There’s been a lot of speculation that Apple is getting serious about building a car. And Apple’s modus operandi of taking hardware and software that have been traditionally difficult to use and simplifying them looks tailor-made for an assault on the automotive industry.
Over recent months, lots things have been happening. Apple has been making several significant hires from the automotive industry. Today, the news is senior Fiat Chrysler executive Doug Betts has joined the team at Cupertino, in addition to the recent recruitment of Paul Furgale, one of the leading European autonomous-vehicle researchers.
All of this falls into a project that’s been codenamed ‘Titan’ within Apple.
Titan is headed by product designer and former Ford Motor Co engineer Steve Zadesky. Zadesky was given permission by Apple CEO Time Cook to create a 1000-person team and recruit employees from other parts of Apple to get Titan off the ground.
The newly assembled team suggests Apple is looking at a couple of different angles when it comes to cars.
The addition of Betts to the Titan team suggests Apple is investing in building its understanding of what it takes to build a car. Betts’ focus at Fiat Chrysler was on quality systems – something Apple on which is highly focused. A look at the build quality of the Apple Watch is testament to that.
I highly doubt, however, Apple is actually going to launch a full automotive production. Apple’s manufacturing DNA is around developing great manufacturing processes with partners. If Apple wants to build a car, it will likely look to partner with an established carmaker.
My expectation is Apple will develop an automotive control system that it will license to car manufacturers. To date, CarPlay – Apple’s in-car entertainment platform – has not set the world on fire and is largely focused on entertainment. However, with autonomous cars now a reality as well as many assistive technologies for drivers, Apple’s expertise in creating user-friendly systems could see it create a Car OS that interoperates with iOS and Watch OS.
The big picture
Back in the 1970s, Microsoft’s mission was to put a computer in every home. And that goal has largely been accomplished. In the process, it decimated its opposition and became the dominant player in desktop and mobile computing.
Apple’s play today is not that different to Microsoft’s from that era. Rather than being focused on the hardware, however, its strategy is on being the platform.
HomeKit, HealthKit, Apple Pay, Watch OS, iOS and, now, Car OS/Titan point to an Apple that plans to infiltrate almost every element of our lives. Whenever and wherever we flick a switch, go somewhere or pay for something, Apple wants to be part of the experience.
The question remains – is this going to be a good thing?