Once again, we find ourselves at the time of year when Apple predictably launched updated versions of the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. But, unfortunately, it's not a new smartphone with a crash-detection ability or an adventure-focused Ultra Watch that's exciting fans. Instead, it is the prospect of an Apple Car waiting on the horizon.
It's been 15 years since the iPhone was credited with changing the world, and many Apple fans are thinking bigger than smartphones and letting their imaginations run wild at the prospect of an Apple car that doesn't even exist yet.
Strategic Vision recently revealed the results of its annual survey of 200,000 new-vehicle owners. The stand-out stat this year was that Apple appeared in the results for the first time, with 26 percent saying they would "definitely consider" buying a car made by Apple. But more worrying for Elon Musk, 50 percent of Tesla owners declared they would consider an Apple car.
If you build it, they will come
News that 24 percent of consumers surveyed advised that they "love" the quality of an Apple Car that does not exist feels like a digital upgrade of The Emperor's New Clothes folktale. Although Apple has often been accused of having a cult-like following, there is no escaping the fact that millions of people worldwide will buy anything the tech giant releases regardless of the price. The Apple Mac Pro Wheels kit for £699 is an obvious example, but could an iCar finally become a reality?
The concept of an Apple car first came to light in 2014 with leaked reports surrounding the mysterious Project Titan. Everything from problems with self-driving tech to lack of an industrial partner and interest from mainstream audiences has been blamed for holding the concept back, but things appear to be changing.
A new version of Apple's CarPlay was recently unveiled, taking over the entire screen on car dashboards. But automakers are understandably nervous about the encroachment on every interface while leveraging vehicle and driver data. As a result, many analysts predict a potential turf war as big tech races dominate the connected car space and bully car manufacturers into relinquishing their brand differentiation.
However, recent reports suggest that Apple is not content with dominating dashboards, and an Apple Car could be on the horizon. In an interview with Kara Swisher last year, Tim Cook cryptically replied that Apple loves to integrate hardware, software, and services and find the intersection points of those because that's where the magic occurs.
After earning his stripes as VP of Hyundai's autonomous vehicle lab, Gregory Baratoff was quietly recruited to handle sense architecture for Apple. In another bold move, Apple also secured the services of Luigi Taraborrelli from Lamborghini to reportedly shape the Apple Car's design. Elsewhere, Ford veteran Desi Ujkashevic also joined the team.
However, the missing piece of the jigsaw seems to be finding the perfect collaborator to bring its Apple Car vision to life. There have been rumors online that EV startup Canoo's financial trouble could make it an attractive acquisition for Apple. But whether they choose to work with an existing automaker or go it alone is still purely guesswork at this stage.
The mystery and intrigue surrounding the concept of an Apple Car further fuels the excitement with hardcore fans for something that doesn't officially exist. Although Tim Cooke's coy and guarded responses show a reluctance to share details, he has yet to deny the project's existence. When these cagey responses are combined with the current recruitment drive, it's safe to assume that the tech giant is thinking bigger than in-car operating systems for other auto manufacturers.
The road ahead
Despite the excitement online about a nonexistent self-driving car, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman hinted that a fully autonomous electric vehicle won't be ready until around 2025. Sure, the industry is littered with many hard-luck stories of failed attempts. But Apple does have a reputation for wanting to be the best at making a product rather than being the first.
Looking back at our analogue past through a pair of innovative rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, it's easy to forget that Apple didn't create the first MP3 player, smartphone, or tablet. Instead, the tech giant's gift has always been about perfecting a product and the time coming to market. The fact that Apple is generating more excitement for a new vehicle than any other automotive company suggests the stage is already set and should serve as a wake-up call for the industry.
If you dare to gaze in your virtual crystal ball, we could see many drivers turning their back on traditional automakers and buying their next car from one of the biggest tech companies in the world. But the one thing we can be sure of is that choosing between Elon Musk's Tesla or driving around the safe walls of the Apple Ecosystem in an iCar will be a luxury that will be beyond the reach of most people.
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