Random thoughts on Apple Car, part seven

»If Apple can successfully turn the car into a different kind of machine – one with cameras and sensors combined with a completely rethought interior, there would be dislocation not from the point of view of autonomous driving or car ownership models, but auto production.«
Neil Cybart, Above Avalon

Neil has been discussing Apple car for over a year now, starting with „Apple Wants to Design a Car as Ambition Knows No Bounds“ a year ago, and „Standing on Tesla’s Shoulders“ one year later.

In parallel, the unbelievable Jalopnik had a surprisingly thoughtful story on what Apple could draw inspiration from:

The 1957 Fiat Multipla was apparently bought by a ghost company belonging to Apple, and embodies the conceptual dream of an all-in-one car that was designed for its passengers and not aerodynamics or virtual performance.

Compare the idea of an all-in-one to the original iMac. The maxime there was simplicity. A computer that nobody should be afraid of using.

Simplicity may also be key for future automobiles, as they become more like robots: self-driving, auto-updating machines that talk to you.

Google knew that a self-driving car had to be friendly:

Tesla, however, is into robots and updated Model S to be self-driver over night.

Both Google and Tesla still think of a car as an aerodynamic vehicle, that drives in a certain direction (thus all passengers must also sit and look in that direction), and that offers certain exterior and interior styling that you choose at the moment of buying.

Now, I think it’s possible that all of the statements in the paragraph above will be different for the Apple car: It may not be aerodynamic as we’re used to in cars, it may not have driving-direction seating, and the interior will also change depending on who’s driving the car (legacy automakers still lack personalization at an amazing rate).

Here may be more design inspiration for the car:

San Francisco’s cable cars – a classic hop-on / hop-off design

Apple’s own retail stores – lately the one in Belgium designed by Jony Ive himself, with interior trees

The Istanbul, Turkey store has a ceiling unseen before.

The original iMac with its friendly face is a key exhibit of simplified Apple technology.

In sum, I agree with Neil on that one:

Begin […] to think of a car as a smart room on wheels […].

Previously published on Medium


Random thoughts on Apple Car, part six

That’s so true and obviously *the* key motivator for tech companies and especially Google to pioneer this. It’s their business model to sell ads against the use of digital media. The more usage, the more business.

The smartphone „revolution“ was huge, but it was a total sum of many many micro moments of internet usage, which haven’t been monetized before. With the car, it would be much longer strings of time as a whole that would turn into consumption.

The implications may be much different than with the smartphone: Where the iPhone enabled many short tasks like doing email, playing short game episodes, and things like Twitter. The car may be more about longer activities like productivity/work, watching movies, and shopping.

Whatever the consumption will be, there’s only so much time in a day – and self driving cars may open up one of the last big chunks of time that wasn’t open for business so far.


Random thoughts on the Apple car, part five

Apple wants to control the primary technologies behind its products. Many have cited manufacturing as being one of the most important areas ripe for innovation – historically it’s been a source of change in the automotive industry.

But what about the primary experiences alongside Apple’s products? What are they and can they control them?

With the Mac, Apple put an all-in-one computer onto people’s desks. It required a power source – not more. Only with the internet, Apple needed to start dealing with an experience-defining parameter from a third party it couldn’t control: You had to have an internet service provider, probably with a slow connection, making weird noises in the beginning, and you were visiting websites that may have looked broken or incomplete in Safari (because they were built for Explorer) and were taking endlessly to load in the first place.

For Apple, there wasn’t a lot to do about it, they could only make sure that the rest of your startup experience was getting faster – so you’d have a positive experience with the product and could easily tell who’s to blame for the bad parts.

With iPod, they started to solve ecosystem problems. After having the core hardware product, they actually tackled the whole process of browsing and buying music. We know now how that not only shaped the experience but the industry. It was clear who the bad guys were, but Apple saved us.

With iPhone, the bad guys were – from the start – the telecom providers. Starting with AT&T, they surrendered for the sake of being the first ones offering iPhone and played the bad cop in the customer experience equation. Slow connections, dropped calls, … everything was blamed on AT&T (and others later).

