Tired of the Apple Car story? This one’s for you.

From Lance Ulanoff’s “Apple Car Rumors Exhaust Me” posted Tuesday on Medium:

Project Titan is an apt name for an illusory effort to build transportation vaporware. The idea of Apple building or branding its own car full of Apple-engineered goodness is so big and exciting, it’s taken on gargantuan proportions.

I didn’t buy the idea five years ago. I’m not buying it now.

It’s such an attractive idea, though, “Oh can you imagine Apple versus Tesla?!!” that tech media and those who follow it literally try to will it into existence.

Reuter’s latest story may be the first to put a date on delivery of the Apple Car (or iCar, which is just too close to “iCarly”), and adds tantalizing details like a remarkable “monocell” battery and that Apple will probably let someone else build the vehicle. It also notes that the Apple Car might feature LiDAR scanners, which isn’t much of a stretch since virtually all semi-autonomous vehicles have sensors to detect the road, lanes, other vehicles, and people.

Reuters hedges its bets, saying that the pandemic could push production out past 2025, which also means that they can ride the rumor for years. That is unless Apple pulls the plug on Project Titan.

My take: Ulanoff’s an old pro. You have to wait until the 12th paragraph for him to say “I could be wrong.”

14 Comments

  1. Robert Paul Leitao said:
    In my view, continued coverage of speculation Apple will release a branded EV suggests the public isn’t satisfied with the choices available in the market today. The EV market is wide open for innovation and the introduction of break-through technologies to propel the industry forward. If not Apple, what other enterprise has the resources and ingenuity to deliver the best and most advanced EV possible in high volume production? If anyone is tired of coverage of speculation Apple might enter the EV market, answer that question and maybe much of the speculation will go away.

    4
    December 23, 2020
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    The only technology to be developed that will further drive EV sales is a lower cost and longer range battery. Throw in rapid charge and ICEs are toast. Autonomous will come but isn’t required to make EVs a dominate player in personal transportation.

    The above puts nearly all mainstream ICE manufacturers on equal ground.with today’s leader in EV sales – Tesla, because they have scale ability.

    Tesla, because of its brand in the EV market will lead market share in higher end vehicles, making it possible to be a major player in mid-priced EVs.

    1
    December 23, 2020
    • Robert Paul Leitao said:
      Gregg: Outside of a handful of states, EV sales are negligible as a percentage of total vehicle sales. The market is wide open for innovators and the current limits on range further compound the challenges. The majority of vehicles sold in the US are light trucks, not passenger vehicles. Although the EV market will become an increasingly crowded space with the European car makers just now entering the market, there’s plenty of opportunities for disrupters from outside the current vehicle market to make entry. Like I’ve said, I won’t “bet” against Tesla, but I’m willing to “wager” on Apple.

      1
      December 23, 2020
      • Gregg Thurman said:
        there’s plenty of opportunities for disrupters from outside the current vehicle market …

        Like you stated earlier, there is a very limited number of disrupters with the financial clout to disrupt.

        The only one I can think of with a reasonable chance IS Apple, which means Detroit, Germany and Japan will sooner or later catch up with Tesla.

        Apple disrupts by changing the technological paradigm. We’re only talking about changing the mode of powering a vehicle, and the limiting factor here, for a paradigm shift, is range and cost. All other elements of vehicles (of any kind) remain virtually the same.

        When battery tech approaches the range of ICEs the war is over.

        1
        December 23, 2020
    • David Emery said:
      As someone who has done safety-critical software, I don’t completely agree with “batteries as the only challenge.” Not only is autonomous driving still an open problem, the verification and legal issues associated with autonomous vehicles are still Wide Open.

      At least for aircraft, we know (a) who the certifying/approving authority is (FAA) and (b) the standards for development and verification (e.g. DO-178c, DO-248a) Now Boeing has demonstrated real problems with how they’ve executed that system recently along with FAA failings, but it’s still a very much more mature system than we have for autonomous vehicles.

      (I told my friend-the-General, who has substantial experience in software development, verification and procurement, that establishing an agency for autonomous vehicle certification would be a great Retirement job for him 🙂 🙂 )

      4
      December 23, 2020
  3. Bart Yee said:
    Wait, there’s no exhaust on an electric vehicle.

    Two paragraphs caught my attention:
    “You choose a car brand because of its reputation and the features they provide. Tesla built its brand and market position on the strength of all-electric features, luxury-like amenities, build quality, service, performance, and range. And it’s built a leading position in the electric car market through, for better or worse, the sheer determination of Elon Musk.” Some contradictions there.

    “However, making a viable Apple Car business will take years. The decade-plus effort to win the hearts and minds of, primarily, Tesla fans will be arduous and frustrating. And by the time Apple finally ships its first “Apple Car,” it’ll be entering a much more crowded electric car market with far more affordable options from car companies with decades of traditional car sales experience.”

