Apple Car: ‘Reboot’ does not mean ‘quit’

Apple's secret plans remain secret. (Image c/o Michelangelo Carrieri/Flickr)

Apple’s secret plans remain secret. (Image c/o Michelangelo Carrieri/Flickr)

What’s happening on the Apple Car team? Dozens of layoffs appear to have taken place across the team as the company changes its focus away from (apparently) vehicle design in order to focus on the ‘inherent technology’. So, does this mean plans for the car are dead? I don’t think so, particularly given some of the recent commentary reporting the company’s extended negotiations with car manufacturers.

I think the key is that Apple has so far been unable to find a way to mass manufacture the vehicle. This may change, but I reckon the company had to listen when the big premium brands resisted its attempts to woo them into building an Apple Car. Apple can’t sell a product if no one is able to build it.

Within this context it makes sense for the company to focus on the inherent technology to drive a connected vehicle while developing new partnerships with auto makers in order to enable the process of bringing these vehicles to market. I suspect the company will engage in limited partnerships with key auto manufacturers to get these things on the road and imagine it will also seek to create cars for specific industries — that big car sharing investment must means something. It is also possible the company plans some other kind of move to bring similar skills in house.

To my mind after years of R&D and a decision to assemble a development team in excess of 1,000 people suggests the company has had some confidence in the plans it has made — if at this stage it is reconfiguring these plans, then I think that will probably turn out to be a relatively smart response to the complexity of making such devices. These complexities aren’t just technological but extend to legal, ethical and logistical challenges, many of which will be very difficult to solve on a global scale. All manufacturers putting their toes into this segment are facing similar challenges at this time.

Apple’s project may be hitting a new gear but I very much doubt the project will be completely sidelined. After all, whatever happens the company has now amassed a huge body of knowledge that might inform development at a future time.

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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