However, Apple also gave telcos an unimaginably strong new business: data plans. A virtual good that is virtually constrained and throttled unless you pay more – heaven for a service business, and an incentive to invest in better infrastructure.

The question for the Apple car is: What are the sources for bad experiences, can Apple involve them in making it better by offering them a great business they didn’t have before?

One example (there will be more):

The quality of roads will be essential to the driving experience of the Apple car. Why? Because it could be a differentiator to other cars, because they all need to go on the same roads.

Cars can’t go anywhere, and Apple’s cars won’t only go on rails like trains do.

But since they are (probably) selfdriving cars, the experience changes for the passengers.

When you drive on your own, and all the passengers look in the same direction, they see bumps coming, they see it coming when there will be a turn, an overtaking manouvre, or just breaking and accelerarion. They can anticipate.

When the car drives itself, there’s no need anymore to look into the same direction the car is going. You can do something else.

Since with more time you’d engage in deeper activities like watching a movie or reading or writing, you’d be more than subtly interrupted by bumps and turns. Imagine your Apple Pencil bumping off your iPad Pro that is on top of the table in your car. You wouldn’t be able to take notes or draw, without the risk of being disturbed by the ecosystem’s overall experience.

Because this problem may affect the user experience of Apple’s other previous products as well, it’s critical and needs to be solved.

So, what could Apple do to improve the roads its car will be driving on? (Maybe starting even before its launch…)

Previously published on Medium.


Random thoughts on the Apple car, part four

There is no steering wheel.

So how do you „steer“ in an emergency?

What you do when you steer is you move your hands. So, what you’d need to steer without a steering wheel is something to track the movement of your hands.

Say, an iPad that you hold in your hands like when you play Need For Speed.

Or, an Apple Watch right on your wrist that tracks your motion, like when you’re driving with one hand.

Previously published on Medium.


Random thoughts on the Apple car, part three

It is a box, a room, a cable car if you like.

It has four walls and a roof. The interior is as large as possible, with 90 degree angles. A floor, four straight walls with windows, and a roof.

The floor is made of batteries, easy to enter.

The walls have large windows that can be darkened, so nobody can look inside.

The roof is made of solar panels, recharging the batteries all the time.

There are no headlights or tail lights – the car drives itself with sensors and navigation; it doesn’t need light to see they way.

There is a door, obviously, or two – to enter the vehicle, and to manouvre large luggage.

The question is, what’s inside?

What do you need when you travel?

Something to sit down

Something to host your luggage

Something to put your travel accessories like readings, you everyday stuff like your smartphone and your wallet, as well as food and drinks

Something to host the waste

That’s about it.

To sit down, it has a couch. And a chair that’s right at a table in the middle of the car.

A luggage compartment, that can be expanded.

A table.

A wastebin, that can be accessed from the outside.

There’s also some inobstrusive lighting that you can control with your devices, and that reacts to the outside daylight.

Imagine the car as a tiny Apple Store, with a wood table, comfy seating, and free WiFi of course. Large windows, curved glass, bright interior. A place you want to spend at least an hour in. You can walk around, look outside, or sit down and work. You can recharge your devices, and of course you can shop – because you’re not driving.

It may help to imagine a modern San Francisco cable car, or a cable car from the mountains.

It may look a lot like a Mac mini or an Apple TV, with a basic square form factor that can be as wide and high as a truck – since our roads are optimized for these sizes.

Now, let’s talk about owning vs sharing an Apple car.

Obviously, car sharing is a big deal (if you also count Uber and Lyft). Daimler’s car2go and BMW’s DriveNow have shown that there’s a market for take-and-leave car usage.

However, the Apple brand is all about ownership. They’re not great with sharing. Also, Tesla shows that still with electric, there is tremendous power in individual ownership of what can only be described as a luxury toy that is visually polluting public space with parking.

So, where will Apple go? We don’t know, but let’s think about what questions sharing would ariss:

Who buys the car?

How does it transform between users?

