Parking in New York is a painful exercise. Cars here get more than their fair share of dents, dings, and curb rash. Driving through the city often can be more time consuming than public transportation. Then there’s the expense. Better than the answer to my question, ‘Why would I want Apple to build a car?‘ is the answer to this question, ‘Why does Apple need to build a car?‘
The ‘Whys’ Have It
One of the worst kept technology secrets of the past few years is, “Apple is working on a car.” That secret ranks up as high as, “Apple is building a watch” and “Apple is working on iPhone 7.” We all know car is coming. We don’t know when. We don’t know what it will look like. But Apple has the money and the technology chops to make it happen. But why?
Money and Stock – Apple needs to grow and it’s likely we’ve reached peak iPhone. Not that Apple won’t sell a few hundred million every year. Not that Apple won’t be profitable. But Wall Street loves growth to drive the stock price and shareholder value upwards (despite the fact that every company that grows to a certain size stops growing, or stops being profitable, or both– all of them). Cars in the 21st century as much technology gadgets as anything, so why not?
Because Cars – It has been said that Apple’s engineers designed the iPhone because all of them hated whatever so-called smartphone they owned at the time. It’s also been said that Apple’s designers and engineers created Watch because of the great respect they had for luxury timepieces. Watch helps growth, but at $6-billion a year in revenue, Apple’s wearable is a drop in the bucket compared to iPhone. What about Apple Car? It’s likely that Apple’s executives have a love affair with their various exotic or expensive luxury and performance automobiles, and want to exercise a similar effort toward an Apple branded vehicle.
The Future – If you listen to newcomer industry gurus they’ll be happy to tell you that nobody will own a car by 2025 and we’ll all go grocery shopping or to the mall or wherever in self-driving, mostly autonomous vehicles that we can rent by the hour. Uh huh. Sure. Oh, by the way, I live near my bridge in Brooklyn and I’ll be happy to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to you for a good price. You could set it up with a toll booth on both ends. It’s true that the future of automobiles will be more electronic than mechanical, but the future seldom happens the way we predict it will be. A self-driving, fully autonomous Apple Car that I could rent by the hour to be driven rather than drive? I don’t think so.
Tesla – If ever there was an Apple-like technology company, it’s Elon Musk and his Tesla operation. The car smacks of Steve Jobs and Apple. What better way for Apple to put a stamp on the industry that is migrating toward electronic gadgetry and software wizardry than to outdo what Tesla already did– build a car that makes people salivate, and part with a $100,000 without blinking an eye?
It’s Embarrassing – Co-founder Steve Jobs said the company was proud to say ‘no’ a thousand times for every time it said ‘yes’ to a new product or innovation. Maybe so, but everyone knows Apple has been working on Project Titan for a few years; Apple has hired automobile manufacturing engineers for a few years; Apple has shifted car leadership to a well respected and came-out-of-retirement hardware guru, so not only is something up, something wasn’t going right. If Apple ditches whatever its effort toward building a car has been, it will be publicly humiliating and iPhone 8 won’t save the day.
I understand the magic of a self-driving fully autonomous vehicle, and that might be the modus operandi of future personal travel, but it won’t happen in my lifetime. The technology just isn’t there. Yet. And maybe that’s exactly the challenging problem Apple wants to solve.