I remember a quote from Tim Cook a while back where he said “it’s gonna be Christmas Eve for a while,” (referring to the anticipation before an announcement) when asked about the Apple self-driving car project. Yesterday, the chief executive dropped a bombshell when he confirmed that Apple is currently working on the AI technology rather than an actual driverless car. The Apple car is dead. All hail Apple’s AI technology which will power autonomous cars!
Competition in the self-driving car space
Apple’s roadmap to self-driving car system is uncannily similar to one of its rivals: Alphabet’s Waymo.
Waymo – formerly the Google self-driving car project, spun out of Google’s parent company Alphabet in December 2016. Originally, it began with designs to create a driverless car from ground up. Later, it steered towards developing a software and hardware package which could be marketed to automakers. Seems like Apple is moving in the same direction.
As far as we know, Waymo is speeding away in autonomous vehicle development. The most recent data shows the company has logged than 3 million miles, mostly on city streets. It is working with Fiat Chrysler on a fleet of minivans, and with Lyft to amass route-mapping data.
And for Apple, it’s still treading in uncharted waters. Apple is not working on a consumer-facing product. Even if it is, we cannot confirm. All we know is that the Project Titan will run on third-party vehicles, which the HomeKit allows.
Apple is uncharacteristically cagey about its self-driving car project. Cook did, though, point out that there’s more to Apple’s automotive designs. Electric cars, autonomous systems, and ride-sharing services are three vectors of change happening in the same time-frame.
Consumers Don’t Trust the Apple Car
Why keep things close to the vest, though?
Few companies are more secretive than Apple. At Cupertino, employees have been fired for leaking information to the media. Moreover, the company is known to spread misinformation about Apple products to its own workers. At times, Apple employees are often as surprised about new products as everyone else.
The prevailing communications secret has long served Apple well. Tech aficionados drool over Apple’s upcoming products. Don’t believe us? Just look at the massive hype leading up to the iPhone 8. But, this type of secret might not play well with customers, especially in the self-driving space.
As appealing as the prospect of Apple car is, people aren’t going to trust a machine behind the wheel. A study conducted last year noted that consumers don’t trust self-driving cars enough to ride in one. Trust only comes through familiarity. Unless Apple is willing is share its autonomous vehicle development, it’s a long way earning consumer’s trust.
Secondly, Apple has a late start in the autonomous cars arena. It is severely lacking situational data that could help prevent accidents like the Tesla car crash. Apple does have an autonomous car on California streets right now. But, it doesn’t have 3 million test miles, and that’s a major disadvantage.
Who will the consumers trust - Alphabet’s Waymo or Apple?