Automotive executives being recruited for 'top-secret' project at Apple [u]

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 2015
Rumors of a new vehicle-related project underway at Apple continue to surface, with yet another report claiming on Friday that the company has been on a hiring spree for its secret new initiative.

One of Apple's sensor-laden vans, spotted in Hawaii by AppleInsider reader matthawaii.
One of Apple's sensor-laden vans, spotted in Hawaii by AppleInsider reader matthawaii.


Update: Mercedes R&D head Johann Jungwirth did leave the carmaker for Apple late last year, according to his LinkedIn profile. Jungwirth list himself as the director of Mac systems engineering, where he is "focusing on building great Mac products."

The "top-secret research lab" was put together in 2014, according to unnamed sources who spoke with the Financial Times. Its recent creation suggests that whatever Apple is working on would not hit the market for many years, if ever at all.

Whether it's a mythical "iCar" or something else entirely, Apple is clearly looking into a new market space, if a string of recent reports are any indication. While Apple's intentions are unclear, the company is known to have heavily recruited Tesla engineers, offering $250,000 bonuses and significant salary bumps, though, relatively few have made the move.

Friday's report claims that Apple chief designer Jonathan Ive has held regular meetings with automotive executives in recent months in attempts to hire them. Among those Apple spoke with was a head of research and development at Mercedes-Benz.

The nature of Apple's recruitment has convinced some observers that the company could be working on something well beyond CarPlay or vehicle integration, going as far as to build its own full-fledged vehicles.

The reports come after Apple was revealed to be behind a fleet of mysterious camera-equipped vans that have popped up around the Bay Area in recent weeks. The vans sport more than a dozen cameras and what appear to be LiDAR modules for high-resolution mapping strapped to an x-shaped carriage on their roof.

While the vehicles spurred hope of self-driving cars, it's more likely that Apple is using them to bolster its Maps service, much like Google's own Street View. As such, it's likely that any top-secret automotive project underway at Apple is not related to the vans that have been spotted.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 64
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Very interesting indeed...

    [quote]Apple is recruiting experts in automotive technology and vehicle design to work at a new top-secret research lab, said several people familiar with the company, pointing to ambitions that go beyond the dashboard.

    Dozens of Apple employees, led by experienced managers from its iPhone unit, are researching automotive products at a confidential Silicon Valley location outside the company’s Cupertino campus, the people said.

    Sir Jonathan Ive’s team of Apple designers has held regular meetings with automotive executives and engineers in recent months, in some cases trying to hire them. Recent recruits to Apple’s team include the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley R&D unit.[/quote]

    [quote]The lab may be developing an advanced software platform for carmakers to run in their vehicles that builds on its CarPlay infotainment system.

    But people familiar with the company said the background of the people Apple is hiring — including automotive designers and vehicle dynamics engineers — and the seniority of the executives involved suggest a car could be in the works.

    “Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay,” said one person who has worked closely with Apple for many years, referring to Apple’s infotainment system. “Today I think it’s a car.”[/quote]
  • Reply 2 of 64

    I don't think Apple wants to get into cars. The profit margin is low and you need a network of dealers to provide service. I don't see Apple wanting to get into that mess.

     

    But going up against QNX and offering a complete vehicle system for multimedia and navigation (that also properly interfaces with EXISTING vehicle systems and networks) is something I could see them doing. Automotive manufacturers have crappy infotainment systems with utterly horrible controls/UI. They could provide both primary systems used in a vehicle - infotainment and instrument cluster/dashboard.

  • Reply 3 of 64
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

     

    Automotive manufacturers have crappy infotainment systems with utterly horrible controls/UI.


    You got that right! Sloppy, buggy, slow, haphazard, steep learning curve, inconsistent, expensive GPS map updates... Those are just a few of the words I can think of to describe these systems no matter who manufactured them. A couple of years ago I was at a car show looking at all the touch screens and instruments clusters in the latest Cadillacs with the CUE system. One system in a CTS kept freezing and they'd have to disconnect then reconnect the battery to get it working again. The way the frames were dropped due to slow processors and buggy software when the clusters booted or changed screens was horribly tacky for any vehicle at any price - particularly for GM's flagship models.

  • Reply 4 of 64
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

     

    They could provide both primary systems used in a vehicle - infotainment and instrument cluster/dashboard.


