Ex-Apple director Lattner striving to make cars an 'appliance' at Tesla

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Now heading up Autopilot development at Tesla, former Apple director Chris Lattner says that he's hoping to "accelerate the path to cars being appliances that solve people's problems," rather than machines that require constant maintenance.




"Cars are really important. But I'm what I consider to be an 'un-car person', Lattner said on a recent episode of the Accidental Tech Podcast. "I'm personally not the kind of guy who loves doing oil changes and fiddling around with them. I just want something that is reliable, that works, ideally drives me everywhere I want to go, and I don't have to think about it.

"It's solving my problems, it's not something I have to care for, feed and maintain. That's the way I look at cars," he continued.

Lattner noted that he hadn't considered working for a car company before, but simply because he didn't think he had relevant skills. Autopilot, however, is Tesla's self-driving platform, highly dependent on software as much as hardware. A limited version of the technology is already present in cars like the Model S, and can keep a vehicle driving on a highway while maintaining a safe distance from other drivers, even changing lanes on-command when it's safe to do so.

Autopilot is a "really exciting and really big problem and it kind of fits with my desire to solve nearly impossible problems and take on new things," Lattner explained.

He added that he expects fully autonomous cars within a decade or less, partly because cars have access to technologies like radar, which trump human senses.

Lattner -- the principal creator of LLVM, and Apple's Swift programming language -- joined Tesla this month in another sign of the ongoing poaching battle between the two companies.

Apple is known to be working on its own self-driving platform under the codename Project Titan, but its exact state is still wrapped in secrecy. The company was at one point said to be authoring a complete vehicle, but is now believed to be waiting until late 2017 to decide whether it wants to resume that effort or simply partner with a third-party automaker.

Either way, Apple's platform could distinguish itself by using augmented reality technology. A finished product likely won't hit the roads until the early 2020s.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    Well, the fact that he expects them in a decade is definitely a sign he's not very smart about cars. 
    longpathmejsricelijahgmdriftmeyer
  • Reply 2 of 31
    He must be an incredibly smart guy, and I admire his goals, but I'm not seeing the connection between his past successes and his stated goals.  More power to him, but seems like a leap of faith by Tesla.
    longpath
  • Reply 3 of 31
    Chris has a huge rep in the Valley.
    I was sad to see him go, but Apple and Tesla are the two companies making the biggest dent in the world right now in terms of Tech (imho). 

    Like many other posters have stated, Teslas are just a big computer on wheels and Autopilot is where most auto companies are hoping to go.  I can see the connection between his previous job and his new role at Tesla.
    If anyone can push Autopilot towards widespread acceptance and usage it is Chris & the team he is now running.  Funnily enough he has exactly the same view of cars as me.


    edited January 2017 patchythepirate
  • Reply 4 of 31
    As a car guy, I find it ironic that his stated goal is to make cars appliances. I would say that far too many sedans on the market are already merely that, transportation appliances, with all the driver involvement of someone using a toaster.
    dewmepscooter63
  • Reply 5 of 31
    Well, the fact that he expects them in a decade is definitely a sign he's not very smart about cars. 
    It is very realistic to have fully autonomous cars in 10 years, Tesla already has partial autonomous today, it's a matter of software at this point.
  • Reply 6 of 31
    Apple is so left behind on the car front...
    brucemc
  • Reply 7 of 31
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,413member
    " I just want something that is reliable, that works... and I don't have to think about it."

    Assuming you buy a good brand, cars are pretty close to being this already - and 'autonomy' isn't where they are lacking in that...
    So 'autonomy' isn't going to solve most the issues he's referring to...so, just another self-promotion misdirect.
    king editor the gratemacplusplusdewmecommand_f
  • Reply 8 of 31
    I have a 2001 Silverado. Rustiest thing ever, but only thing I do is add gas once a month and have oil changed twice a year. Since that's about the level of my problem-solving skills, I appreciate that it doesn't create enough problems to require a hyperfancy Teslawagen.
  • Reply 9 of 31
    schlack said:
    Apple is so left behind on the car front...
    No, they aren't. It's not their bailiwick.

    It was either Jobs or Jony who once said that Apple spends a lot of time saying, "No." to ideas for what Apple might do next. I think it was also said that they don't do things they don't think they could do a really good job at.

    This is probably why they're not going to do a car.

    The usual suspects here a knee-jerking their skeptical stamp on this news about Lattner.

    I think he can lend his software expertise to helping Tesla with autonomous driving. There certainly ARE NOT already and "appliance" cars on the road. An appliance car would have to be very good at autonomous driving. The current state of the art is very crude—comparable to the crudeness of the first cars 150 years ago.

    I would compare the concept of ubiquitous autonomous driving to a refined subway system in which passengers can take their attention completely off of driving. All they have to do is get on and off at the desired stations. Autonomous driving would involve something similar.

