Thoughts on the Rumored Apple Car
Every few years, we hear about the vehicle that Apple is supposedly working on. It sounds like it’s gone from a skunkworks project to a fully-fledged product on the roadmap.
The Winding Road Here
The project is said to have had its leadership and its scope changed several times over its lifespan — which I’m sure is pretty common when jumping into a new product category.
From my (admittedly spotty) memory, the goal was originally to create a consumer electric vehicle like a Tesla and then scaled back to focus more specifically on autonomous driving technology1. The car is back in the rumors to be ready in the next handful of years as a product that a person could buy and drive.
Where To Next?
But if I were to make a bet about the future, I doubt that the thing Apple will eventually sell in this category will be a car that you can park in your driveway at all. I think it will be a new service altogether that ties the project’s winding history as a product and an autonomous system together. I foresee an Apple taxi service that manifests as a fleet of fully self-driving and unmanned cars to take customers wherever they want to go.
By introducing this type of ride-hailing service, rather than a car for people to own, Apple would avoid the messy business of showrooms, loans, and leases and the extravagant price that a “Designed by Apple in California” vehicle would undoubtedly cost. Apple could scale the service at their pace and only in the places that allow unmanned vehicles. And, since I imagine that owning an iPhone or Apple Watch will be required to access this service, Apple could design the vehicle’s features to integrate tightly, privately, and securely with their existing products and services.
A few possibilities:
- Listen to your Apple Music library and playlists automatically through the car’s high-end audio system.
- Easily route to your upcoming appointments, contacts, and saved destinations.
- Play a quick game from your Apple Arcade subscription, or enjoy a show or film from your media subscriptions on longer trips — all on large, high-quality displays.
- Catch up with friends and family over FaceTime using the built-in high-resolution cameras.
- Make requests through (hopefully a vastly improved) Siri
- And use Apple Pay for ride payments, of course.
On those payments — sure, you could pay for individual rides, but I would bet that you could sign up for “Apple Ride” as a subscription service for a tiered number of miles per month. Such a service would play nicely with the Apple One plans. Plus, since Apple owns the car, using the data gathered outside the vehicle2 would help keep Apple Maps updated and assuredly further their augmented reality plans.
Apple would still have to work out the logistics of vehicle cleaning and maintenance, but it could be done more discreetly and “magically” than if people needed to bring their own car in for service. Of course, the customer service aspect of sending vehicles out to be used, unsupervised, by anyone would also be a huge hurdle to clear.
Of all the big tech companies that could pull off a service of this kind, Apple seems the best positioned from a privacy standpoint to be successful. Would the public be okay with hopping into a Google or Amazon vehicle laden with security cameras? Perhaps. But I think more people would be comfortable in an Apple vehicle due to the security and privacy cachet that Apple has built up over the past decade.
As I consider the future of my vehicle purchasing decisions, I know that I desperately want to own a Tesla because of the raw power, appealing design, amazing built-in technology, promise of autonomous driving, and last but not least, the environmental benefits of an electric vehicle. But if I could, instead, hang on to my current vehicle (a Subaru Forester) when it’s paid off for especially long or demanding trips and put smaller monthly payments toward an ever-updating Apple taxi service that has those same benefits — I think I would.