Apple Confirms Self-Driving Car Project

In an interview with Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed Project Titan, Apple’s car project. Cook referred to this as “the mother of all AI projects.” While the project hasn’t been a well-kept secret, Apple’s public confirmation is noteworthy. Cook referred to the three specific areas: self-driving technology, the electrification of vehicles, and ride-hailing as “three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame.”

“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 AI projects actually to work on.” – Tim Cook

We wrote previously about Apple’s self-driving car project, but there hasn’t been a public statement as clear as Tim Cook’s comments today about Apple’s efforts on the car front.

At the end of the interview, Cook shared: “Autonomy is something that is incredibly exciting for us. We will see where it takes us. We are not really saying from a product point of view what we will do. But we are being straightforward in that it is a core technology that we view as important.” So, how will Apple turn the technology into a product?

“Autonomy is something that is incredibly exciting for us. We will see where it takes us. We are not really saying from a product point of view what we will do. But we are being straightforward in that it is a core technology that we view as important.” – Tim Cook

How Will Apple Go to Market? There are two ways we see Apple potentially bringing its car technology to market. The first option would be to partner with a manufacturer to bring an Apple-branded car to market. The second option would be to focus on developing software and implementing it across as many car platforms as possible.

  • Partner with a manufacturer. Apple could partner with a manufacturer to bring its own branded car to the market, just as they do with the iPhone and iPad. By partnering with a manufacturer, Apple would have design control over the product, and would be able to customize the user experience as much as possible. On the other hand, manufacturing a car is very different than manufacturing a smartphone. Apple could even acquire a car manufacturer to do this. Some think it makes most sense for Apple to acquire Tesla, but we have already written about why this is most likely a fairy tale.
  • Develop software for autonomous vehicles. Another option is for Apple to license its technology to current auto manufacturers for use in their vehicles. Apple could be the OS of the future for cars. This may be the more likely option. In order for widespread adoption of fully autonomous vehicles, cars would need to have hardware and software integrated into their design that would not only operate the vehicle, but also communicate with surrounding vehicles at all times. In this scenario, Apple would expand its presence in the automotive market significantly and further expand the halo effect of their product lineup into autos.

At the moment, Apple’s is likely pursuing both options under the R&D umbrella of project Titan. True to form, they’ll watch this market emerge and enter when the time is right – from both a product and a market standpoint.

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