Apple Car will be as disruptive to transport as combustion
Let’s get something out of the way directly: When Apple introduces the Apple Car it will begin the most disruptive change cycle ever to have hit the post horse transport industry. The concepts it introduces will accelerate deep industry change at a level Tesla can only aspire to.
In front of the rear-view mirror
We know the car companies are worried. You can always tell when people are worried when they claim not to be concerned, or try to position themselves for a little reflected glory as Hyundai execs recently did, or – as in the case of Daimler – when they admit to being concerned.
“There will be intense competition,” Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach.
“When an industry goes through transformation, I think it’s natural that new players look at the industry,” he said.
He also warned these changes will be wrought across the next decade. Daimler, like most car manufacturers, is developing its own autonomous and electronic vehicles, but most of these still look – and act – like cars.
Because, like Tesla, existing incumbents seem to have resisted deep analysis of what a car actually is.
Meanwhile we hear that Apple has reached deals with Magma and LG to manufacture the Apple Car, and that it may be driving on our roads sooner than we thought – perhaps even as soon as 2025.
The thing is, when is a car, not a car?
What is a car?
Consider the nature of Apple:
- When it launched the PC, did it emulate the computers that existed at that time? No. It developed a brand new graphical user interface that has become the standard for computing today.
- When it introduced the iPod, did it simply emulate the music players around at that time? No. It exceeded them, built an ecosystem for its product that answered a real need at that time (legal access to digital music) and re-defined – and dominated – its category.
- When it introduced the iPhone, did it simply create a product that did what other mobile phones did at that time? No. It reassessed the user interface, thought deeply about what a phone could be and reinvented the category to the extent that all phones sold today (pretty much) use the same essential paradigms.
- When it introduced the iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, did Apple simply match expectations based on what already existed, or did it strive to reinvent the category? Did it, in the words the company uses almost every time it’s asked, enter these categories because it had ideas as to how to make a difference?
So, why would it be any different when it comes to cars?
We know Apple has been tinkering around every single aspect of what makes a car.
It has looked at every tiny component to see where it can add value, change an idea, improve on a concept. We know this because of the occasional patents that have snuck out alongside all the customary rumor and scuttlebutt.
Why is it doing this?
Not because it wants to invent the car. But because it wants to reinvent the car.
What is the future of cars?
It will be asking questions like:
- What is a car? What does it do?
- Who is it for? Who needs one? Who wants one?
- When do they need cars? Where to they keep them? Why do people want cars and what needs to they fulfil? Have those needs changed?
- What is the future of cars? How does a vehicle sold now fit into the future world we will live in tomorrow?
- Where is the future of transport? Who is it for? Who does it serve? How will it work?
- What about the raw materials?
- Do cars even need wheels? (I guess that answer remains affirmative, but you just know it got asked). What is in car intelligence. What technologies are required to make this work? (Low-owered Apple Silicon with built in machine intelligence, mapping tech and LiDAR, for example.)
Hopefully you get my drift.
No one else is approaching the business in this way.
Billions dollar questions
Apple has spent nearly a decade exploring these questions and building – at least on paper – answers and solutions to those matters. You don’t keep hundreds of people on teams without setting them to work.
I’m guessing that right now at Apple hidden somewhere is a vast, long executive summary of everything the company has questioned and every answer it has found so far. That summary has cost billions to create.
And somewhere filed with that summary will be a cover letter with a short description of what the future of transport is going to be.
Because that’s the car that Apple will want to build.
Which is why when Apple introduces the Apple Car it will launch the most disruptive change cycle to have hit the transport industry since combustion. Even Elon Musk may lose a little sleep.
And I think it will be rather exciting.