Self-driving machine learning at core of Apple's car ambitions, declares Tim Cook in inter...

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In an interview following the WWDC keynote, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook teased about the company's future car plans -- but as usual, divulged little in the way of concrete details.




The interview spanned many topics, ranging from the new products, to Apple's plans for the future. Following the discussion about the HomePod's philosophy, the Bloomberg interviewer asked Cook about Apple's car plans.

"We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook said. "It's a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects."

However, the self-driving car problem is only one aspect where Cook sees the automotive and transportation industry changing.
"We'll see where it takes us. We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do." - Tim Cook
"There is a major disruption looming there," Cook answered, when asked about the forthcoming changes. "You've got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame."

Cook cited self-driving technology, electric vehicles, and ride-hailing as all factors making it possible for companies like Apple and Google to break into transportation.

As always, Cook stopped short of revealing Apple's future product plans.

"We'll see where it takes us," Cook concluded. "We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do."

Apple has long been rumored to be working on autonomous vehicle technology under the "Project Titan" aegis. The company reportedly abandoned efforts to create a branded car in late 2016 when former project leader Steve Zadesky left Apple and handed the reins over to senior VP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio.

Project Titan was later transferred to longtime executive Bob Mansfield, who subsequently culled hundreds of employees and refocused the program on self-driving software and supporting hardware.

In late April, a report revealed snippets of Apple's California Department of Motor Vehicles self-driving car application, offering insight into the company's autonomous vehicle project. Apple's full application was revealed a bit later, and incorporates a copy of the testing process it used to certify the six drivers who will pilot three modified 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs.

The post-WWDC interview also addressed Cook's discussions with President Donald Trump regarding climate change, as well as Apple giving assistance in the form of data it had on hand to U.K. investigators following terrorist attacks.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 46
    He dropped enough hints. It might be an A.I.-powered electric-car ride hailing service that you can ask Siri to order, and you pay for it using Apple Pay  ;)
  • Reply 2 of 46
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,752member
    Can't help but smile as I imagine the car speaker suddenly saying, 'Don't over cook that egg'.  (Siri joke for the uninitiated)
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 3 of 46
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,285member
    He dropped enough hints. It might be an A.I.-powered electric-car ride hailing service that you can ask Siri to order, and you pay for it using Apple Pay  ;)
    I think ALL the autonomous vehicles will be AI-powered. That's a given isn't it? So is focusing first on ride-hailing services which is what everyone else is doing right now. Electric vehicles? Yup they're where every car manufacturer seems to be moving. Pay by Apple Pay? Well of course. :)
    edited June 2017 Soli
  • Reply 4 of 46
    robjnrobjn Posts: 283member
    I enjoyed the way Eddie and Craig joked with John Gruber about Apple Car on The Talk Show last week.
    stantheman
  • Reply 5 of 46
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,345member
    I called it a long time ago. It's transportation as a service, delivered by your iPhone. Nobody will own an Apple car. 
  • Reply 6 of 46
    wigbywigby Posts: 692member
    blastdoor said:
    I called it a long time ago. It's transportation as a service, delivered by your iPhone. Nobody will own an Apple car. 
    Except for the people that buy one.

    Autonomous transportation services will be a commodity in five years time. Every single company and their mothers are working on it now so why would Apple get into that only? It's no different than the smart phone market. Everyone makes their own phone but how many companies make both the hardware and the software?

    Apple will never be content (nor make the margins they are used to) in just making software for any vertical.
    palomine
  • Reply 7 of 46
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,038member
    He dropped enough hints. It might be an A.I.-powered electric-car ride hailing service that you can ask Siri to order, and you pay for it using Apple Pay  ;)
    I agree with @gatorguy. Aren't all these a given, except for the ride hailing service which Apple may or may not do, but would be a completely different service that doesn't rely on a fully autonomous vehicle to exist? Plus, I think that such a function moves away from Apple's core focus. It seems to me that it's best for Apple to let others utilize their tech in ways they see fit.

