve made to Pipeline Timmy.

        1. You’ve got an excellent point botvinnik. I hope Tim Cook is listening, because a lot of bicycle technology like ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets and tension-spoked wheels was incorporated into cars.

          I had heard about the efficiency of a bicycle being the best and sure enough I found this on wikipedia:

          “The bicycle is the most efficient human-powered means of transportation in terms of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance.”

          Lots of great stuff about bicycles in that article.

            1. A couple of questions for you botvinnik.

              1. You mention that the bike that you bought has no pedals. I looked at the photo, and I could not figure out where you put your feet, maybe near the front wheel. Can you tell me exactly?

              2. This idea of a computerized bicycle, what features would you like to see? I can imagine some software like Apple has for cars, GPS locator, calories burned on a trip, and speed would be useful. Have anything to add to that?

              Thanks for sharing the info, I have seen a few e-bikes, they look nice, especially for extra long trips.

            2. If you view the 2nd image of the page (look to the left for a bunch of thumbnails) you can see that there are pegs protruding from the center of the front wheel on either side to rest your feet on during use.

            3. two pegs that come out either side of the front axle (the only “assembly” to do out of the box)…when I said pedals, I meant like bicycle pedals that go to a sprocket.

              there’s a new Ancheer model out, also for $399, that includes bluetooth for communicating with an iOS app for GPS, speed, odometer, trip set, etc., also has a larger motor and higher speed and range…

              https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073R7T3LK?psc=1

            4. …an aside, last Thursday afternoon, I was pulled over by the local Buford T. Justice who asked me, “How many cee-cee’s does that have, boy?” (verbatim, I’m 65 with white hair and he was probably around 35.)

              I told him that it was electric and had no engine displacement measurement and that the same traffic laws applied to bicycles, applied to e-bikes. Then he got on his mic to headquarters, talked in super-duper cop talk then finally gave me the thumbs-up and said, “well, okay.”

              That incident alone was worth the price of the bike. 🙂

          1. Instead of telling other people what to do, so disrespectful.

            Instead of speaking for all people here and you certainly don’t speak for me, I enjoy Botty’s wit and historical/personal insights.

            Instead of creating a fake instant avatar regular poster hiding under a different name — take your own advice: LEAVE NOW …

      2. So the future is electric vehicles? How is this a step forward? The electricity still comes from fossil fuels, plus these batteries are a toxic waste problem down the road. As a rural inhabitant, they are totally impractical. Wake me when the hydrogen engine is perfected.

        1. You comprehend! Thank you. Apparently, the efficiency of the internal combustion engine is so poor that charging an electric car via the power grid does save in carbon waste. But obviously, to you and me, the simple goal is ZERO CARBON waste. That’s already possible with wind and solar power, after the carbon expense of manufacturing. But we’re still in the baby step era of power storage from renewable, no carbon sources. Hydrogen is the overall cheapest and easiest method of energy storage by anyone in any situation. Except, once you make it, how do you safely store it, in volume, over a significant period of time? It’s an explosive question.

          1. Aside from hydrogen having a nasty tendency to want to explode under certain conditions, hydrogen embrittlement is a huge problem when it comes to storing the stuff. But hey, if any of this was easy then engineers wouldn’t have jobs.

            1. Hydrogen embrittlement has been solved long ago. Composite H2 storage tanks work fine. The barrier is in building the distribution network, that is all.

            2. Exactly right. The science behind hydrogen is settled. Public transit buses in my county have been running on hydrogen since 2008. Indeed, the infrastructure is missing on a massive scale and the largest fight is looming.

              Unfortunately, the “fuel of the future” falls along partisan lines and beholden to K Street lobbyists and big money, as usual. Strike the common sense to do what is best.

              Republicans want to maintain the status quo of Big Oil for a hundred years now. No advancement for the future.

              Democrats want to maintain the misguided alternative so called Green choice of Big Electric. Powered mostly by coal burning plants and plagued by battery performance and disposal issues.

              Independent thinkers such as yourself, already know: HYDROGEN is the answer …

              Two movies recommended for a sea change in the way the automobile industry at large deals with CHANGE: “The Water Engine” (1992) and “Tucker: The man and His Dream” (1988). Happy viewing.