    Uh, it’s taken 17 yrs & billions for Tesla to reach today. Apple is 5 years in, if they want to do this, seems to me give them 10 years at least.

    1
    December 23, 2020
    • Bart Yee said:
      Also, has Apple ever cared about a crowded marketplace, entrenched competitors, or critics saying Apple is stepping out of its core expertise?

      Apple partners, acquires talent, uses leading tech from others, and learns, learns, learns. Apple integrates, iterates, innovates with long term goals in mind. People and critics continue to be iPhone counters, “Apple is only a hardware-computer-iPhone company”, short term 1-2 year viewers. That’s why they don’t run a company like Apple and Tim Cook, Jeff Williams, et. al. do.

      2
      December 23, 2020
  4. John Konopka said:
    He is overstating Tesla’s position. They produce barely 0.5M cars a year, if that and maybe break even or make a small profit. Without government subsidies they lose money. This number of sales is a rounding error for Toyota. Tesla’s have lots of problems with fit and finish. I don’t see that there is any stickiness with Tesla except Musk’s reputation. Tesla may keep a niche position like Porsche, but I don’t see them taking a dominant position.

    1
    December 23, 2020
    • Rodney Avilla said:
      ” I don’t see that there is any stickiness with Tesla except Musk’s reputation. Tesla may keep a niche position like Porsche, but I don’t see them taking a dominant position.”
      As a Tesla owner for 2 yrs I have never met a Tesla owner that didn’t love their Tesla, although I’m sure they are out there. I can’t see myself ever buying an ICE car again. Until other companies can come up with rapid charging, they can’t compete in the same space. Dominant position? They already have one in the EV category. I don’t see anyone coming close in the near future. And, by the way, I am definitely not a Musk fan. I would love Apple to buy Tesla and send Musk on a one-way trip to the moon.

      1
      December 23, 2020
  5. Tommo_UK said:
    The way I see it, until there’s a huge price/performance advantage to be had in the EV market Apple will use it to stay on the bleeding edge of research and ensure it is vertically integrated enough to launch an EV if and when it is opportune to do so, but otherwise stay on the sidelines while the EV infrastructure and ever-changing environmental policies along with government support are still raw and in the making globally.

    Just like Apple waited about 3-4 years longer than I expected to move at least a lower-end MacBook to ARM architecture, in hindsight waiting until their cheapest model, the basic MacBook Air, could totally roast intel-driven laptops costing 3x as much with a distinct roadmap to transition its entire computer line-up to M-chips was a smart move and absolutely flawlessly executed.

    If you’re sick of hearing about Apple Car rumours, just think about how much expertise and innovation Apple is benefiting from by being on the leading edge of frontier-technology, consumer trends, and integrating them. The trickle down into their product line up of innovations from working the automotive sector and understanding consumer needs in a more holistic sense as a result along with gaining AR expertise too is invaluable.

    Even if Titan remains a research test-bed, its value is likely incalculable in terms of the R&D benefits Apple can deploy elsewhere in its current and future products.

    Look at the camera on the iPhone 12 and LiDAR sensors. Straight out of a futuristic sensor and AI analytical array an EV with autonomous capabilities would require.

    2
    December 23, 2020
    • David Emery said:
      My friend-the-General and I were talking about this. What’s that point where EVs take over? 500mile range and $35k price tag?

      2
      December 23, 2020
      • Bart Yee said:
        400 miles and today $40,000 would be a good entry point. Lots of people are driving moderate sized luxury cars and SUVs which hold 20 gal. fuel and get 20mpg city (or less). The only way they’ve increased range is incremental engine / drivetrain efficiency and larger fuel tanks, aero certainly hasn’t improved. Very much the same for Med. Sized pickups.

        IMO, Large to very large SUVs and full size pickups are an American idiosyncratic obsession fueled by testosterone, cheap oil / gasoline, inability for large occupants to fit in other vehicles, and certain real and specific use applications for maybe 40-60%. The rest are driven mostly empty of major cargo loads a majority of the time in urban areas particularly. However, cheap oil (under $60-70/bbl) is likely to persist for years w/oil producers coming back w/more supply to help their economies recover, OPEC or no.

        1
        December 24, 2020
    • Bart Yee said:
      @Tommo The benefit for Apple of waiting is the build out of key charging station infrastructure, becoming more numerous and equipped w/various power connections, voltages, and charging rates. At some point States, the Fed, or the market will force distillation of charging systems to maybe 3-5 total. At that point, charging stations become less proprietary and more general. As demand increases, then ROI becomes more likely and independent chargers may sprout up.

      Frankly, I’m surprised that oil companies with large stations footprints haven’t decided to install and offer EV charging. IMO, the cost is relatively cheap, and the real estate issues are already paid for.. Why they haven’t pushed to become energy companies (can’t control supply directly unless they sell a ton of natural gas) and disrupt themselves before someone else does.

      3
      December 24, 2020

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