Apple’s ultimate goal of “building a car”: no human driver, no exhaust emissions

This is a trillion-dollar automotive revolution, and Apple is already involved in it.

Apple's ultimate goal of "building a car": no human driver, no exhaust emissions

Now that cars are essentially shifting toward “smartphones on wheels,” it’s no surprise that Apple is trying to enter this space. The first major shift in the automotive industry since its inception was from the internal combustion engine to the electric motor, which involved far fewer mechanical parts. Now, a second shift is underway, toward a self-driving future.

For a century, automobiles have been mechanical systems capable of interoperating with each other, including systems such as engines, transmissions, driveshafts, and brakes. As these mechanics evolved, electronic sensors and processors were introduced to assist the mechanical systems, but the big idea about the car remained virtually unchanged. The result is that cars with dozens or hundreds of specialized microchips still can’t talk to each other.

Since automakers are turning to features like motors, sophisticated entertainment systems and adaptive cruise control, cars need central computers to control all of these things. So why can’t a computer control all the systems in a car? At the hardware level, this might just mean using fewer chips to handle more of the car’s functions. However, it has far-reaching implications for what the cars of the future will be capable of, how automakers will make money, and who will survive and thrive in a global automotive industry that we can’t identify today.

No one inside Apple has revealed its specific plans, but the company has been considering a place in the automotive industry for years, spending huge amounts of money to hire hundreds of people and then eliminating their roles when priorities change, hiring other engineers with similar skills almost as quickly, and then firing the ones who don’t fit, all in pursuit of an ultimate vision that remains mysterious.

Apple also recently approached automakers, including South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. about a potential manufacturing partnership, but the talks then ended in failure. Apple will likely continue to experiment as usual until or unless it finds something it thinks it can do better than anyone else.

We’ve seen enough feedback in the supply chain that we know Apple is really investigating every detail of automotive engineering and car manufacturing, but no one knows,” said Peter Fintl, director of technology and innovation at Capgemini Engineering Germany. whether Apple is creating a car, a technology platform or a mobile service.” Capgemini Engineering Germany is a subsidiary of a multinational company that has relationships with dozens of automakers and component manufacturers.

Many other technology companies, including Intel, Nvidia, Huawei, Baidu, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet, are also entering the often conservative and relatively low-margin field of automobiles and their components. Meanwhile, traditional automakers such as Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Daimler and Volkswagen, plus automotive suppliers such as Bosch (Bosch), ZF and Magna (Magna), are trying to act like these technology companies.

Basically, each company is shifting its focus to software, and doing so by hiring like crazy. In the past year, nearly every major auto company has advertised that it wants to hire more software developers. VW, for example, announced in March 2019 that it would add 2,000 people to its technology development team. Meanwhile, the company has hired thousands of software engineers.

Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, a venture capital fund owned by Toyota Motor Corp. said, “Software is eating up the world, and cars will be the next target area.”

From hardware to software
Consulting firm McKinsey (McKinsey) partner, automotive software and electronic components experts Johannes Deichmann (Johannes Deichmann) said that today’s most complex cars have up to 200 computers, which are smart enough to control everything from engines and automatic braking systems to air conditioning and dashboard entertainment systems. These computers are made by a wide variety of suppliers and often run proprietary software, making them largely inaccessible even to automakers.

This modularity is a good idea in a way, for example, when building the Chevy Malibu (Chevy Malibu), does GM really need to know how the windshield wiper computer works? However, Deichmann believes that the proliferation of these self-contained processors has led to unsustainable complexity.

As you might imagine, Tesla has played an important role in pushing the automotive industry in new directions. Jan Becker, CEO of Palo Alto, California-based automotive software startup, says Tesla has pioneered the replacement of hundreds of small computers with a handful of more powerful ones since the birth of the first Model S. Systems that used to require dedicated microchips now run in separate software modules instead.

That’s why Tesla can add new features to its vehicles through “over-the-air updates,” Becker added. Want faster acceleration, longer range, an enhanced Autopilot system or in-dash entertainment? Tesla has proven that they are only one software upgrade away. This is very similar to the model we’ve come to expect from continuous software updates for mobile devices.

Hot on their heels, automakers are scrambling to develop or commission their own full vehicle operating systems. Fintel of Capgemini Engineering Germany says the field is still wide open. NVIDIA offers its Drive OS; Volkswagen and Daimler have announced that they, like Tesla, are working independently on development, and Google is hinting that it is moving deeper into the automotive space with its Android Auto OS.

