Will the Apple Car be Revolutionary or Too Late?

Jefferson Graham-USA TODAY NETWORK
Jefferson Graham-USA TODAY NETWORK /

With rumors swirling that Apple is working on building its own autonomous car, we wonder if it will be the iPhone or the Lisa?

As much as Apple has done to establish itself as one of the great innovators of this generation, the lack of anything new from the company is worrisome. With everyone pointing to the tech giant building its own car, you have to wonder if they can still be truly innovative with the project. Are they starting from scratch and going to build something completely new, or are they adapting existing designs and adding their brand?

When Apple introduced the iPhone it was a new design from the ground up. They did not look back at what has been working, they looked forward to what people are going to want and did not know it. The farther we have gotten away from the death of Steve Jobs, the longer its been since they introduces something truly new. As a matter of fact the long rumored Apple branded television never made it to market.

With the recent rumors of Bob Mansfield taking over the secret car project, it appears that the direction of the future car seems to have changed. According to Bloomberg, Apple has shifted to focusing on an autonomous car project. Rumors had the car coming out in 2019, then 2020 and now the scuttlebutt has it pushed all the way back to 2021. The shifting direction and lengthening release date is an example of the lack of leadership that the genius abilities Jobs had within the company.

History is littered with car companies that have tried and failed as revolutionary startups. Looking back none had the financial resources of Apple or the name recognition. The anticipation of anything Apple is a built in advantage that no manufacturer has ever had. The massive cash reserves and revenue streams that Apple has also ensures that no corners will be cut, or crucial decisions made due to costs. With this advantages though comes the pressure to succeed as no other has.

With the advances that other car companies like Tesla, BMW and Mercedes are making will Apple come along too late in the game to make a difference? Tesla’s autopilot is still in Beta but is a massive leap in technology. Mercedes has self driving cars on the road now. Google has adapted cars for autonomous driving already, but they are no where close to prime time. Given that Apple is looking at 2021 for its release, thats five more years of development and production time for the experienced car makers. 

Apple Car Play has been integrated into several car makers models, but the lack of overwhelming demand for it has to be a red flag. That is just the integration to the entertainment and navigation systems. Apple is king of personal entertainment devices and has improved greatly with their in house navigation systems. This should have been a slam dunk for Apple. We are talking about the design and manufacture of a complete automobile. Their lack of a partner in the development means they have to go through the hiccups of development alone. We are not just talking about systems management, but all the physical and mechanical characteristics and aspects of a car.

As a devoted Apple fan, even I am worried about the ability of todays Apple to be able to pull it off. I have two AppleTV’s in my house that I have long hoped would fulfill what they are capable of but have not. The bridge between ideas and production is navigated by leadership. Tim Cook is a great man, but it seems he is more focused on the companies roll in the world and politics than he does its greatness in the technology world. Steve Jobs was a master of getting from the concept to the product. Cook has hired dozens of talented people to work on the project, but the direction seems to still not be in focus.

The size of the investment Apple has made in the car project surely dictates that a product must come to market, but what will it be? Will it be the iPhone that we all found out that we wanted, or the Apple Watch that is just a good product in a crowded market? Until more details start coming out about what Apple is truly developing, we will not know but the longer it takes the more we have to worry. Tesla is well underway to producing the actual car that Apple is rumored to be working on.

Only time will tell if Apple can meet the challenge it has set for itself. Until then we are left to speculate an wonder what they are doing. Personally I hope that whenever they show off whatever it is they have developed it makes us remember why we fell in love with Apple all over again.