    One might then argue that Apple likes to control everything, but that's only really true if you consider the vast number of tools Apple builds so that others can utilize for profit. From Swift, to Xcode, to Final Cut, to the App Store, to even Apple Pay, Apple sells or licenses something, or offers a service that can used by others to generate a revenue stream.

    Personally, I'd like to see Apple build a car, and that seems to be the easier part of the whole autonomous vehicle equation. Not building a car but instead licensing theri AI systems to other vendors is definitely different from Apple's previous business strategy and would sit more squarely with MS, but that was—and still is—a hugely successful strategy for MS.
    palomine
  • Reply 8 of 46
    jeffharrisjeffharris Posts: 797member
    The last thing the world needs is more cars… by Apple or anyone else.
  • Reply 9 of 46
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,038member
    The last thing the world needs is more cars… by Apple or anyone else.
    I don't understand this statement as either as a literal or figurative statement. Assuming you're not literally suggesting that the world needs more, say, polio before we build one more goddamn car, are you suggesting that we have so many cars that transportation isn't an issue, that cars need to be replaced with, say, personal jet packs, is this some narrow view of air pollution, or something else entirely?
    tycho_macuserfastasleepanantksundarampalomine
  • Reply 10 of 46
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,345member
    wigby said:
    blastdoor said:
    I called it a long time ago. It's transportation as a service, delivered by your iPhone. Nobody will own an Apple car. 
    Except for the people that buy one.

    Autonomous transportation services will be a commodity in five years time. Every single company and their mothers are working on it now so why would Apple get into that only? It's no different than the smart phone market. Everyone makes their own phone but how many companies make both the hardware and the software?

    Apple will never be content (nor make the margins they are used to) in just making software for any vertical.
    On some level I have to respect the willingness to double down on a bad prediction. 
    fastasleeptycho_macuser
  • Reply 11 of 46
    blastdoor said:
    wigby said:
    blastdoor said:
    I called it a long time ago. It's transportation as a service, delivered by your iPhone. Nobody will own an Apple car. 
    Except for the people that buy one.

    Autonomous transportation services will be a commodity in five years time. Every single company and their mothers are working on it now so why would Apple get into that only? It's no different than the smart phone market. Everyone makes their own phone but how many companies make both the hardware and the software?

    Apple will never be content (nor make the margins they are used to) in just making software for any vertical.
    On some level I have to respect the willingness to double down on a bad prediction. 

    I think wigby misunderstood your prediction, so let me see if I got it right.  You're predicting that Apple will MAKE Apple Cars but won't SELL them.  The product will be transportation, not cars.  Personally, I think that that's unlikely, but I like it better than the idea that Apple will just sell software to car makers.  That seems like a losing proposition and unlike anything Apple has done before.  I agree with Soli on this one: if there is a play here it's Apple making the car itself.
    Soliirelandbrucemcpalomine
  • Reply 12 of 46
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,285member
    blastdoor said:
    wigby said:
    blastdoor said:
    I called it a long time ago. It's transportation as a service, delivered by your iPhone. Nobody will own an Apple car. 
    Except for the people that buy one.

    Autonomous transportation services will be a commodity in five years time. Every single company and their mothers are working on it now so why would Apple get into that only? It's no different than the smart phone market. Everyone makes their own phone but how many companies make both the hardware and the software?

    Apple will never be content (nor make the margins they are used to) in just making software for any vertical.
    On some level I have to respect the willingness to double down on a bad prediction. 

    I think wigby misunderstood your prediction, so let me see if I got it right.  You're predicting that Apple will MAKE Apple Cars but won't SELL them.  The product will be transportation, not cars.  Personally, I think that that's unlikely, but I like it better than the idea that Apple will just sell software to car makers.  That seems like a losing proposition and unlike anything Apple has done before.  I agree with Soli on this one: if there is a play here it's Apple making the car itself.
    I don't think Soli is predicting Apple will build a car. As I read his post it's simply a possibility, but Apple might veer from traditional hardware first to the software for a platform available for a partnership with an existing automaker or licensing. I'm sure he can clarify that tho as it's certainly possible I misunderstood.

