Apple Car: It's about the experience

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2016
As part of its highly speculative look at "Apple Car," Motor Trend invited AppleInsider to take part in a roundtable discussion to critique a collaborative concept design worked up in partnership with the ArtCenter College of Design.


Photo courtesy Motor Trend


Whereas carmakers dedicate entire teams, often years of man hours, to nurture a design from concept to production, Motor Trend gave Garrett DeBry, ArtCenter graduate and current industrial designer at Radio Flyer, mere weeks to commit his vision to paper. The end result: a mono-volume stripped of all unnecessary frills and flourishes, structured to maximize interior capacity and iterated around a simple concept: user experience.

The "E" word was bandied about early and often at Motor Trend's roundtable, but the subject was broached long before in a meeting at ArtCenter's Pasadena, Calif., campus last year. There, Motor Trend Testing Director Kim Reynolds asked influential design gurus like Stewart Reed, ArtCenter's chair of transportation design, to brainstorm Apple Car into existence.

DeBry was there, as was professor of graduate transportation systems Tim Huntzinger, who currently works at an augmented reality company based out of Los Angeles called DAQRI. Faculty member Tim Brewer and automotive interior specialist Di Bao were also on hand.

The group tossed ideas back and forth, with DeBry distilling salient points into his minimalist concept. Borrowing a page from Apple's design book (written in ink by Sir Jony Ive), DeBry applied a form follows function ruleset and inverted current automotive design philosophy, sculpting from the interior out. The windshield, for example, needed to be large enough to support the laser-driven augmented reality system around which the car is built. By extending the wide open cockpit experience aft, DeBry creates a space conducive to driving, but more importantly to autonomous vehicle ride sharing.

Striking by nature, the mockup is not so much a stab at what Apple's car could be as it is a study in Cupertino's user-first design tenets. As applied to four-wheeled passenger vehicle, of course.

Our roundtable benefitted from Reynolds' pre-gaming, and we were primed to wax poetic on user experience, which according to consensus would be Apple's "killer feature." Reynolds, DeBry and Huntzinger were joined by CNET Roadshow Editor-in-Chief Tim Stevens and myself. Motor Trend Editor-in-Chief Ed Loh officiated.

Pulling the user experience thread, we discussed the inevitability of vehicle autonomy. On its current course, the car industry will see software and sensor laden self-driving autos being produced side-by-side with "dumb" cars. This will necessarily lead to a fundamental shift in driver and passenger experience. Indeed, everyone sitting in an autonomous vehicle is by definition a passenger, one being carted around by a machine chauffeur.

The concept, then, imagines a cocoon-like environment with traditional leather and metal appointments, like a long arcing dash, onto which virtual displays are projected. Huntzinger notes humans -- at least in these early days of auto autonomy -- require feedback to feel safe. In another nod to user experience, visual and audio cues routed to Apple Car's windshield and dash displays keep users abreast of the computer unit's decision making process.

An augmented reality system may not need to alert the driver to oncoming traffic, pedestrians or road conditions, but those niceties go a long way in building confidence. DeBry considered this as well, pointing to the use of pink in display overlays, a color said to have calming effects.

Siri ties everything together, which means a barebones version must live onboard. The car is basically a huge connected device, and that makes it incredibly powerful, but drivers will at times find themselves in areas where network service is spotty.



When rumors first surfaced last year, the automotive industry gave little thought to Apple's automotive aspirations save for brief, sometimes glib, asides from the likes of Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. But that is quickly changing. Execs are turning the corner, some of whom have taken a more welcoming position toward tech firms dabbling in advanced autonomous solutions.

Despite its storied lineage, the automotive industry seldom sees disruptive events, and paradigm-shifting products like iPhone are even more rarity. The past 20 years of automotive history has been quiet, but things appear to be picking up with a push toward electric drivetrains, integrated systems and intelligent onboard computers. Now Apple is rumored to throw its ten-gallon hat into the ring.

Apple is unquestionably adept at remolding existing technology to create a new reality. How the company can achieve that on a larger scale -- in an entirely new industry -- is unclear.

As for the concept, Motor Trend's imagining might be completely off. Perhaps we'll never know. More importantly, Project Titan is slowly making its way into the zeitgeist, serving as a catalyst for discussion. Industry insiders are considering the implications of tech companies dipping their collective toes into automotive solutions, consumers are voicing opinions on design and pundits are speculating on speculation.

People are talking.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    This is going to be the new “Apple HDTV”, isn’t it?
    bobschlobbb-15jackansi
  • Reply 2 of 28
    Does anyone know what happened to Daniel? Does he still write for appleinsider?
  • Reply 3 of 28
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,198member
    I wish auto manufacturers would start pushing diesel more than hybrids. In most cases, diesel is actually more environmentally friendly than hybrids. 
  • Reply 4 of 28
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    ... we were primed to wax poetic on user experience, which according to consensus would be Apple's "killer feature." ...
    Self-driving cars mean people will have a lot more free time.
    How to fill that time while you're waiting to arrive?

