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Apple May Be Surprising Us With It's Strategy For Cars

17 Apr, 2017
Apple May Be Surprising Us With It is Strategy For Cars

Apple is like one of those reticent movie stars who prefer to ignore gossip about them, rather than to comment upon the conjecture, to prove it one way or another.

And this mysterious demeanour works for them.

After years of conjecture on the issue, we (the outsiders) might have just caught a lucky break.

Some government documentation has let a little kitten out for the bag about Apple’s self-driving car, that provides the clearest indication yet, that Apple has plans for self-driving cars.

Even though there was no prior news of Apple having filed for a permit, yet the website of the California’s bureau of Driving Motor Vehicles (DMV) reflects that Apple has now received a permit for three Lexus RH 420h luxury hybrid sports utility vehicles to ply on public roads and undergo testing. With this permit, Apple is joining 29 other companies that currently have permits to run test vehicles in California.

The permit also authorizes six drivers to take charge of the vehicles, if necessary, during the course of this testing. In an interesting coincidence, Google too, in its early days, had used Lexus SUVs outfitted with cameras and laser sensors.

The laws for testing self-driving vehicles in California are quite strict, to a point that Uber, back in the day, had actually chosen take it’s vehicles to Arizona for testing instead of waiting for California to acquiesce. Uber did file for the permit and receive it eventually, and now also runs testing vehicles in California.

When we were discussing this internally at Chip-Monks, we realised that this sanction raised two big questions that we needed to find answers to:
One, what it means for Apple’s autonomous car plans, something that Apple has been infuriatingly secretive about, so far, and,
Second, what does it mean for autonomous car market?

The answer to the first of those questions is fairly simple: It means that Apple might finally be ready to reveal what’s it’s been doing in this flavour-of-the-decade industry.

In the past, Apple has been hiring automotive experts, particularly the ones who have experience in the field of self-driving cars. There has also been word that Apple has a project called Project Titan for their autonomous cars, but they have never acknowledged the existence of such a project. This grant of the permit could imply that Apple has made progress with this project and might be now ready to lift the blinds. ‘Might‘ being the key word there, though.

As for the answer to the second of those questions is concerned, that might be a little complicated.

The autonomous car market, at the moment, is working with two primary approaches. While players like Google consider autonomous cars to be a potential new market, where individuals would want to get their own cars, and it becomes another saleable product-revolutionary, yes, but saleable, as well.
They are joined in by brands like Tesla, which has already been making, and selling,self-driving cars, in different stages of automation, for a while now. Companies like Ford and General Motors, already existing automotive brands, view this as an extension of their already existing business.

On the other hand are the likes of Uber, which have an entirely different approach. Their focus is on eliminating the human driver, so that a car can function as a service, which can be availed, anywhere, anytime. So, basically, it will just be another cab, but it won’t need a driver.

Now, the entry of Apple might usher in a third approach – one of not wanting to build its own autonomous automobile, instead focusing on creating the software to enable these “pods”. Such software can be deployed in partnership with existing carmakers. And that is an approach that actually makes quite a lot of sense, for obvious reasons.

Car makers themselves do not have the necessary expertise for the software side of things; and, software makers in turn, do not have any expertise of designing and building cars.
Its an obvious paradigm; you can only be expected to know what you trade in.

Now, instead of expecting the former to walk the talk of the latter, or do the same with the latter, a better idea is to get them to work together.

In simpler words: car makers make cars. Software makers make software. Put the expertise of the two together in harmony, and they will deliver better results.

That said, we are not yet completely sure of what Apple is actually planning to do in this line. Whether Apple actually acts on this and puts some cars on the road is yet to be seen. They’ve been the ones to have bigger plans, and quite secretive ones at that, so the best thing to do is to wait for the coin to land before calling it a head or a tail.

Let’s just wait for the Wheel of Time to turn and see how Apple plays this.