    That's going to take a lot of hardware/software capability of which we've only scratched the surface.
    edited January 2017
  • Reply 10 of 31
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,509member
    Mr. Lattner has a very un-Applelike attitude toward cars, then. The Ive-Jobs approach would be to make a car that's maximally likeable, reliable and a work of art that you really care about, all at once. No company has made such a car for decades. No one who sees cars as mere utilities will ever make such a car. Lattner will stick with software, hopefully.

    In fairness, Tesla has gone some way in pursuing a better industrial design with their chassis and running gear, at least judging by the display chassis they have in the showrooms, The aluminum platform, the air suspension (Continental and Bilstein provided) and of course the electric drives all show enormous care,  and they definitely approach artfulness.

    Full disclosure: I come from the old school of thinking that all human tools should be works of art, insofar as that's possible. There is no Teflon in my kitchen, but plenty of 1930's cast iron.
    edited January 2017 pscooter63
  • Reply 11 of 31
    I wonder if people on Tesla forums will complain about appliance cars not being user serviceable?
    edited January 2017
  • Reply 12 of 31
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,509member
    Gruber links to an old story today about Matt Casebolt, Mac engineering leader, who also moved to Tesla.

    http://daringfireball.net/

    It occurs to me that it dioesn't matter, this so-called poaching war between Apple and Tesla, because the two companies are going to end up merging anyway. Trust me (and I never ever have used that stupid phrase before).

    clock07pscooter63
  • Reply 13 of 31
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    schlack said:
    Apple is so left behind on the car front...
    You seem to have some inside info. Please share.

    why are they behind? Because they don't announce to the world every detail they're working on? For all we know Steve Jobs could have laid down the ground work and they've been expanding on it since. I doubt all these newly built R&D centers are for the next iPhone.
    edited January 2017 StrangeDays
  • Reply 14 of 31
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,524member
    I wonder if people on Tesla forums will complain about appliance cars not being used serviceable?
    I frequent a couple of Tesla forums and I can tell you that there are a few people who would like to service their own cars.  Many more owners, however, appreciate the fact that they never have to get an oil change or smog certification or go to a gas station.
    StrangeDaysireland
  • Reply 15 of 31
    flaneur said:
    Gruber links to an old story today about Matt Casebolt, Mac engineering leader, who also moved to Tesla.

    http://daringfireball.net/

    It occurs to me that it dioesn't matter, this so-called poaching war between Apple and Tesla, because the two companies are going to end up merging anyway. Trust me (and I never ever have used that stupid phrase before).

    He also reported that Bas Ording is working at Tesla. Ording was hugely influential in developing the original iPhone UI. Apparently he said he left Apple because he was spending more time in court than designing (because of patent lawsuit with Samsung) and he missed working with Steve Jobs. Gruber thinks Tesla is poaching more good people from Apple than Apple is from Tesla.

    http://daringfireball.net/linked/2017/01/23/ording-tesla
  • Reply 16 of 31
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,509member
    ^^^ But trust me, it won't matter in the end. Apple is going to need a battery factory, an electric car company, and a space rocket company. 

    Just as much as Tesla needs Apple designer-engineers . . .
  • Reply 17 of 31
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,509member

    quinney said:
    I wonder if people on Tesla forums will complain about appliance cars not being used serviceable?
    I frequent a couple of Tesla forums and I can tell you that there are a few people who would like to service their own cars.  Many more owners, however, appreciate the fact that they never have to get an oil change or smog certification or go to a gas station.
    Can't even do their own brakes, hardly. I understand the pads last well over 100,000 miles.
  • Reply 18 of 31
    schlack said:
    Apple is so left behind on the car front...
    They're pretty behind on planes and trains too.  Meanwhile, I haven't noticed any good phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, wireless routers, streamers, watches, or other things I love from any of the car makers.
    StrangeDaysmacpluspluscornchipbestkeptsecretfastasleeppscooter63
  • Reply 19 of 31

    sog35 said:
    Hope so.

    Nothing is worse than having your car breakdown at the most unopportune time.
    Or having to waste half a Saturday taking your car to the dealer.
    Honda has already made good strides at addressing these problems.  Many manufacturers have gotten car design and manufacture down so well that they run a darn long time without trouble.  Maybe Tesla or whoever will make one that breaks less?  I suppose tech will get to the point where the car will take itself for an oil change but they'll break down occasionally like any other thing.
  • Reply 20 of 31
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    flaneur said:
    Gruber links to an old story today about Matt Casebolt, Mac engineering leader, who also moved to Tesla.

    http://daringfireball.net/

    It occurs to me that it dioesn't matter, this so-called poaching war between Apple and Tesla, because the two companies are going to end up merging anyway. Trust me (and I never ever have used that stupid phrase before).

    The cultures are too different. I'd rather see them competing than merging.
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