Apple is not building a car, duh
LANCE ULANOFFAug 24, 2017
I told you Apple would never build its own car.
Okay, maybe Apple wanted to. There was enough smoke around the multi-year Apple Car rumor mill to indicate a fire, somewhere, but the arguments I made in 2015 still hold true.
I outlined six reasons why Apple wouldn't build a car:
Lack of automotive expertise
Margins and dealerships
Not the Apple way
Steve Jobs was not really a car guy
As I saw it, the auto industry didn't need Apple. On the whole, it wasn't struggling: It has success, competition, innovation, and a thriving self-driving car race. The workforce and supply chain would be difficult if not impossible to control and Apple's lack of experience in this area meant it would have to learn a ton before it could even catch up to other companies -- even upstarts like Tesla, who are already building and selling the cars of the future.
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When Apple started Project Titan, I think it chose to ignore many of these realities and focused on reinventing the car experience inside and out. It seems to me that what happened along the way is that Apple ran headlong into most, if not all, of these automotive industry realities.
Apple isn't walking away from the car idea, but, as The New York Times reported on Wednesday, its ambitions are smaller and focused closer to home.
Instead of building the mythical Apple Car, Apple's making an autonomous shuttle system for its employees.
This isn't a terrible idea. Apple Park, Apple's new campus set to open this Fall, is on 175 acres. And there's still be some people working in the original campus who won't want to make the nearly mile-long trek between corporate offices.
The New York Times reports that Apple is testing but has not deployed this self-driving shuttle service, but I think I've seen the van, or something very nearly like it.
Earlier this year, an eagle-eyed Mashable employee spotted Apple's Maps Car driving through the streets of New York. It's festooned with LIDAR, ostensibly to capture street-level 3D imagery. However, LIDAR is a key component of self-driving vehicles, giving them the ability to see streets, other cars, people and more. In the photos, it almost looks like the driver is not holding the steering wheel, but that may just have been wishful thinking.
Is this the mythical Apple Car?
Is this the mythical Apple Car?
IMAGE: SAM SHEFFER/MASHABLE
In any case, it is fair to assume that the Apple Shuttle could look at lot like the Apple Maps car, but with, one would hope, more windows.
I imagine it's hard for true believers to let go of the Apple Car dream.
Ever since Tim Cook took over as CEO, the company has been dogged by claims that Apple is no longer innovating. Cook rarely gets credit for revitalizing (or at least legitimizing) the smartwatch category with the Apple Watch or, this fall, entering the smart speaker market with HomePod.
For them, the Apple Car (and to a lesser extent the Apple TV set) was the great white whale. They stood on the shores, waiting for it to peak its glistening head above the waves, for Apple to do something that would justify their belief in Apple's ability to reinvent yet another major product category.
But the Apple Car idea has always been more Don Quixote than Moby Dick. It was a hapless venture reportedly beset with problems and and lack of clear direction. The windmill of a fender-to-fender Apple-built car never got closer than a hazy dot in the distance.
As I watched Apple reduce the ranks of its car project and refocus its message, I grew more convinced that Apple was adjusting its car goals in the face on intractable realities, even as others insisted that every action Apple took that even remotely related to the auto industry was a clear sign that the Apple Car project was alive and well.
But it isn't.
The Apple Car dream is dead. It lives on as the Apple Shuttle, a smaller idea that, obviously, will allow Apple to continuously test autonomy and dashboard, interior and exterior hardware and design ideas in a controlled environment. It will leave the door open for -- no, stop, not a commercial Apple Car you can buy -- integration of Apple automotive and autonomy ideas into third-party manufacturer cars and autonomous mass-transit systems.
You see, Apple does have a role to play in the car of the future, it's just not the Apple Car of the future.
Now get over it.
Is this the final word on this topic