Like Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster, rumors of Apple cars never seem to die. But unlike Sasquatch and Nessie, at least Apple has a variety of verified scenarios to test its self-driving technology, albeit in production vehicles.
The concept of the Apple car has been circulating for more than a decade since the death of Steve Jobs, with company executives and board members expressing a vague vision of a respected company co-founder for entering the automotive business. But it was his successor and current Apple CEO Tim Cook who took the reins of the floor company and led the development of a vehicle.
Cook gave the green light to Titan’s project to build an electric car in 2014, and former auto industry figures such as former Ford executive Doug Field, associate Ford engineer Steve Jadesky and Mercedes-Benz North American R&D Honcho Johan Jungworth – who have since left.
Cook even traveled to Germany in 2015 to meet BMW Brass, and Apple executives went to Leipzig to test the production of the Automaker’s i3 EV.
The iCar rumor mill gained new momentum last week when it was revealed that Apple had hired 31-year-old Ford veteran Desi Uzkashevich, the latest in a revolving door of automotive Axis joining the company.
I won’t go into detail about Project Titan’s tortured twists and turns because it has been diligently documented by tech sites like AppleInsider. Suffice it to say that despite hiring – and losing – top automotive talent, Apple is still not building a car. And I believe it would be a huge mistake for Apple to make a car or even make it for others.
There is the obvious flaw in engaging in a high-value, low-margin business involving complex supply chains, decades of need to support legacy products, including parts and services, and the toughest control in virtually any industry. Compare this to Apple’s current cash-cattle business that develops and sells products and services that have a highly regulated and supply chain, with quickly designed obsolescence, product life span of several years, and relatively light regulatory load.
With a market cap of about $ 2.5 trillion and more than $ 200 billion in cash stash, Apple has the resources to carry out attacks on automated officials – even against Tesla. Due to tectonic changes in the automotive industry, the timing is right, rewriting the rules of engagement with electrification changes, and the growing importance of software in Apple’s power.
But heaps of money and technical skills do not translate into automatic success. Just ask Google, which tried and failed several years ago to build its own car.
Google’s Firefly purpose-built self-driving car without the steering wheel or pedals, pictured above, was unveiled in 2014, and in that year Google created an all-star roster to create 100 automobile suppliers, including Bosch, Continental, Nvidia and Roush. A Detroit-area convenience vehicle.
Although Google has called Firefly “an experimental platform” for its self-driving technology, evidence suggests that the company planned to mass-produce the car. I spoke to Samir Salman, CEO of Continental’s North American unit at the time, and he indicated that the mega supplier was “working with Google to provide our services and knowledge in terms of components and systems technically”. “We are supplying brake systems, tires and body controllers, and interior electronics.”
But Waymo, the autonomous-vehicle technology subsidiary Google that was created in late 2016, bought Mothball Firefly and later thousands of Chrysler Pacifica PHEV minivans and Jaguar i-Pace EVs. It has since integrated its self-driving technology into vehicles and become one of the first companies to operate a fully autonomous ride-sharing service.
By 2018, Apple’s plans to build an iCar were scrapped in an agreement with Volkswagen to convert the automaker’s T6 transporter vans into autonomous shuttles for workers on the company’s new Silicon Valley campus. That plan has also failed since VW invested 2.6 billion in Ford-backed Argo AI with its new ID. The lightning electric minivan was later set to be a ship for Argo’s self-propelled technology.
Given all the ups and downs of Apple’s Project Titan, I’m surprised that the company doesn’t see car manufacturing as a quick sand money pit – and it would be best to focus on providing much-needed software services in the auto industry. Apple CarPlay.
But Google has beaten Apple through its Android Automotive OS, which is gaining traction. Also, as annoying as the Tesla-Stans can be, imagine what it would be like to deal with Apple car fanboys and girls?