    Personally I'd expect the 2nd scenario. I don't see Apple actually building their own car from scratch for consumers to buy. 
    edited June 2017 Soli
  • Reply 13 of 46
    holyoneholyone Posts: 398member

    Every time I read about Apple + Autonomous Driving I'm reminded of this.
    Benedict Evans - Cars as feature-phones ( as its so easy to miss, I highlighted the most critical take away, it's worth reading twice

    "When I moved to Silicon Valley from London, in 2014, I bought a second-hand German car from 2009. The dashboard reminds me very much of using a Nokia in 2000 - it's perfect, and clear, and easy to understand, and there's no software at all. There are features, some of which are shown on a monochrome screen, and powered by firmware, but no software.

    Then, a few weeks ago, it needed to be serviced and the dealer lent me a brand new top-of-the-line version of the same model.

    This one was like using a Nokia from 2007 - they've added all the smart stuff, badly. There are so many buttons that even the buttons have buttons, and though each particular feature makes sense on its own, and might even be implemented quite well, when they're all added together the effect is absurd. My new favorite site on the internet shows this extremely well, if unintentionally. 'My Car Does What?' is a attempt by the car industry to educate the public about the safety features that have been added to their cars over the past decade or so (I saw it advertised on a video screen at a gas pump). Unfortunately, what it really shows is that a proliferation of features has overwhelmed the 'job to be done'.

    The job is to stop the car crashing (or rather, stop the user from crashing the car), but the implementation is 'give the user 37 different icons on their dashboard'. Indeed, it's not just the drivers that are confused - the dealers are too. One way to look at this is to say that the car industry is just bad at software and human-computer interface design. That is probably true, and often you can see the org chart in the dashboard layout, but I think it misses a deeper point - what's really happening is that an interface model has been overloaded to the point that it's becoming top-heavy, and needs to be replaced by a new one.

     The industry has added more and more features on top of the product: if you'd only added one, it would make sense for it to be a separate feature with its own button or light, but when you've added dozens, really, you need to invert the model and put all of them underneath. Like a melting iceberg rolling over, you need to invert the interface model. In computing, this is what happened with first PC GUIs and then smartphones - interface features that had been added to the top of the previous generation's interface disappeared underneath the new one. You need a new platform to build on. This is a common theme in many classes of device: you start with a product that has a few electronic functions added, and then those functions are delivered with chips, and perhaps they gain an interface and then a screen, and more and more functions (and probably multi-function buttons) - and then, somehow, you've built a little weird custom computer without actually meaning to, and all the little silos of features and functions become unmanageable, both at an interface level and also at a fundamental engineering level, and the whole thing gets replaced by a real computer with a real software platform. And this new computer is almost certainly made by a different company. You could see this problem very clearly at Motorola, which developed as many as two dozen 'operating systems' - for phones, pagers, satellite phones, car-control, industrial devices, chip evaluation boards and so on and so on, and picked them for each device out of a metaphorical parts bin just as you'd choose a sensor or battery or any other component. And boy, they really knew how to write operating systems - they had dozens! With, probably, 'millions of lines of code'.

    This was exactly the right approach in 1995, but in 2005, again, the whole thing collapsed under its own weight, because they needed software as a platform rather than as a one-off component, and instead they had a mess. In cars, part of this will be addressed by what's termed 'sensor fusion'. Rather than individual sensors triggering individual notifications, a car will have a single computer that takes input from all of the sensors on the car and builds a unified model of what's going on around it. (This is of course also a necessary building-block for autonomous cars.) We don't quite have sensor fusion yet, but Nvidia and others are now selling early versions to OEMs (including Tesla), each of which puts their own light layer of customisation and UI on top. So, instead of a sensor for the left blind spot, and another for the left passing warning, the car will know, at least in a crude, mechanistic sense, what's around it. However, though this might be a platform of sorts, it doesn't really change the interface problem at all - sensor fusion makes the sensors work together properly, but what should the car do with that? Should it show the same lights and sound the same warning chimes, just more reliably, with all the same buttons? A rich animation on your new fully-digital dashboard? Should there be a 'stick-shaker' that stops you changing lane if there's someone in your blind spot? What if you turn against the stick-shaker? Is all of this answered by more iteration of what car OEMs have already built, or does it call for a more fundamental rethink of the car UI?

