Apple Car dreams: How could Apple not make an autonomous electric car someday?

Jean-Louis Gassée for Monday Note:

A Google search for “Apple Car” yields 2.55 billion hits, so many stories that both 9to5Mac and MacRumors have provided neat summaries of “what we know so far.”

While we must keep in mind the high-gain (pun intended) echo chamber, the endemic click-baiting, and the Reality Distortion Field that emanates from Cupertino, we can’t ignore the dream of an autonomous electric car (EV) designed by Jony Ive’s team, with a clean modern user interface, sold in Apple Stores and serviced (brake fluid and pads, tires, lamps) by approved auto maintenance shops. All backed by a company with deep pockets and, rare exceptions aside, a reputation for reliable products.

Reality quickly kills the warm feeling. There’s trouble with the autonomous part of the dream: Sober people agree that full “Level 5” automation — no need ever for human intervention, from arbitrary point A to point B, in any weather — is decades away. Like anyone else’s EV the Apple Car will feature a mix of driver assistance services with no clear way to get to full autonomy…

[So], what is Apple doing if they’re not creating a self-driving car? Research, that’s what.

MacDailyNews Take: There’s a heck of a lot of smoke here for there to be no fire, but Apple’s pockets are very deep indeed. If they wanted to research artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc., vehicles would provide a fertile area in which to conduct all sorts of experiments.

We agree with Gassée: It’s either a car, made by Apple, or Project Titan exists as a test bed for Apple researchers make discoveries and approach problems from different angles than those provided by the usual avenues (Macs, iOS devices, services, etcetera).

20 Comments

    1. Coal and natural gas are simply different forms of hydrocarbons. You can already purchase an LNG vehicle. Many government and corporate fleets include dual-fuel gas/LNG vehicles. Nuclear fission is best applied to utility-scale electric power generation. Unless we develop a Back to the Future style Mr. Fusion power source, I do not see a role for nuclear in ground vehicles.

      Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly practical for many people. Continued improvements to battery technologies combined with a larger number of fast charging stations will further enhance the utility and appeal of electric vehicles.

      1. But coal and natural gas will end life as we know it in ten years, probably less. Nobody should be alllowed to drive or fly or use anything made with plastic. No AC either. If we don’t get serious we will all be dead soon.

      2. Electric vehicles are only for those that can afford, or for those that receive govt subsidies. The vast percentage of society aren’t in either position.
        As long as oil is abundant and a cheaper option, electric vehicles will be a lesser choice for most. Besides, there’s a lot of mental gymnastics to position electric vehicles as the go-to to “save the planet.” Have fun driving long distances (those common with a gas vehicle) in the upper half of the US in the winter. Pull the blinders off of how most batteries are regenerated and still maintain the sincere declaration of eco-value. And those batteries…NIMBY. Maybe they can be stored in NV with all the nuclear refuse.

        There maybe a time for such a product, but the marketing push doesn’t yet equate with financial/eco viability. Keep reaching and researching…yes.

      1. Wow I wonder what all those wind turbines are doing when I look out to sea. Getting close to 50% renewables now with more coming online all th time. Coal? Pretty much eliminated here. It can be done if th attitude and commitment is there. Also helps that people aren’t unnecessarily being incapacitated or dying of fumes. Holding on to old technology through familiarity will only destroy your competitiveness eventually.

        Otherwise interesting to hear that at long last the realisation that far from coming in 5 years or so as many it’s loyalists protagonists argued, true self driving capability is still decades away as I have long argued. It’s a long slow old road for that dream.

        1. I wonder who supplies the electricity when the wind doesn’t blow for weeks, or at night, or on cloudy days. Most people are fine with waiting for electricity till the sun comes back. You don’t need that microwave for a few hours, or maybe a day. You can wait for that defribrillator. Renewables are for people who are OK with power arriving whenever the weather delivers it.

          1. Do you even have a point other than to whine? If your utility still burns coal, that’s their problem, not that of the electric car manufacturers. Electricity demand is rising but none of the new demand is being met by new coal plants, so coal’s importance in the overall mix is declining. Already solar + batteries is cheaper than coal peaker plants and as such, they are already being shut down and decommissioned.

            Your arm chair must be comfortable because it appears you never move from it.

  1. Apple is a car company.
    Apple is a bank.
    Apple is a movie studio.
    Apple is a “service” company that charges $20 a month for… something to be determined.

    If Apple is board with making Macs, they should at least let someone else do it.

    1. No OS, Xcode or Mac equals the death of margins and Apple, on that note the more I read about Tesla’s Powerwall why isn’t Apple doing something like that instead of dumb movies and tv shows.

  2. No one is going to make an autonomous electric car. Autonomous driving is a fantasy, there is no such thing as ‘AI’, and unless some great breakthrough is achieved, ultimately fully electric cars are more expensive and bigger resource hogs than their gas equivalents. These are just facts. Hydrogen cells, perhaps?

    1. Just wait for the auction of assets, and then take over ……..whatever is left . All of the wrecked Teslas waiting for body parts because the company never gave a thought to what happens after a car is sold? Good luck on that. DuckDuckGo search: Tesla car body parts shortage

  3. I have my doubts, though we can only judge matters so far into the future with any accuracy as there are so many lateral developments that come into play and often unexpectedly. As a simple example everyone decried the range of battery driven cars making them impractical without bringing into the equation that recharge times and specifically their reduction, completely change the argument altogether.

  4. What we urgently need is SPEED TRAINS. Surprisingly, even Morocco has Speed trains and we a developed country does not have ones How come this happened to us?. Why did we let happen?.

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