    Apple -> Wants you to purchase and consume iTunes content in the car.

    Google -> Wants to track everywhere you go and show you precisely-targeted ads while you go there.

    Tesla -> Wants a cut of both of the above, if possible, because their cars have big screens already.

    Microsoft -> Wants you to forget the whole Internet thing and to keep selling Windows licenses to desktop PC makers.

  • Reply 5 of 28
    Striking is the right word. Strikingly hideous.
    It
    has
    a
    square
    steering
    wheel
    edited April 2016 allmypeopleirelandjackansi
  • Reply 6 of 28
    kkerstkkerst Posts: 330member
    I'm sure glad Mikey dressed up.  
  • Reply 7 of 28
    irelandireland Posts: 17,684member
    Jony Ive and Mark Newson, supercar designers, car enthusiasts and the best design team on this planet have no intention of designing a 10-foot breadbin. To be revered Apple's car must be beautiful.

    I found it so refreshing to hear the guys on ATP criticise the exterior and interior design of the Model 3, which is 500 times better looking than this dorky Prius / Renault Espace minivan.

    As Siracusa said Tesla have yet to find their identity as a car designer and he so aptly described the Model 3 how I felt about its design as "generically-futuristic". His criticism of the front-end in particular was so spot on—if you don't need a grille you don't just design the car as if it had a grille and put a blank in that location. You go further. It's not that they were too ambitious in this regard, it's that they weren't ambitious enough. The Model 3 is a very play-it-safe design, which I find boring. History will forget the design of all of Tesla's cars thus far. The Model S is an Aston Marin ripoff.

    For "1" to be a roaring success in terms of sales numbers and financials they need to (1) catch up on Tesla's huge lead in terms of technology and charging station infrastructure and (2) make a desirable object in a way only Apple knows how.

    Just "" branding visible (without number).
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 8 of 28
    irelandireland Posts: 17,684member
    This is going to be the new “Apple HDTV”, isn’t it?
    They didn't hire 600 people for an HDTV.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 9 of 28
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,490member
    I'm really surprised at the low quality of this Art Center design concept. Quite amateurish for such a prestigious school.
    tallest skil
  • Reply 10 of 28
    irelandireland Posts: 17,684member
    I'm really surprised at the low quality of this Art Center design concept. Quite amateurish for such a prestigious school.
    All the real designers are out designing, the rest are teaching design.


    edited April 2016
  • Reply 11 of 28
    Interesting conversation.
     hideous   design!
  • Reply 12 of 28

    If Apple really is working on a car it has to come close to the new standard... the Tesla Model 3.  What Motor Trend has dreamed up is drech.
    harry wild
  • Reply 13 of 28
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,980member
    I wish auto manufacturers would start pushing diesel more than hybrids. In most cases, diesel is actually more environmentally friendly than hybrids. 
    Performance wise, diesel sucks beside the torque. If you talk about Trucks, yes on diesel!
  • Reply 14 of 28
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    I’m still thinking it mightn’t have tires. Since room temperature superconductor doesn’t exist yet, and since exposure to high energy magnetic fields is damaging to pacemakers, et. al., the only other thing I can imagine is spheres, like in I, Robot.
  • Reply 15 of 28
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,149member
    bdkennedy said:
    Striking is the right word. Strikingly hideous.
    It
    has
    a
    square
    steering
    wheel
    Yep this mook up shows why the "designers" in question don't work for Apple and hopefully not anyone producing real world products.

    This is the worse of worse of postmodern mash-up pastiche. I mean OMG it has an antenna band as a bumper bar as well as the over sins. There has been zero thought for function and bugger me if anymore thought went in to the form.

    harry wild
  • Reply 16 of 28
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,149member
    I’m still thinking it mightn’t have tires. Since room temperature superconductor doesn’t exist yet, and since exposure to high energy magnetic fields is damaging to pacemakers, et. al., the only other thing I can imagine is spheres, like in I, Robot.
    Didn't Goodyear show off sphere wheels the other day?
    Also why stick with 4 wheels?

    They could have just two spheres in the centreline of the passenger pod like a motorbike.
    If the sphere wheels had power storage inside then service where you rent spheres and hot swap them at service stations to increase range.
    Also no need to worry able tire wear as the sphere rental company takes care that. You'd be left with a solid state car with zero servicing apart from software.
  • Reply 17 of 28
    That gold colored/plated design is not a bad idea at all. A real gold is being used in all electronic devices and maybe in future we will see use of it not only on the outside but also on the inside of that cute tech box on wheels. Of course, doing that on a large scale would imply buying out a gold mine in order to be able not only to produce mass market car, but customized versions as well. Versatility is most welcome. 
  • Reply 18 of 28
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Maybe journalists should wait until there actually is - if there ever is - something to write about.
  • Reply 19 of 28
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 425member
    There is nothing imaginative about the car industry. Motor Trend is doing nothing that science fiction writers haven't been doing, but with even less effect. 

