There has been a lot of talks about Apple venturing into self-driving or autonomous vehicles. However, this news is nothing new. In fact, last year, I did a report on the Cupertino company scrapping Project Titan — their first foray into the industry.
Furthermore, Apple was also reported to have been interested in acquiring McLaren but later denied the claims. Now, there are new claims that Apple is indeed developing an “Apple Car.”
Unfortunately, what Tim Cook said was, “we’re focusing on autonomous systems, it’s a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on.”
He did not specifically say that Apple is developing or designing an Apple car from the ground up. Instead, it is more like a system that will be integrated into cars to make full use of autonomous driving.
That said, perhaps the questions we should be asking ourselves are “why now,”“why keep it secret,” and “should I trust Apple car with my life?” Well, there are a few trains of thoughts regarding Apple’s efforts on a self-driving cars. First and foremost is the market side of it.
In 2016 alone, Tesla has sold nearly 80,000 electric cars in the U.S. While most of you would say, “well hang on a minute, a Tesla is not a self-driving car”, my answer it, of course it is. The only reason why one will consider a Tesla as not a self-driving car is because Tesla does not want you to think of it that way.
Autonomous vehicles are still the subject of much scrutiny and controversy of late. Not a lot of people would trust a non-sentient being with their own lives. Germany even released a public statement on how they feel about Tesla’s auto-pilot feature and how unsafe it is on public roads. That is why, even though a Tesla is equipped with an Auto-pilot feature, most people, especially the governing bodies, will not consider it as an autonomous vehicle. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, it is and it always will be an autonomous vehicle unless you take out the Auto-pilot feature.
The next question is, “would I trust a machine with my life?” The thing is, this is quite a tricky question to answer. But for the sake of brevity, let us keep it with self-driving cars. On the one hand, I think that self-driving cars are really interesting. On the other, a machine that is made to think and assess a situation based on inputs from a group of human beings is quite questionable. Perhaps the actual question is, “do I trust other people’s judgement on what they think would be safer in a situation that I am in right now?” Then it gets even trickier. At the end of the day, these machines and their level of intelligence are still man-made. They are still not that fool-proof, as shown by the Tesla’s auto-pilot mishap last year.
Finally there is the question secrecy. In case anyone of you is paying attention, this strategy has worked well for Apple. Basically, what it does is make us feel that its products are worthy of being kept as a state secret.
Then, it will unveil, albeit indirectly, a slew of leaks that is enough to pique the interest of the public. Case in point is the upcoming iPhone 8. After the the very first iPhone released ten years ago, the iPhone 8 is perhaps the most talked about device from Apple. Everywhere you look, you will see reports about iPhone 8 this, and iPhone 8 that.
Don’t get me wrong, as a self-confessed Apple fan, it sure gets me excited. However on the subject of a self-driving car, it is rather different. A car is very different from a phone or a tablet. A car is something that people use and have come to accept that it may or may not take their lives at some point. For a consumer, if someone markets a vehicle as self-driving, I would want to know more about it. In fact, I would look into safety records that are publicly available and has been verified by a third-party institution to company.
Unfortunately, Apple does not have that. Or at least not yet as the company has been seen testing its version of a self-driving car. However, I firmly believe that at this point in time, there is no point for Apple to reinvent the wheel. There are surely a number of companies out there who specialise on autonomous vehicles and machine learning. For instance, NVIDIA. NVIDIA has a full line of products devoted for autonomous vehicles. Partnering with NVIDIA will be a far more logical strategy than Apple doing it on its own.
In hindsight, Apple has acquired quite a number of artificial intelligence or machine learning companies over the last few years. These companies are experts in big data processing that relates to machine learning or artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, if Apple wants to be the go-to company for self-driving cars, it would need to rack up miliage fast.
So far, Google and its sister company Waymo, have generated millions of miles of autonomous driving through its partners such as Lyft and Chrysler. Apple would need to pour in massive investments on the technology in order to get the Apple car level with the competition. For more tech updates, be sure to check us out at TheBitbag.