Now, it may be possible that Apple won’t sell but provide the car. Very unlikely, given their hardware profits oriented business strategy.

Transforming the car from user to user however, would only need software to change the experience. Something that no other car sharing service does well today.

Previously published on Medium.


Random thoughts about an Apple car, part two

We need to get from A to B, and back.

We are somewhere, and need to get elsewhere, and back - or somewhere else. Between those steps we may stay at one place for some time, or we might get to a different place by other means of transportation, e.g. someone taking us, or walking.

What do we need to get from A to B?

Nothing. Nobody.

Nothing except us, our feet, our energy. We can walk. The longer the way, the longer it will take us to get there. But we can go anywhere. It may be dangerous at times, e.g. walking over a pass, or crossing a river or lake; but we can go to almost any place by ourselves.

It takes time, but we can go anywhere. And we can learn on the way, and meet people.

But we don't need other people on our way, necessarily. We can go ourselves, indivually, independently.

We only need help if we need to go faster, or go somewhere we can not get to ourselves without risking our lives.

What do we need to get somewhere faster?

Something that has more energy than us. Preferably an energy that can be renewed, just like our own energy is renewed by rest and food. We now have electric transportation, whose energy can be renewed more sustainably than the previous generation of transportation.

So, to go faster, we have bicycles, trains, cars, ships and planes.

Bicycles give us a much faster way to go somewhere, and we can take more with us than by carrying it. With bicycles, we still use our own renewable energy, and we can go individually, independently. As it uses most of our body, we can not do much else while cycling.

Trains, ships and planes take us much much faster, and we can take a lot more with us; but they use so much more energy than we can renew. They also don't allow us to go individually or independently, because we need to align with other people who have the same way at the same time. However, we can do other things while travelling, because someone else is taking us and we do not need to concentrate on navigating. We can sit and stand up, walk around. We need to trust the person taking us, that we will arrive safely and in time.


One more thing is different to bicycles: Trains, ships and planes travel to our destination, even if we don't. Because they are dependent on many people travelling at the same time to the same place, they will do so even if we don't go. Bicycles will stay where we put them if we don't go.

This also means that trains, ships and planes are able to be boarded from different places - places I haven't gone with them on my own. Bicycles can't do that: I need to take my bicycle to where I go, and it will stay there until I take it somewhere else again. Renting a bicycle only solves one part of the problem: I take my bike, rent another one, but my bike is still there and will need to pick it up later. It doesn't follow me.


Cars take us faster as well, and we can take things with us, depending on the size of the car. They used to depend on unrenewable energy, but we solves this with electrification. They allow us to go individually and independently - something we can only achieve by walking or cycling. They use paths many other people use - so cars are less individual than walking, but euqal to cycling - but all those people do not have to go at the same time. However, cars need all our attention - we can not do anything else while driving. Similar to the bicycle, our hands and feet need to steer the vehicle, and our eyes need to look into the driving direction or in mirrors to navigate the surroundings and detect potential danger. We can therefor not stand up or walk around, but need to sit and drive all the time. We trust ourselves that we will arrive safely and in time.

How will cars change, in order to be the best transportation possible; and better than all of the options above?

They will need to allow us to do something else while driving.

They will need to allow us to stand up and walk around.

They will need to allow us to learn and meet people while on the go.

They will need to be trustworthy that we will arrive safely and on time.

And they will need to be able to come to places I haven't put them myself.

So the car of the future will be:

A room where I can stand, sit and walk around in.

A room where I can learn, view outside, work on the computer, talk to people on the phone and on video; and a room large enough I can invite people in.

A car I can trust to do the driving for me.

A car that will follow me to places I am and come pick me up.

The car of the future will not be "my" car - meaning it will not always be the same car. It will be shared with others, so the car I drove to A can take someone else to B, and I can take another one from C to D.

That's why Apple will only introduce one model.

They car of the future will however change to my needs when I enter it. It will look different and behave different - just like my iPhone today looks and behaves differently than others.

It will be a room with windows, where I can live in, while going from A to B.


Part one