Why is Apple getting into cars
Rumors about Apple’s car project have been going around for at least 7 years now - the topic even has it’s own wikipedia page. The latest in the long series was the announcement by Hyundai that they are in talks with Apple to jointly produce a self-driving electric vehicle.
I don’t wanna get into all the reasons why this partnership would make a lot of sense, but a TL;DR version would go like this:
- Apple likes to design in-house and outsource manufacturing (your iPhone was made by Foxconn)
- Hyundai has a mature EV platform
- They also have the capacity to manufacture vehicles at scale
- Hyundai might be more keen to get the contract compared to bigger automakers, and so easier to squeeze on margins
It’s important to note that like any big company, Apple without a doubt has plenty ongoing research and development projects - their R&D budget was 19 billion dollars in 2020 alone. However, many of the projects will never become actual products - that’s just the nature of research.
That said, let’s speculate a bit what Apple Car might signal about general trends in automotive industry.
Vehicles are becoming an appliance
In many ways, EVs are vastly better than their internal combustion (IC) counterparts. They deliver better performance and comfort with less complexity and running costs. That is achieved by discarding most things that contribute towards car “character”. There’s almost no engine noise or vibration. There’s no gearbox - manual or automatic. The power delivery is instant and predictable.
Take that away and EVs have a lot less to compete on - you’re mostly left with design, features, range, and price. Safety and economy requirements leave even less wiggle room. Vehicles will still look somewhat different, but feel the same - kinda like fridges, TVs, or vacuum cleaners.
Experience as differentiator
Apple is good at taking a generic product and turning it into a special one. Macs weren’t the first computers, iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, Apple Watch wasn’t the first smartwatch, and so on. Apple sees cars becoming another potential platform for their ecosystem.
What’s more, once self-driving features become reliable enough, we will have a lot of time to kill on our trips. Better get in front of those bored drivers and passengers while you still can! Music, TV, News, Arcade - Apple has it all.
Competition is good for everyone
Even if you would never get the Apple Car for yourself, you might still benefit. Apple is an influential company that’s proven it can change user expectations. If they really get into cars, other manufacturers might be finally forced to compete on user experience. Considering that many modern infotainment systems still feel like a tablets from 2010, some healthy competition would be welcome.