    As a naive child and teen in the '50's and '60's, I sucked up the promises of the car industry's newest designs they would parade as concept vehicles at their yearly events, and dream of driving these cars. I especially remember this long sleek two wheeled beauty with a gyroscope to stabilize, that would lean into curves, and hydraulic "training" wheels that would lower when at rest. I remember the Indy 500 being promoted not as merely loud cars going around in a circle for no good reason, but where the innovation by the industry was developed and tested. I watched the Indy to see these innovations talked about and paraded there -- the future so close.

    My dreams were crushed in 1967, Parnelli Jones drove a turbine-powered car in the Indy, almost won when the torque-converter failed with three laps to go. In response, the USAC banned turbines being explicit and making it clear that racing had nothing to due with testing the future, but just going around in circle for no reason.

    Disney even had GM build the World of the Future at Epcot -- a marvel where I saw the neat stuff I would grow up to help design, maintain and use after high school and college. 

    All fake. In the '50's and '60's, us boys wanted to be astronauts, engineers, scientists, and build rockets (sorry but I think the girls then still wanted to be princesses). Some of us got to do that (and some girls too). But, the American car industry was not where the action was and where the dreams were to be made. 

    I'll give credit to the scientists and engineers who quietly went about their business of slowing making the industry better (mostly in material science and robotics), without much of anything exciting to show us, and certainly nothing like the concept cars they paraded. 

    Disruptive came out of Japan more recently with the Prius, not the American industry. Industry outsiders Elon Musk with the Tesla and perhaps Apple and Google will be where the disruption comes from. But I expect nothing out of the staid industry of American car manufacturers and "futurists" from Motor Trend. I still see them a little boys with big dreams with never anything to show for it.


    jackansimattinoz
  • Reply 20 of 28
    jackansijackansi Posts: 116member
    larryjw said:
    There is nothing imaginative about the car industry. Motor Trend is doing nothing that science fiction writers haven't been doing, but with even less effect. 

    As a naive child and teen in the '50's and '60's, I sucked up the promises of the car industry's newest designs they would parade as concept vehicles at their yearly events, and dream of driving these cars. I especially remember this long sleek two wheeled beauty with a gyroscope to stabilize, that would lean into curves, and hydraulic "training" wheels that would lower when at rest. I remember the Indy 500 being promoted not as merely loud cars going around in a circle for no good reason, but where the innovation by the industry was developed and tested. I watched the Indy to see these innovations talked about and paraded there -- the future so close.

    My dreams were crushed in 1967, Parnelli Jones drove a turbine-powered car in the Indy, almost won when the torque-converter failed with three laps to go. In response, the USAC banned turbines being explicit and making it clear that racing had nothing to due with testing the future, but just going around in circle for no reason.

    Disney even had GM build the World of the Future at Epcot -- a marvel where I saw the neat stuff I would grow up to help design, maintain and use after high school and college. 

    All fake. In the '50's and '60's, us boys wanted to be astronauts, engineers, scientists, and build rockets (sorry but I think the girls then still wanted to be princesses). Some of us got to do that (and some girls too). But, the American car industry was not where the action was and where the dreams were to be made. 

    I'll give credit to the scientists and engineers who quietly went about their business of slowing making the industry better (mostly in material science and robotics), without much of anything exciting to show us, and certainly nothing like the concept cars they paraded. 

    Disruptive came out of Japan more recently with the Prius, not the American industry. Industry outsiders Elon Musk with the Tesla and perhaps Apple and Google will be where the disruption comes from. But I expect nothing out of the staid industry of American car manufacturers and "futurists" from Motor Trend. I still see them a little boys with big dreams with never anything to show for it.


    Well put.


    "Mr. Ideals, please let me introduce you to Mr. Market Economy.  You have nothing in common."


    Many great ideas get drown out in the simple fact that, while people "want it", these companies that hire these dreamers can only stay in business as long as they build things that people buy, not just want. 

    Pile on a heaping spoonful of "practicality" and a side of "safety" and you pretty much end up with a few different sized boxes that your automobile idea needs to fit in.

    Your bumpers need to be in a certain place to remain compatible with the other cars on the road or else you compromise safety for the occupants (If you've ever get the chance to see what happens when I lifted hill billy truck hits a normal car, pass on that experience, it's damn ugly).  

    You can't go too extreme on dimensions because the roads, parking spaces, driveways, garages, are a certain size.  It's not a bad thing outright, but it does make it increasingly hard to break free and establish a bold new design... 

    It's not always the fault of the car makers though.  Many times if they did make a car like the concept, even if people loved it, a critical mass of people wouldn't buy it because they can't afford it (or "I'll wait till I find a good used one").  
    edited April 2016
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