            1. Harvard University just proved that Exxon Mobil knew burning fossil fuels caused climate change …back in 1977. Exxon’s public disclosures contradicted internal documents. Get ready for a massive lawsuit against Exxon and their oil pals under the country’s product liability laws, like the big tobacco fraud case years ago. Looks like the jig is up for big oil.

              https://thinkprogress.org/exxonmobils-allegedly-misled-the-public-on-climate-change-for-40-years-98f14bcf6d06/

        2. You will never in your lifetime own a hydrogen powered vehicle. That ship has sailed. Keep waiting around if that suits you though.

          Because of Tesla showing the way, all major automakers are coming around to the idea that they need to go PEV (plug in electric vehicle) or go out of business. Several European countries, including Germany (who produces a lot of cars) have legislatively banned the sale of gasoline vehicles in fewer than 8 years form now. One of the Norwegian countries in 3 years – I think. In any event, most companies are doing a 180 from their swagger laiden talk even a year or so ago. It’s do electric or die.

          Infrastructure in terms of destination and fast charging already exists widely and is growing rapidly. EV charging is expected to overtake gas stations in NYC this year for example. The future is already here, but close your eyes if you don’t want to see it. DavGreg touched on the key reasons for switching to EV over ICE. If folks want to also throw in the environmental angle, so be it. The other points are more valid from my point of view.

          1. The general public has ignored electric vehicles. You can’t push what the consumer doesn’t want. Tesla? Sure I see plenty of of people buying a 100K plus vehicle…not. And Germany as an example is laughable. Their green energy debacle is similar to ours here in Ontario. What good is it if no one can afford it? And besides…that’s a big if, even if that country doesn’t implode under Merkel’s ridiculous ‘all migrants welcome’ policy.:)

            1. I’ll take issue with your assessment, but not with you personally. I think you are at most half right in that most of the electric vehicles produced by the large traditional carmakers are almost entirely undesirable and could not and should not be sold. Customers couldn’t be bothered with a POS on offer. Their efforts have been so pitiable as to be transparent that they have had no serious intention of ever making a competitive or attractive EV. That’s why they all sucked – it was a purposeful activity to protect their main business model which is to sell gasoline powered vehicles. It only proves that the major automakers are inept.

              On your other point, have you driven a Tesla? That is the surest way for anyone to rethink everything they ever believed about what a car can be and what a software driven electric vehicle represents. And you DO see people lining up to buy them. The Model S and Model X still have month’s long waits from ordering to delivery (down from year long queue’s). The forthcoming Model 3 has 500,000 prepaid purchase deposits on a vehicle more than a year and a half before it was in production and nobody in the world had even seen one in person or has even driven it yet. The only think holding back Tesla…is Tesla’s ability to produce their vehicles fast enough to meet customer demand (like the early months of iPhones…for a purchase costing a hundred times more).

              So..the general public was right to ignore electric vehicles in the past. Today that argument is totally reversed. A well made EV is vastly superior in too many ways to count when compared with a 100+ year head start on ICE cars. I encourage you to open your mind and try some new experiences.

            2. I encourage you to open your mind.

              EV’s are NOT green energy. Just an FU to Big Oil that makes snowflakes fell warm and cozy.

              Last time I checked most of the electricity produced in the U.S. still comes from coal burning plants.

              Batteries are bad tech, fail and clog landfills. Truly bad tech.

              Just because the dim bulbs at Tesla lined up for gubmint subsidies under the previous administration does not guarantee any more success than FAILED Solyndra.

              The water engine is the answer …

            3. EVs _are_ green energy. The MPGe (the ‘e’ is for equivalent, when measuring CO2 produced from electric power generation) for most EVs is quite high — higher than for many hybrid gas-electric cars.

              It is an easy look-up to see how much of _your_ locally produced electricity is produced by fossil fuels. Try Argonne labs.

              However, for the country overall it is about 50%.

              Some regions get a lot of power from hydro (e.g., New England and some Rocky Mountain states). Others produce increasing amounts of electricity from solar & wind. But this means other states burn more than the average amount of fossil fuels (coal, oil, etc) to produce electricity.

            4. There is absolutely no reason to ignore hybrid gas-electric cars, however. No one should drive a car that does not get at least 30 to 35 MPG. This is the point where the greatest gas savings have already occurred, with an better MPG above that providing diminishing returns.

