What got me started on this angle was reading about a 3D printed car this weekend. We may be a long way from designing and assembling our own devices to be printed at home, but the technology is advancing rapidly and massive change is on the way. What is Apple’s role in the sea of change?
To Follow, Or Lead?
It is difficult to argue that Apple has not had an undue influence on modern technology over the past few decades. From the original Apple computer, to the Mac to iPod, iTunes Music, iPhone, and iPad, Apple has shaped and reshaped a number of technology industry segments.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is not the first to point out that massive changes are coming to the auto industry, and Apple isn’t leading the industry into the future. Yet. But it’s obvious that Apple is planning ahead.
It would seem like there will be massive change in that industry, massive change. You may not agree with that. That’s what I think.
When asked where Apple will fit into that future, Cook responded coyly.
We’ll see what we do in the future. I do think that the industry is at an inflection point for massive change.
With self-driving, almost autonomous vehicles already on the streets, it becomes easier to see why Apple was so eager to dump Google Maps and take a trip down Do It Yourself Avenue. Accurate maps will be an integral component of future automobiles.
Cook is also quoted as wanting Apple to bring the iPhone experience to the car. Initially, that will be through CarPlay, Apple’s integrated methodology that works with car manufacturers in-car control systems. I think there’s more to the iPhone experience than a touch screen or Siri in the car.
Google has displayed some of their technology chops with a few self-driving cars. Already, some cars can navigate on their own down open highways and park themselves, thanks to built-in navigation controls, sensors, and cameras. Apple tends to take the best of today’s technology and mash them up into a blend that sets the standard for the future.
Allow me a moment to go down the road of bold predictions with a stop at the corner of conjecture and wish list. Here’s where I see Apple taking Apple Car.
First, the car will be electric and of the premium brand, not altogether different than Tesla’s Model S, a luxury sedan. What’s so special about that? The first version will also be semi-autonomous with self-driving co-pilot navigation controls for highway and city, thanks to an artful blend of sensor technology and micro-mechanics.
Second, the car will be green. Or, at least, as green as Apple or anyone else can make a car that doesn’t resemble a 10-speed bicycle. Green as in battery powered but also with solar panel roof, hood, and trunk to help keep the battery’s distance before recharging at unheard of levels.
Third, not only will Apple’s electric car look more modern and distinct than a Tesla, and certainly more luxurious than the electric toads that Google has driving around the streets of Mountain View, CA, it will also have all the connected creature comforts that are only beginning to appear in today’s most recent and modern cars; including voice technology, 4G LTE data connectivity (or, more likely whatever comes after that), self navigation, and more.
Think of Apple Car as an automotive version of the robot cars that appeared in the Will Smith movie, ‘I, Robot‘ but with an Apple logo in place of the Audi logo.
The question is not whether Apple will get into the auto industry. The questions are ‘When?’ And, ‘How?’ Apple has the money so it can buy the design, engineering, and manufacturing talent necessary to compete. When? And what will Apple do with the technology to differentiate itself from other more traditional manufacturers and future car makers?