    That is, again, how far can you keep adding stuff on top of the existing dashboard, and when do you need something new? And will car OEMs or their traditional suppliers be the ones to do this? A good 'Occam's Razor' for this, I think, is the Eric Raymond adage that a computer should never ask you a question that it should be able to work out for itself. These alerts and warnings, and all those buttons, are questions. And so, just as Windows doesn't ask you what sound card you have and smartphones don't ask you where to save a file or what your password is, what is a back-up warning but a question - do you want to stop now? Really, a car shouldn't have a back-up warning - it should just rubber-band to a halt. And that, in turn, is a step to autonomy - to level 3 and 4, the car that will try not to let you crash, and will increasingly drive itself. That is, the end-point is to have no interface at all. In a fully-autonomous, 'Level 5' car, with no steering wheel or manual controls at all, the only human-computer interface is when you say "take me home now".

    But most people in the autonomous driving field think that's at least 5 years away and more probably 10, or more. In the mean time we have a transitional phase, as you go from lots of warnings to one and you ask what fundamentally that warning should be, and as you sit in a car where you need to be in the driving seat and steering, mostly, or ready to steer, but the car might stop you, or drive itself. Something that drives itself until it doesn't can easily become dangerous. So, my struggle to turn off the HUD on my borrowed car might become something rather more urgent.

    This could, incidentally, be the best car opportunity for Apple. A car that you just tell to go home and forget about is Google's sweet spot, without much scope for Apple to add any unique insight as to how the experience should work. Conversely, a car that you still need to drive, somehow, but in radically new ways, seems like a fruitful place for thinking about how interfaces work, and that's Apple"
    .
    argonautpalomine
  • Reply 14 of 46
    tmaytmay Posts: 6,368member
    gatorguy said:
    blastdoor said:
    wigby said:
    blastdoor said:
    I called it a long time ago. It's transportation as a service, delivered by your iPhone. Nobody will own an Apple car. 
    Except for the people that buy one.

    Autonomous transportation services will be a commodity in five years time. Every single company and their mothers are working on it now so why would Apple get into that only? It's no different than the smart phone market. Everyone makes their own phone but how many companies make both the hardware and the software?

    Apple will never be content (nor make the margins they are used to) in just making software for any vertical.
    On some level I have to respect the willingness to double down on a bad prediction. 

    I think wigby misunderstood your prediction, so let me see if I got it right.  You're predicting that Apple will MAKE Apple Cars but won't SELL them.  The product will be transportation, not cars.  Personally, I think that that's unlikely, but I like it better than the idea that Apple will just sell software to car makers.  That seems like a losing proposition and unlike anything Apple has done before.  I agree with Soli on this one: if there is a play here it's Apple making the car itself.
    I don't think Soli is predicting Apple will build a car. As I read his post it's simply a possibility, but Apple might veer from traditional hardware first to the software for a platform available for a partnership with an existing automaker or licensing. I'm sure he can clarify that tho as it's certainly possible I misunderstood.

    Personally I'd expect the 2nd scenario. I don't see Apple actually building their own car from scratch for consumers to buy. 
    The licensing isn't going to happen in my opinion. Apple wants more control than that, and more so, wants to generate revenue and profit on a scale appropriate to their size.

    Tesla doesn't have its valuation, however much I think it is overvalued today, because it makes the internals for somebody else's automotive platform. They build automobiles, and soon, trucks. Tesla controls all of its own data. How fast they can grow and how big they can get is the question.

    My speculation is that Apple would have to build, at a minimum, an automotive platform's autonomous computing hardware, mechatronics network, telematics with satellite link, entertainment and audio, and navigation systems. To be able to sell this to builders, Apple would have to have a complete package better than anyone else's out there; otherwise, who would be the buyers? That's the barrier to entry.