              It is funny to me that people would insist on waiting for an all-electric vehicle with (limited) distance capacity between required charges, but would never want to drive a hybrid gas-electric car, of which there are many different makes and models. It seems people would rather drive their ICE than drive a hybrid, which is well-proven technology.

          2. Toyota’s Mirai — its hydrogen fueled car — is being tested right now in CA in limited numbers. The present Chairman of Toyota is the engineer responsible for the Prius, which was first introduced in Japan in 2000 and in the USA in 2001. Today’s Prius hybrid gets over 50 mpg. The Prius Prime Plug-In gets 133 MPGe. This is the highest MPGe of any car, including all-electric vehicles.

            But the point is this: the Toyota Chairman believes hybrids are providing a (long) bridge to the car of the future, which will be hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles. Personally, I think he knows what he is talking about.

            1. “But the point is this: the Toyota Chairman believes hybrids are providing a (long) bridge to the car of the future, which will be hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles.”

              Exactly the plan.

              “François Isaac de Rivaz built the first de Rivaz engine, an internal combustion engine powered by a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen in 1806.

              The nickel hydrogen battery was used for the first time in 1977 aboard the U.S. Navy’s Navigation technology satellite-2 (NTS-2).

              In the dark part of its orbit, the Hubble Space Telescope is also powered by nickel-hydrogen batteries, which were finally replaced in May 2009, more than 19 years after launch and 13 years beyond their design life.

              H2 was used in the Hindenburg airship, which was destroyed in a midair fire over New Jersey on 6 May 1937. The incident was broadcast live on radio and filmed. Ignition of leaking hydrogen is widely assumed to be the cause, but later investigations pointed to the ignition of the aluminized fabric coating by static electricity. But the damage to hydrogen’s reputation as a lifting gas was already done.”

              –Wikipedia

              Yes indeed, the damage was already done and is alive today among the clueless.

              The space shuttles used Hydrogen as fuel. Think about it …

            2. One hydrogen filling station already exists in Hawaii on a military base and a public one will be completed in a few months. Servco Toyota will begin selling the Mirai here soon after. I was one of the first 5 Prius owners in the islands but I think I may miss this one due to not saving up enough. Maybe in a year or two. 😛

        3. Electricity can come from any number of sources. Batteries can be recycled.

          Distributed power from an improved grid should be able to charge your car and provide resilience to the electric system if we can tell the Koch’s and the API to STFU and get stop trying to kill it.

          For transport Hydrogen is a storage method- not an energy source. You will see Compressed Natural Gas before you ever see hydrogen in a car.

          1. I would also prefer Hydrogen, but till long term storage methods are developed and the hydrogen embrittlement problem is resolved the best route for energy storage for use in vehicles may be Butenol which I understand is similar enough to gasoline for it to be a replacement fuel for ICE vehicles running today.

            1. Anything that works is fine as long as it is not the electric.

              Plug in my car every night in three feet of snow all winter and add to my oil bill, no thanks …

            2. CNG fuel option is available for various cars — but you have to look for them. You can get CNG option for the Honda Civic, for example. Might cost $5000 for a home fueling station. Apparently a lot of corporate fleets might specify CNG, where the vehicles return “home” each day.

        4. Yes indeed, Hydrogen is the answer!

          I had the good fortune as a guest of Air Products (former job) to drive a million dollar hydrogen prototype SUV a decade ago.

          Silent, sleek and smooth and emits only water. This is where Cook should be going with project Titan and not following a battery of fools. The green joke of the auto industry.

          “In the economically bleak United States of the 1930s, machinist Charles Lang (William H. Macy) believes that his new creation — an engine powered by water — will change his industry for the better and provide him with enough money to properly care for his sightless sister. Unfortunately, as Charles tries to sell his idea, he finds that two crooked lawyers, Lawrence Oberman (Joe Mantegna) and Mason Gross (John Mahoney), employed by Big Oil are out to steal his idea and suppress his voice.

          Initial release: August 24, 1992”

          Can anyone name the movie? 🤔

            1. Also a great movie with yet another think different auto exec, but unfortunately, the same outcome.

              Here it is and thanks for playing along:

              “The Water Engine.” 😎

      3. Ford is publicly traded, DavGreg. Therefore it is not a “private” company. However, I concur with your praise of the company for being sufficiently fiscally responsible to avoid the need for a government bailout. Overall, the bailouts worked well, though, and saved a lot of jobs.