    Doubt it. Now days the manufacturers design the onboard computer system to integrate the whole car. For example my auto has probably hundreds of sensors, many of which display information on the screen or heads up display and some control features do highly specialized tasks. There is no way Apple could build a universal electronics package that would meet the needs of auto manufacturers.

  • Reply 5 of 64
    I think that CarPlay, iCar, and the Camera-laden minivans are three different projects at Apple.
  • Reply 6 of 64
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    sog35 wrote: »
    1) Tesla and Apple meet last year
    1) Tesla CEO brags that Apple is trying to poach his employees
    2) Tesla CEO says his company could easily reach Apple's size
    3) Rumors about iCar

    too much smoke for not to have a fire

    The competition always starts talking trash right before Apple enters a new product category.

    iCar with TouchID to start the engine baby!
  • Reply 7 of 64
    sog35 wrote: »
    The thing is Apple does not to brunt the cost of manufactering.  They could simply make an alliance with someone like BMW or MercBenz to make a car.  BWM will take care of engine, susupetion, ect.  Apple would take care of the UI and joint effort on design.  It would be amazing.  And I'm pretty sure companies would be lining up to make the iCAR.

    Just remember that Apple does not build a single iPHONE.  They simply design it. Foxconn builds the phones.   I can see the same deal with iCAR.  Apple designs the car and BMW builds it.

    I just hope that theoretical car isn't made in China.
  • Reply 8 of 64
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    I don't think Apple wants to get into cars. The profit margin is low and you need a network of dealers to provide service. I don't see Apple wanting to get into that mess.

    But going up against QNX and offering a complete vehicle system for multimedia and navigation (that also properly interfaces with EXISTING vehicle systems and networks) is something I could see them doing. Automotive manufacturers have crappy infotainment systems with utterly horrible controls/UI. They could provide both primary systems used in a vehicle - infotainment and instrument cluster/dashboard.

    Well profit margins in phones and PCs are low too but Apple competes very well in those businesses.

    I agree with you on the infotainment side but FT's report claims the people involved in this project suggest it goes well beyond CarPlay. Also Bryan Chaffin, who writes for the Mac Observer, says based on what he's heard he's 80% sure Apple is looking into building their own car. Who knows. But I guess you don't get to a thousand noes without a thousand tries.
  • Reply 9 of 64
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,999member

    I don't find this far-fetched at all... Years ago DARPA sponsored a program called DARPA Grand Challenge, where small teams entered to build a semi-autonomous vehicle. With Apple's money and technical expertise, it wouldn't be too difficult for Apple to put together a team to build a prototype autonomous electric car.

     

    I can see it now, when Google introduces their new car and is demo'ing it, Apple's iCar runs it off the road. LOL

  • Reply 10 of 64
    irelandireland Posts: 17,669member
    sog35 wrote: »
    1) Tesla and Apple meet last year
    1) Tesla CEO brags that Apple is trying to poach his employees
    2) Tesla CEO says his company could easily reach Apple's size
    3) Rumors about iCar

    too much smoke for not to have a fire

    Let's not jump to conclusions yet.

    1. Building a car is incredibly complicated.
    2. The car market is hugely competitive with decades of maturity and experience under its belt.
    3. Apple would likely go electric given how much they care about the earth; building a battery car is even more difficult.
    4. The likes of Tesla have a huge head start over Apple in this race and by the time Apple released their car Tesla would be 6 to 12 years further along.
    5. Apple wouldn't touch this market unless they thought they could blow the competition away and I don't see that happening.
    6. How much of a distraction would an Apple Car be for Apple given the array of products they're now producing?
    7. Where and how would Apple sell and service this vehicle?
  • Reply 11 of 64
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    sog35 wrote: »
    The thing is Apple does not to brunt the cost of manufactering.  They could simply make an alliance with someone like BMW or MercBenz to make a car.  BWM will take care of engine, susupetion, ect.  Apple would take care of the UI and joint effort on design.  It would be amazing.  And I'm pretty sure companies would be lining up to make the iCAR.

    Just remember that Apple does not build a single iPHONE.  They simply design it. Foxconn builds the phones.   I can see the same deal with iCAR.  Apple designs the car and BMW builds it.

    Except it would not be called iCar. I think the "i" moniker is dead at Apple.
  • Reply 12 of 64
    irelandireland Posts: 17,669member
    rogifan wrote: »
    Except it would not be called iCar. I think the "i" moniker is dead at Apple.

