Why Apple’s iCar is Treading Water

Project Titan, iCar, electric vehicle, self-driving cars. And then near-accidents with just barely avoided personal injury. For years, there has been rumblings about Apple’s efforts to develop its own car and thus bring the ultimate mobile device to the market.

The Information has published research in which Wayne Ma provides insight into Apple’s eight-year struggle to develop a self-driving car. And the picture he paints seems to be one of a lack of leadership, high staff turnover, a secrecy that’s been a hallmark of Apple’s culture, and very little progress. If you go through a list of Apple managers who have led the project, there seems to be a new person at the helm every few months.

At the same time, however, there is almost no leadership from the very top – that is, from Apple CEO Tim Cook. This is what distinguishes Apple from the days of Steve Jobs, who contributed one hundred percent to projects, set the vision and made decisions. Jonathan Ive, who originally took over Steve Jobs’ role after his death, has since also left Apple. The Titan project – codenamed T172 – seems to be considered such a hot potato among Apple managers that they are warning employees not to move to it.

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It doesn’t help that there seems to be little progress in autonomous driving. We’ve already noted this fact with amazement in disengagement reports when, for example, Apple reported 872 disengagements per 1,000 kilometers in 2018.

The article also confirms the over-the-top sensor equipment that was overkill in the second generation. 14 Velodyne LiDARs and other sensors on a Lexus SUV drove the unit cost per test vehicle up to a million dollars. And Apple had more than five dozen of them at the time, down to 37 in 2021. By comparison, a few months ago a two-year-old test vehicle based on a Lincoln MKZ with equipment from AutonomouStuff was priced around $200,000; the new price had been $400,000.

The Information also reports an incident in which a jogger was nearly run over had the safety driver not intervened and prevented the worst. In 2018, a Project Titan engineer noted that almost every minute, the safety driver had to take control.

What happens next is not entirely clear, given the details from the research. No clear vision, too frequent a change in leadership, too little progress, no board commitments, followed by regular job cuts followed by new rounds of hiring. And now add to that a move of the group from Kifer Road in Sunnyvale to Orchard Pkwy in San Jose. The adjacent streets are already home to WeRide, AutoX, Cepton and Rivian.

Reason for the move? An apartment complex is being built opposite the current Apple iCar parking lot, from which future residents could look in.

There are far more details about Apple’s – so far not much fruitful – efforts on The Information.

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Le dernier titulaire d’un permis de conduire est déjà né

L’automobile telle qu’on la connaît va disparaître. L’intelligence artificielle, la voiture électrique, la voiture autonome et l’économie du partage sont en voie de révolutionner l’industrie automobile au cours de la prochaine décennie. Cette révolution technico-économique affectera tous les domaines, pas seulement celui de l’automobile. Le dernier titulaire d’un permis de conduire est déjà né révèle les technologies perturbatrices qui prennent forme actuellement et propose une chronologie du moment où elles s’imposeront. L’auteur, chercheur en technologie, communique sa vision de l’industrie automobile de demain et l’impact sur les emplois notamment dans l’industrie automobile et pétrolière, l’environnement, les sciences, l’urbanisme, les hôpitaux, les services policiers et la sécurité, la politique, les lois, l’hôtellerie et la restauration, l’immobilier, l’économie mondiale et la société en général. Des dizaines de milliers d’emplois seront supprimés définitivement dans plusieurs domaines, mais la nouvelle économie en produira deux fois plus selon les experts. Découvrez comment ces bouleversements dans le monde des transports, notamment les robotaxis, affecteront vos vies, votre budget et comment vous y préparer, et pourquoi c’est une bonne chose.

This article was also published in German.

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