        1. Never said it was private, nor is BMW. You can buy shares or ADRs in both. Both companies are controlled by families – through supershares with outsized voting rights.

          Nothing happens at Ford without the Ford family and nothing at BMW without the Quandts. I would imagine the same could be said of the Porsche/Piëch family that controls Volksagen via Porsche Automobil Holding SE (privately owned and controls 52.2% of VW) despite a family rule about individuals running the company directly.

          The point was that these companies that are tightly controlled by the families that own controlling interest are making the investment in electric cars. You wold not put the family fortune at risk on some crazy pipe dream.

          Ford saw the handwriting on the wall and put Bill Ford in charge. He mortgaged the entire company right down to the famous Blue Oval logo (one of the most recognizable in the world) to borrow just short of $40 Billion at market rates and brought in Alan Mulally to fix things.

          BTW- GM and Chrysler have both been bailed out twice: GM by the government once and once by the DuPont Family. Chrysler twice by the taxpayers.

          I track the auto biz closely as I have shares in Tesla, VW (ADR) and Ford. The Ford shares were inherited, but I bought the VW and Tesla shares myself.

        2. I can’t disagree on your comments about the bailouts saving a lot of jobs, they did just that. It’s the only reason why the bailouts were considered and implemented because the companies requiring them truly deserved to fail in their own right. Utterly awful shortsighted mismanagement over decades. Only because of the downstream effect on other companies (parts suppliers, who also supplied to stronger automakers like Toyota, etc in the US) and the jobs and taxes that come from those wages (a few states could have gone bankrupt too) did GM get bailed out this time. I share this because I was one of the individuals that had to make the difficult call in the middle of the financial crisis.

          I still think it was the right thing to do for macro reasons, but it was a terrible thing to do for micro ones – it leaves a bad taste in my mouth made worse by the fact that GM never fully repaid the taxpayers – unlike the rest of the banking bailout where the Government actually made money.

          If they skip the EV revolution by ignoring it and pretending gas vehicles will predominate forever, they will yet again deserve to go out of business. The next time though, they should not expect to be saved. It will really be the end for some.

  2. I see this as a prime example of what is wrong in Tim Cook’s Apple. He has no defined vision of what Apple is, what it should be and what he wants it to become. Were Mr Jobs here today, he could tell you point blank.

    The Apple that brought us Mac OS X, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone and even the iPad was a smallish, lean machine centered tightly around the vision of one person. Lots of talent, many ideas, but filtered through one set of John Lennon spectacles.

    I left the church long ago, but a verse applies here:
    Where there is no vision, the people perish…

    Apple is pissing away it’s future because they lack direction. The car business is hard- one of the most competitive in the world. Look at how many companies make cars worldwide and compare that to almost any other industry where there are usually only one or two big players. Even companies who have been in the biz a century are having a hard time adapting to the future of wheeled transportation.

    1. You’re right about the car business – everything you said. Then I recall that they said much the same about the mobile phone business, and look what happened. Now, cars are several orders of magnitude more complicated. But still. Never say that it can never be done to the auto business.

  3. Makes sense to master the software of a self-driving car — which no one has ever done in the history of the world — before mastering how to build a box with four wheels that comfortably seats people, which has been done a hundred times. If you get the one, the other will be no problem (in time, if you want to).

    1. No one has mastered the software of a self-driving car in the history of the world since there was not prior need for it let alone the sufficient advancement of computers in the harsh environments of vehicular motor compartments.

  4. “Skunk Works” is the term for uncertain R&D projects. I for one don’t see any problem with Apple blowing time and profit on this venture. Instead I’m thankful they can. It’s what companies who want to have a future SHOULD be doing!

    Long term thinking = Long term success and benefit.

