One of the weird details in the WSJ report on the Apple electric car project yesterday was this bit:
Other Silicon Valley giants are looking at autos. Google Inc. has been working on a self-driving car for years. The head of Google’s autonomous vehicle project said last year that the company aims to forge a partnership with auto makers to build a self-driving car within the next few years. A self-driving car is not part of Apple’s current plan, one of the people familiar with the project said.
This morning’s Reuters report contradicts the earlier WSJ report saying that Apple’s electric car will be autonomous.
“It’s a software game. It’s all about autonomous driving,” the source said.
That makes a lot of sense. In 5 years, many cars will have some level of autonomy built in. In 10 years, most cars will be autonomous. Every major automobile manufacturer and most big tech companies see the huge potential here and are actively investing in R&D.
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Google and Tesla are the most obvious leaders in this field. Google’s Autonomous car project is well on its way. With public demonstrations already happening and Google lobbying governments for legislation to allow for autonomous driving, the groundwork is already being laid out.
Doug Field, a former Apple executive, demonstrated Tesla’s autonomous driving to me a few months ago (along with an insane 0-60mph time). Tesla expects to have at least partial autonomy in its cars within a year and its cars coming off the assembly line already have the hardware on board to do a lot of this.
Reuters also notes that Apple is talking to automotive manufacturing suppliers which would indicate that they’ve moved beyond the theoretical and are now on to the physical aspects of building a car.
Technology giant Apple AAPL.O is learning how to make a self-driving electric car and is talking to experts at carmakers and automotive suppliers, an automotive source familiar with the talks said on Saturday.
The Cupertino, California-based maker of phones, computers and watches is exploring how to make an entire vehicle, not just designing automotive software or individual components, the source said.
“They don’t appear to want a lot of help from carmakers,” the source, who declined to be named, said.
Apple is gathering advice on parts and production methods, the source said, adding that Apple appeared not to be interested in combustion engine technology or conventional manufacturing methods.
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