What would an autonomous Apple Car mean for Tesla?
I’m not sure what podcasts Elon Musk listens to. But I hope he caught Kara Swisher’s “Sway” today, because it definitely concerns him.
Apple CEO Tim Cook joined Swisher and the two discussed, among other things, the mysterious Apple Car.
Details are scarce and I’ll be right up front: Cook didn’t give away anything big or make any firm statements. But he did dance around the topic enough to leave a few impressions behind.
For starters, speaking about the Apple Car, Cook told Swisher:
The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view. If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does.
We already suspected the Apple Car would be an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle, but it’s always nice to hear Cook confirm that. Unfortunately when he talks about how you can “do a lot of things with autonomy” it muddies things back up again. The company still hasn’t revealed if the Apple Car is going to be a passenger vehicle, a delivery van, a robo-taxi or shuttle service, or something else entirely.
Luckily Cook dropped another juicy tidbit – though it may have been unintentional. He brought up Elon Musk and, if you ask me, that tells us who he thinks the competition is: Tesla.
Here’s the quote:
I’ve never spoken to Elon, although I have great admiration and respect for the company he’s built. I think Tesla has done an unbelievable job of not only establishing the lead, but keeping the lead for such a long period of time in the EV space. So I have great appreciation for them.
Is it just me or does that sound like the kind of thing Apple could have said to the world’s top MP3 player manufacturer a year or two before it released the iPod?
On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine a vehicle that surpasses Tesla’s in form and function. We don’t need to go any faster than they can go, they’re drop-dead gorgeous, and they’re relatively inexpensive to purchase while being environmentally friendly.
But, on the other, Tesla hasn’t really done much in the way of autonomy. It’s almost laughable that the company calls its software “Autopilot” and “Full Self Driving” when you consider that both require an attentive driver behind the wheel at all times.
It’s very easy to imagine Apple’s AI team coming up with a product that puts Tesla’s paltry autonomous offerings to shame – don’t forget that Ian Goodfellow’s at Cupertino now.
And, realistically, Apple doesn’t have to beat Tesla at making an EV. In fact, it’s likely Apple won’t even make its own vehicles at first. I’d wager the company’s still pursuing another manufacturer to work with after a reported Hyundai-Kia deal fell through.
It just needs to make good on the promises Tesla’s failed to by giving people a car that safely drives itself or offering a robo-taxi service to the general public.
In a winner-takes-all battle for the driverless future, who would you put your money on?