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Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Can We Expect from the Apple Car?


Apple-Car-Self Driving

Apple has been at the forefront of some of the biggest tech products of our time. From smartphones to tablets to smart watches the folks at Cupertino are almost always on the leading edge. Now that the auto industry is poised for big changes, Apple is hard at work on a product. What exactly they are working on is another question entirely.
The auto industry setting itself up for some big changes. With the proliferation of alternative fuels, autonomous vehicle vehicles, ride sharing and Tesla’s direct sales model, the automotive marketplace ten years form now could look very different from that of today. Apple has a knack for predicting these kinds of shifts, and while the tech giant is tight-lipped on what they are working on, reading the tea leaves can offer some insight.

CNN Money put together a comprehensive look at what Apple might be up to based on what is actually known at this point in time. The main thing we know is that they are working on something electric.
 CNN Money cited legal action that tech firm A123 has against Apple for allegedly hiring away five key high-tech employees. If you recall, A123 was originally providing batteries for the ill-fated Fisker Karma. This move pretty much speaks for itself.
In addition to the A123 hires, Apple has hired from various automakers, including Tesla. Though Elon Musk is quick to point out that in the last year, Tesla has hired five times as many employees from Apple than Apple has from Tesla. Apple has also hired multiple recruiters from Tesla.

The hiring goes beyond engineers and R&D, as Apple has been picking up key executives as well including former Fiat Chrysler exec Doug Betts. Betts was Fiat’s quality chief, and had also worked at Michelin, Nissan, and Toyota.

 Last year, Apple added former Mercedes-Benz’s North American R&D boss Johann Jungwirth to their team. What was Jungwirth’s speciality? Oh just vehicle-to-vehicle communications and autonomous driving. That should be a big tell as to what Apple is up to.

According to CNN Money, Apple’s efforts have been taking fruition in the form of a custom van that has been driving around Brooklyn and a suburb of San Fransisco. This van was covered in all manner of sensors, much like early Google autonomous car prototypes.


Finally, the article points out that Tesla and other automakers welcome Apple to the fray as a potential competitor. But that is ancillary to the details of Apple’s hires and the reports of their prototype out testing. It is pretty obvious that Apple is hard at work on an electric or hybrid vehicle (thought probably full EV) that will have partial or full autonomous functionality.

The final key element that is unclear is the business model for Apple’s car. There is a great deal of speculation that Apple might forego a traditional ownership or lease model for some form of micro-leasing or ride-sharing. Like the rest of the project, we’re likely a long way off from getting any real announcement detailing the inevitable Apple Car.

Image Credits: VRWorld, GreatNewsMag