Why EVs And Autonomous Automobile Technology Are A Logical Space For Apple To Innovate Next
FEATURE – Unless you’ve been living on another planet for the past year, you’ve most certainly come across all of the news and rumors surrounding Apple’s plans for an Electric Vehicle (EV) which can drive itself (a.k.a., the “Apple Car”) but when will it finally materialize?
For the casual observer — or, shall I say, “the average Joe”? (Pun intended) — transportation sounds like alien territory for Apple to be entering into. The Cupertino, California-based company hasn’t yet reached the final frontier (as it were) when it comes to innovation, and the next space that it appears to be heading into at warp speed involves Electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous automobile technology (a.k.a., self-driving cars).
Apple and self-driving cars may initially sound highly, “illogical” (to quote Spock from Star Trek), but, logically, what other sector of the enterprise is left to be innovated by the company that reinvented the phone — forever changing communication as we know it — other than transportation? (And, I’m not talking about beaming objects from one place to another).
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The Next ‘Space’ For Innovation
Considering where the automotive industry appears to be heading, EVs are definitely the wave of the future: it’s also a logical space for Apple to innovate next.
According to ABC News, transportation makes up roughly a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions around the globe, mostly through burning fuel, and experts say that it will be critical for as many countries as possible to transition to EVs with zero emissions powered by renewable energy (the latter of which Apple, in recent years, has focused on with its company-wide efforts to “go green“… from the materials produced within its supply chain to the electricity powering its retail stores). Last year, American car manufacturers announced plans to make EV adoption a priority in the United States.
ABC News reported that Ford, for instance, has established plans to double investments in EVs and charging infrastructure while General Motors (GM) has made it a goal to achieve zero emissions for all of the company’s offerings by 2035.
In February of last year, Ming-Chi Kuo, a well-known analyst with a proven track record of predicting Apple’s future road map, wrote in a research note that the Cupertino, California-based company was collaborating with several car manufacturers on its autonomous EV project (a.k.a., “Project Titan”). Aside from leveraging the resources of current automakers into its product, for instance, battery-related technologies, Kuo noted that the “Apple Car” will focus on an innovative user experience, form factor, and internal space designs, all while tightly integrating them into the company’s existing software ecosystem (e.g., CarPlay).
But while Apple’s ambitions with its autonomous EV project are all being driven (pun intended), by its primary technological expertise, software, when can consumers expect to see the “Apple Car” — a product that has been in development since 2014 — driving itself on the road?
Warp Speed Ahead
Around this time last year, following the reports that Apple had apparently been in early discussions with Hyundai to manufacture an Apple- branded EV for the Cupertino, California-based company and that those talks had stalled, Bloomberg reported that the “Apple Car” had the potential to upend the automotive industry and its supply chain in a similar way to Apple’s reinvention of the consumer device market (e.g., the iPhone).
However, Bloomberg noted in its report that the automotive industry needed to answer a key question. Just how serious is Apple about taking on Tesla — as well as other EV manufacturers (e.g., GM) — and does it need an established car manufacturer in order to be able to roll out its own product?
This past January, iDrop News reported that Apple, after talks with a handful of leading car manufacturers went under, is currently considering a strictly internal manufacturing process or, “in-house” as the media outlet more accurately described it, for the production of its self-driving car.
Citing a story originally published in ET News — the digital version of the Electronic Times (the largest provider of information technology news in South Korea — iDrop News reported that Apple sent a group of representatives in December of last year to look at the parts needed to begin mass production of the Apple-branded EV that it will be building. The Cupertino, California-based company is, per the original report, expected to finalize the selection of parts suppliers for the “Apple Car” this year and enter full scale development of the actual product (once that process has been completed).
According to rumors, Apple is expected to debut its self-driving car in 2024 and, per iDrop News, 2022 will determine the future of Apple’s Autonomous EV project (specifically, whether the Cupertino, California-based company will be able to meet that target date for the release of the “Apple Car”).
Exploring A (Strange?) New World
In an editorial from February of last year, Wired noted that a few years ago, Apple had reportedly retreated on its efforts to develop a self-driving car but credible sources have reported since then that the Cupertino, California-based company was now serious about making its “Apple Car” happen, with multiple sources reporting that Apple’s autonomous EV project had been placed, “back in gear” (as it were).
Notably, included in that editorial was an excerpt of an informal interview with Wired from 2011 (the year that the late co-founder passed away) where Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, opening up the subject of the Cupertino, California-based company’s future, rhetorically asked the question, “Where should we go next?” Apple’s (then) chief executive officer told the magazine that people kept asking him if the company was going to design a car. “If I were 10 years younger and healthier, I’d do it.”
In a separate (but related) story from the magazine published back in 2015, Wired noted that one takeaway from the Tesla experience was that “the car of the future” might best be seen as a software-driven “gadget” that is a complement to the same system that runs your smartphone, just another component in your connected life.
According to Wired, some people have even called Tesla’s EVs “an iPhone” on wheels. When you drive a Tesla, or even sit in one as a passenger, it’s immediately clear that the technology now at the center of our lives has finally been integrated into cars with its dashboard providing access not only to the car’s functions but to the connected world around it.
Wired indicated that the key factor to Apple’s success with the “Apple Car”will be whether it can produce something that transforms the concept of what a “car” is. This, per the publication, might be a challenge because, essentially, Tesla has already done this. However, as the magazine pointed out, an Apple-branded EV (one which features autonomous automobile technology) may not be a sure thing but, if it does happen, hopefully it will reflect the earth-shattering rethinking that Jobs himself brought to the personal computer, digital music players, and smartphones (e.g., the Mac, iPod, and… iPhone).
Related Reading: from this column’s story archives (August 2021) – “Could Smart Clothing Be The Next Wearable Technology Apple Innovates Within The Lucrative Wearables Space?“