So far, Ford has remained focused on in-dash entertainment and navigation features, but the company recently announced that starting in 2023 it will use Android on the displays of all models sold outside of China, including the just-announced Ford F-150 Lightning, and will use Google to help manage the data collected from its vehicles data streams collected from its vehicles. General Motors is also using Android in its all-electric Hummer.

This is where Apple may have a tough decision to make: While it has the opportunity to use its vast software and chip-making expertise to create a next-generation platform for the highest bidder, the company prefers to make products for its own brand rather than parts for other companies. In addition, Intel (through Mobileye), Alphabet (through Waymo and Android Auto), Nvidia and others, are already implementing strategies to become suppliers to automakers.

Ryan Robinson, head of automotive research at Deloitte, says the enormous complexity and cost of building and delivering thousands of cars (not to mention millions) and ensuring their safety is precisely why so many tech companies are choosing to partner with car companies rather than trying to build them themselves.

This is despite the fact that analysts have consistently predicted for years that the big automakers would buy Tesla in the short term. But as it turns out, electric cars are more about software than hardware. And automakers aren’t yet good at developing the kind of software that today’s cars and drivers need. VW decided last June that despite years of development, the company had to delay the debut of its flagship electric car because its software wasn’t ready.

Apple Enters
“It’s a big mystery in the auto industry whether a prominent fruit company will get into the game,” said Dechmann, an automotive software and electronic components expert at McKinsey.

Apple already has a CarPlay In-Dash interface for the iPhone, but it is limited to features such as entertainment and navigation, and has nothing to do with the deeper integration and functionality needed for a true vehicle operating system. Apple has also shown great potential in designing the microchips and sensors needed for smart cars, although they are currently used primarily in iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple could build an operating system for the entire car and run it on its own silicon. But the company seeks to integrate vertically wherever possible to control every aspect of the user experience. The question, therefore, is.

Will the automaker let Apple treat itself the way it treated AT&T when it launched the iPhone? And then there’s the effect on music companies when it launched iTunes. In one fell swoop, Apple has turned the tide and taken control of a huge market and an important part of our lives.

In February, Apple’s talks with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company broke down, probably because Hyundai feared being merged under the Apple ecosystem. Immediately afterwards, Nissan signaled that it might be willing to work with Apple.

If there’s one tech company on the planet with enough resources to go it alone and build a new automaker from scratch, it’s undoubtedly Apple. But there’s no indication that’s the company’s goal. If Tesla is typical of that path, it’s not clear why Apple executives are willing to endure the convoluted process of building the manufacturing, testing and service capabilities required along the way.

If it’s unlikely that it will be able to provide intelligence for other automakers’ cars and compete directly with Tesla and all the other electric car startups, then Apple still has another option. Apple’s persistence in acquiring and developing software and hardware for electric self-driving cars may indicate its long-term ambitions as the auto industry gradually moves toward self-driving cab services. Would an Apple Mobility company, rather than an Apple car, make the most sense?

General Motors’ Cruise, Amazon’s Zoox and many other companies are already moving down that path. But since there is no such self-driving cab service yet, beyond Waymo’s limited experiments in Arizona, Apple has the potential to create something entirely under its control while also providing significant additional revenue for struggling automakers like Nissan.

Apple and other companies could design and commission their own brand of cars and run them as part of the service they provide without finding the actual manufacturer on those cars, Deichmann said. After all, Apple is not an electronics manufacturer. In fact, Apple outsources all of its manufacturing operations to Foxconn, which happens to be building its own automotive manufacturing capabilities.

Instead, Apple is first and foremost a customer-focused company, using its technical capabilities to develop products that contractors like Foxconn actually make. Coincidentally, deep technical expertise is exactly what Apple needs to achieve its vision of leadership. Since achieving fully autonomous driving is proving to be much more difficult than anyone expected, Apple could have plenty of time to develop its own services.

Apple could very well invest billions of dollars in developing electric vehicles and never release a product, or it could offer a product or service that ends in failure. Transportation may be so different in scope and complexity from personal and mobile computing that the only way to succeed is through the kind of large-scale collaboration that Apple is not known for.

Akio Toyota, chief executive of Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp, said in March that if Apple offers cars to consumers, it should be prepared to serve users for up to 40 years. That makes sense, especially if Apple’s ultimate goal is not just to build ordinary cars, but to replace the world’s current 1.4 billion cars with new cars that are fully self-driving, zero-emissions and revolutionize transportation. In other words, it’s a trillion-dollar automotive revolution, and Apple is already in on it.

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