Apple’s autonomous ambitions

With much talk surrounding the layoffs at Apple’s Project Titan, my feeling is that the real end goal is not a car. Not an Apple designed, built and sold, physical device. I’ve felt this right from the beginning and have never been convinced they’re designing a car to sell like a Tesla.

Unlike the old strategy (services/ecosystem that sell devices), I think Apple’s new intentions are exactly the opposite, devices that sell services. The devices being cars, made by others. The service, I’m guessing will be autonomous capabilities for your favourite car, but on a services subscription basis. I even think that all autonomous driving systems will be subscription services. Those from Google, from Yandex, all of them. It just makes sense for a product that is in continual development and evolution.

Ultimately, I think you’ll choose your make and model then add a subscription for your favourite autonomous system. I believe that they’ll all have a common back-end interface (the manufacturer’s will impose it) so that customers can switch autonomous systems when the subscription runs out. Which, obviously begs the question, what if you don’t pay for it ? The car will become useless, just like a combustion car that is a brick if you decide to no longer pay for fuel.

Remember, by the time all-electric vehicles are the norm and the majority on the road, fuel costs will be so high that running a new-gun car will require recharging and an autonomous plan, which will be at a comparable rate to todays fuel costs. Remember, autonomy will have implications on insurance too. All this will be factored in.

However, a blocking point I can see that might stymie this strategy, is that for full autonomy to be integrated in to a vehicle, it would require deeper integration than is currently afforded for systems like CarPlay. The vehicle would need to have hooks to all of its internal systems (engine, brakes, gears, entertainment, comfort etc.) and I can’t see many car builders allowing that sort of intrusion.

31 January 2019, F.W.I