    If only the worthless shite companies could get the clue, we would not:

    … Have had the ‘Great Recession’
    … Would not be desperate for new antibiotics
    … Would already have transferred to low carbon technologies
    … Would not have killed off the world’s coral reefs
    … Would have already outlawed AI #CowardRemoteMurderMachines
    … Would have a comprehensive world system for dealing with sociopathic people
    … On and On …

    1. Artificial reefs and islands are providing habitats for coral and other marine organisms. It is too soon to proclaim the death of those species, as H. sapiens is entering a new phase of entrepreneurial, symbiotic farming that counterbalances our wilful exploitation of natural resources in the 19th and 20th centuries. One should pause to consider that we too are natural beings—no matter that we heedlessly laid waste to every ecosystem we invaded for centuries. Any animal with our superior skills and advantages would have done the same. The difference is that our species alone has certain silly mental diseases, called ethics or morals, that provide a feedback loop that checks our actions before we perform them, at least some of the time. The future effects of this rare vertebrate neuropathology may result in a desolate wasteland or a flourishing garden of eden. We don’t know. Some of us write fiction to explore these imagined outcomes, an impassioned and excruciating attempt to influence the future. Others of us don’t read books, and continue to behave as animals.

      1. Homo Sapiens is the biggest predator out there. We are infesting the planet and ruining everything. If you enjoy stimulating reading, check out _The Sixth Extinction_ by Elizabeth Kolbert. The Sixth Extinction in the history of the planet has been caused directly by homo “sapiens” (???). It started with the dawn of man and traces our population growth. In geologic time, a few thousand years is an eyeblink.

    2. Not sure where you are getting that connotation from. Skunk Works is specifically the top secret development team at Lockheed. There is no uncertainty there. They are charged to create cutting edge products in secret and their past success speaks for itself. Sr71 Blackbird for example.

  5. I’ve written on this multiple times. Apple IS building a car. Period. Autonomous or no, they are building a car. They don’t go hire Porsche’s head of engineering for the La Mans hybrid-winning engine team to build sensors and software…

    1. I’d agree. They are likely to eventually build a car and try to change the experience. To do so, the hardest thing will be on the software side so it makes sense to apply the most effort there today. Killing off the manufacturing part of project Titan seems a temporary rather than permanent decision. There is seemingly little opportunity to actually monetize a car operating system on its own – that seems like a black hole. The only way they can do this and make money is to eventually build the hardware alongside after the software can deliver. Just my humble opinion. In any event, it’s many years away still so hardly worth wasting energy on anticipation.

    2. If Apple is building autonomous shuttles, it doesn’t mean that Apple will never produce an electric car. Modifying an off-the shelf vehicle to function as a staff shuttle is a great way of having a rolling breadboard for developing and testing the systems that will be needed for an autonomous car.

      Apple wanted to build something like the iPad in 1993, but although they had an idea of what they wanted it to do, the best that was possible with the technology of the day was the Apple Newton. Once technology advanced sufficiently, Apple released the iPhone and then the iPad.

      Sometimes it’s prudent to accept that while you know what you would like to achieve, the technology doesn’t currently exist, but is likely to appear soon. In those circumstances, it makes sense to implement as much as possible of that idea in some practical form and learn as much as you can from that process so that when the remaining technology becomes practical, you have many of the the snags and wrinkles already worked out.

      In the case of autonomous electric vehicles, we’re still waiting for the right means to either store or generate enough electricity within a vehicle to offer the range needed together with reasonably rapid recharging/refuelling. There are many promising laboratory experiments which might provide the breakthrough needed. Fuel cells, pumped electrolyte zinc-air cells, further refinements to LiON batteries and many other research projects are all showing encouraging signs. Whatever the power source, they’re also going to need a very efficient electrical power train, chassis, manual control system and autonomous systems too. It would be foolish to wait for the power source becoming available before starting work on all the other aspects.

  6. I find this retrenchment as reported rather disappointing. But without knowing the sources it’s difficult to discern the depth and direction of this retrenchment.

    It is entirely believable that there was a lack of overall focus and that small teams were often going off and doing their own thing. Apple has worked that was for decades, having small teams compete with each other. So I can image sour grapes from some of the teams that didn’t see their ideas accepted into the larger vision.

    But I find it implausible that Apple is completely pulling back from designing automotive hardware. It doesn’t fit into what I imagine their endgame must be.

    1. One more thing. The article mentioned that Jony Ive was arguing for a fully autonomous, as opposed to a semi-autonomous, vehicle design because it would permit a more complete rethink of the automobile.

      Whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t make sense. Jony loves cars. Why would he advocate for a design that takes away the most fundamental pleasure of the automobile, which is to be in control and drive one?

      You take away the ability to drive and you gut the whole idea of the automobile.

      1. Much depends on whether Jony sees it as a car or as an innovative personal transport solution. At the moment, personal transport is done with cars and we all know how Jony loves classic cars. On the other hand, if he is designing the autonomous transport solution for the future, then it doesn’t need to have much in common with conventional cars, so concepts like enjoying driving with your elbow out of the window, the wind in your hair while breathing in the Castrol R fumes coming from the engine will be a thing of the past. It’s a totally different concept with totally different objectives and totally different challenges.

        1. Yes, it is a totally different concept. And one that I’m not looking forward to.

          I’ve played this out in my head over and over. The inevitable outcome will be that the vast majority of citizenry will lose their legal right to drive.

          1. Could you explain how citizens would lose their right to drive?

            I can see that people who might otherwise be disallowed from driving ( epileptics, partially sighted people, unqualified drivers etc ) could become mobile in an autonomous vehicle, but I don’t see any indication that people who are already qualified to drive would no longer be able to drive manually controlled vehicles unless they were to segregate routes so that some routes are for autonomous vehicles without the uncertainties of human drivers, but in such a scenario, human drivers could drive everywhere else.

            1. I’ve posted this before, but here is my logic…

              TITLE: Social Impact of Autonomous Vehicles and How We Could All Lose Our Right To Drive – A Hypothetical Scenario

              In a few short years autonomous vehicles become wildly popular and achieve 20% penetration of the North American market. Then the statistics start to come in. Auto accidents are on the decline with the percentage attributable to autonomous vehicles in the low single digits. Insurance companies begin to offer discounts for using the autonomous function. 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 systems as standard equipment. Soon after, new laws are passed to allow the elderly and disabled to purchase and use fully autonomous vehicles without the need for a driver’s license. With newspaper headlines touting the freedom and independence this has given to the disabled, public approval for the law skyrockets and it is soon expanded to cover everyone. A few years down the road over half the population no longer bothers to maintain a current driver’s license. As the pool of licensed drivers decreases, insurance rates rise dramatically for those who retain driver’s licenses. 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.

            2. This would dovetail nicely with Toyota’s prototype “wheelchair” that transforms into a one person street vehicle. Add autonomous driving when in street vehicle mode and they’ll be ahead of the game for the elderly crowd.

            3. Your scenario assumes that autonomous vehicles could be affordable by the average consumer. They will not be. Autonomous vehicles will only be cost effective in discrete tasks like cargo or limited closed-area environments. The lawyers will have a heyday destroying the company that makes the vehicle in the first deadly accident.

              Logistically and economically, you should see autonomous air traffic control and airplanes before you will see 20% market penetration of personally owned autonomous vehicles.

              No company is even close to making an autonomous vehicle that offers the reliability and environmental adaptability of the current automobile. Which isn’t to say that electrics won’t take over starting in urban markets. But human drivers will still be required for decades to come, long after the uber fad dies and the self absorbed Amazon Snap FB generation finally realizes they need real jobs and personal mobility to have a decent quality of life in most any part of the world.

            4. Can you elaborate on why you believe autonomous vehicles will not be affordable by the average consumer? I’m struggling with that one. A computer hooked up to a bunch of sensors are unlikely to be big ticket items compared to the overall costs of the vehicle. Volume production will drive down sensor technology costs. Elimination of the steering column and the elaborate mechanical structure that goes along with it will substantially reduce the vehicle bill of material.

              Litigation has been part and parcel of the auto industry since its inception. The notorious Ford Pinto fuel tank serves as a cautionary example of what can go badly wrong. But Ford got through the litigation and carried on. Tesla has already had its first death to contend with, although the company was ultimately found to be not at fault. Litigation has not sunk the company, at least yet anyway.

              Autonomous vehicle technology is at the point where it can handle 95% of the scenarios drivers encounter on the road today. That last 5% will be very very hard to tackle, but a lot of bright minds are hard at work on it. When that barrier is broken, and it will be, lawyers will find more lucrative targets in vehicles that must be driven as opposed to driverless vehicles. Don’t believe it? Ask yourself how many shite fool morons you have had close calls with on the roads.

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