    Lastly, I think that BMW already built the first Apple car; the i3, sans all of the Apple stuff unfortunately, and an urban car with an undersized battery pack. Having seen a video interview of an analyst who's company tore one apart and calculated the bill of material, selling the detailed results to interested parties, I agreed with the conclusion that the primarily composite design was appropriate to a 50,000 unit per year production, certainly a point that would not be lost on Apple. The fact that there was very little stamped sheet metal in the design, is the key to any interest that Apple would have had.
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 15 of 46
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    I think Tim just confirmed that Apple WILL be building their own "people's car". They have committed thousands of people and untold amounts of money to this and they'll want to own the whole experience. It may end up being called GoPod instead of Apple Car, but I think they may make versions for rent, a la a self-driving taxi and high-end versions to buy, but they'll all be capable of completely autonomous driving.
    edited June 2017 palomine
  • Reply 16 of 46
    irelandireland Posts: 17,798member
    blastdoor said:
    I called it a long time ago. It's transportation as a service, delivered by your iPhone. Nobody will own an Apple car. 
    Interesting guess.
  • Reply 17 of 46
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,285member
    I think Tim just confirmed that Apple WILL be building their own "people's car". They have committed thousands of people and untold amounts of money to this and they'll want to own the whole experience. It may end up being called GoPod instead of Apple Car, but I think they may make versions for rent, a la a self-driving taxi and high-end versions to buy, but they'll all be capable of completely autonomous driving.
    We have no idea if they've committed thousands of people do we? Heck, if you're depending on rumor wasn't there one where Apple was re-thinking the car thing and considering a different direction from actually building their own car? Wasn't there another that Apple was laying off engineers working on a supposed Apple car because it just wasn't panning out? Far too many rumors to get any idea on what the status is today IMHO.

    Trying to read into stuff Mr. Cook doesn't actually say in a public interview doesn't work well. Didn't he seem to dismiss virtual-reality stuff just a few months ago in comments, making us all think they had grand plans this year for AR with VR just not worthwhile? Then at WWDC what do they go on about as an amazing tech coming to the Apple platform? Development of virtual reality games and apps. Pretty sure that was an HTC Vive I saw...
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 18 of 46
    The last thing the world needs is more cars… by Apple or anyone else.
    This would reduce the number of cars, not increase them. Look around. At any given moment, most cars are sitting idle, i.e. parked, because their drivers aren't in them. With autonomous ridesharing services, one car can serve hundreds every day. We already have something like that. They're called taxis.
  • Reply 19 of 46
    irelandireland Posts: 17,798member
    I think Tim just confirmed that Apple WILL be building their own "people's car". They have committed thousands of people and untold amounts of money to this and they'll want to own the whole experience. It may end up being called GoPod instead of Apple Car, but I think they may make versions for rent, a la a self-driving taxi and high-end versions to buy, but they'll all be capable of completely autonomous driving.
    That they are working on a car seems obvious. The HomePod branding doesn’t translate so well to cars with GoPod honestly.

    I’d simply brand it  Car and stick a polished yet understated Apple logo on either end.
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 20 of 46
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    gatorguy said:
    I think Tim just confirmed that Apple WILL be building their own "people's car". They have committed thousands of people and untold amounts of money to this and they'll want to own the whole experience. It may end up being called GoPod instead of Apple Car, but I think they may make versions for rent, a la a self-driving taxi and high-end versions to buy, but they'll all be capable of completely autonomous driving.
    We have no idea if they've committed thousands of people do we? Heck, if you're depending on rumor wasn't there one where Apple was re-thinking the car thing and considering a different direction from actually building their own car? Wasn't there another that Apple was laying off engineers working on a supposed Apple car because it just wasn't panning out? Far too many rumors to get any idea on what the status is today. 
    Well, it wouldn't make sense for Apple to attempt to license their "artificial intelligence for cars" to manufacturers because nearly every manufacturer is already associated with their own R&D programs to have the same sort of thing implemented within 5-7 years. Apple will make their own end-to-end experience.
    edited June 2017
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