    It's only dead if it doesn't fit the product. iCar doesn't sound great. I thought iWatch sounded OK, but given the luxury route they took with the watch can fully understand them going with ? Watch.
  • Reply 13 of 64
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post





    I just hope that theoretical car isn't made in China.

     

    It will be made by [ Hyundai ].

  • Reply 14 of 64
    mstone wrote: »
    Doubt it. Now days the manufacturers design the onboard computer system to integrate the whole car. For example my auto has probably hundreds of sensors, many of which display information on the screen or heads up display and some control features do highly specialized tasks. There is no way Apple could build a universal electronics package that would meet the needs of auto manufacturers.

    Yet your instrument cluster (or other dash modules) basically run on 4 wires: 12V, ground, CAN-H and CAN-L (CAN being the network). All the information you see (engine RPM, speed, fuel level, coolant temperature, oil temperature) were sent to your cluster over the CAN network from the engine computer. Or LIN or FlexRay (two other popular networks). This way sensor count is reduced. If the climate control needs the coolant temperature (so it can regulate cabin heat) it gets it from engine computer. If the climate control wants to turn on the A/C compressor to cool the cabin, it simply requests the engine computer to turn it on (the engine handles this as it will also increase idle speed slightly to compensate for engine load).

    When people were speculating about CarPlay and Android for cars I stated they would never be anything more than just screen mirroring or basic functions since neither Android or iOS have the frameworks for interfacing to vehicle systems/networks. This is what Apple could be doing. Once they can talk to all the networks you have a whole slew of opportunities opening up.
  • Reply 15 of 64
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Hmm...just today Apple posted a bunch of job reqs around advanced battery technology and mechanical design engineers. There is one job posting for an advanced materials scientist with a focus around chemistry development.
  • Reply 16 of 64
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     

    The thing is Apple does not to brunt the cost of manufactering.  They could simply make an alliance with someone like BMW or MercBenz to make a car.  BWM will take care of engine, susupetion, ect.  Apple would take care of the UI and joint effort on design.  It would be amazing.  And I'm pretty sure companies would be lining up to make the iCAR.

     

    Just remember that Apple does not build a single iPHONE.  They simply design it. Foxconn builds the phones.   I can see the same deal with iCAR.  Apple designs the car and BMW builds it.




    ^This!

  • Reply 17 of 64
    cali wrote: »
    TouchID to start the engine baby!

    This would be great as a part of CarPlay
  • Reply 18 of 64
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,698member

    Apple building its own car just doesn't sound right to me.  I don't see Apple getting into that segment.



    What I do see is Apple providing technology - besides CarPlay - that gets incorporated into cars.  This could be a central media/technology dashboard, OS, package, whatever that takes integration to the next level.



    A smart dashboard/display doing away with analog-type gauges.  User-configurable panels?   Personal Automotive Network (PAN)?  Perhaps even some tech to allow self0-driving cars??  Stuff like that...



    Building an entire car though?  I don't see that happening.  



    Still very exciting to speculate what Apple's up to though.

  • Reply 19 of 64
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    sog35 wrote: »
    "The head of Mercedes-Benz's Silicon Valley research and development unit was one of the latest hires to the research team, FT added."

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/apple-hiring-automotive-technology-design-190319670.html

    One of apples designers previously worked for Audi and Lamborghini.

    http://www.julianhoenig.com/art/about_files/web_resume02.09.pdf
  • Reply 20 of 64

    Just because Apple is hiring automotive engineers with the expertise in designing and manufacturing cars doesn't mean Apple is going to make cars. All the top automotive suppliers (Valeo, Bosch, Siemens, Delphi, Hitachi, QNX, Continental, Dunlop....) who make all the components, sub-systems and modules in your car ALSO have automotive engineers on staff who would be the type of people you're looking for if you wanted to start manufacturing your own car.

     

    Understanding EVERYTHING about automotive manufacturing is also key to a company who wants to supply systems to the companies who are ACTUALLY making cars. I think this is simply Apple trying to get a handle on the entire automotive manufacturing process, something they'd need to do if they wanted to develop a deeply integrated information/multimedia system.

     

     

    And keep in mind what Apple does best - they look at how something is currently being done and look for ways to make it better for users. Apple isn't going to make sports cars handle better, luxury cars ride nicer or trucks haul better. But the information systems in these vehicles is an area that desperately needs improvement. And that's right up Apples alley.

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