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Steve Jobs Considered Building an Apple Car in 2008

Steve Jobs Considered Building an Apple Car in 2008

The Apple co-founder kicked around ideas with longtime confidant and iPod co-creator Tony Fadell.

Adam Satariano

Source: Bloomberg

November 4, 2015 — 8:05 AM EST

Count Steve Jobs among those curious about what an Apple car would look like. In 2008, not too long after the Apple co-founder introduced the iPhone, Jobs was considering the possibilities of a much bigger gadget. Tony Fadell, then a senior vice president at Apple, remembers talking with Jobs about the potential for an iCar.

Jobs and Fadell, who had collaborated on the iPod and iPhone, swapped ideas about car designs on multiple occasions. “We had a couple of walks,” Fadell said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang. The pair posed hypothetical questions to each other, such as: “If we were to build a car, what would we build? What would a dashboard be? And what would this be? What would seats be? How would you fuel it or power it?”

Jobs decided not to move forward at the time. The discussions took place when the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse, and Apple was busy trying to establish the iPhone as a mainstream product. “The Detroit auto industry was almost dead,” Fadell made the comments on Bloomberg TV’s Studio 1.0, which premieres Wednesday night at 9 p.m. in New York. “It was fun to kick those ideas around.”

Since Jobs’s death in 2011, Detroit has rebounded, and Apple—not unlike Silicon Valley compatriots Uber and Google parent company Alphabet—has pushed closer than ever to releasing a vehicle. The company has been building a team of hundreds, including engineers and experts in battery and robotics technology, to design a car that could go into production by 2020, people with knowledge of the matter said in February. With more than $200 billion in cash and investments on its balance sheet, Apple certainly has the resources to build a car (and a spaceship).

As Fadell points out, phones and cars aren’t that different. “A car has batteries; it has a computer; it has a motor; and it has mechanical structure. If you look at an iPhone, it has all the same things. It even has a motor in it,” said Fadell, who’s now the chief executive officer of Alphabet’s Nest home appliances company. “But the hard stuff is really on the connectivity and how cars could be self-driving.”

The idea for a car had been bouncing around Apple even before 2008. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, said in 2012 court testimony that executives discussed building a car even before it released the iPhone in 2007. Mickey Drexler, a former Apple board member and head of J.Crew Group, also said in 2012 that Jobs had wanted to build a car.

Jobs, who drove a Mercedes, said “no” to a lot of projects, according to Fadell, who said he doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of Apple’s car plans. Cameras and televisions were other products the company had considered but ultimately avoided in favor of the iPhone, he said. “At the end of the day, what was the biggest one that had the biggest dramatic impact on the world?” Fadell said. “We said, ‘OK, we’re going to focus our energy on that. Forget all this other stuff.'”

Years later, the auto industry is still ripe for a tech overhaul. Fadell said it’s “early days” in the evolution of the car, especially for mass adoption of electric vehicles. He said Silicon Valley views software as its biggest advantage in a bid to upend the auto industry. “I think you’re going to see some dramatic changes in the way we think about these cars and the accessibility in terms of the price points,” Fadell said. “But we’re still seven to 10 years away from a mass switch-over.” When you consider that the iPhone came out eight years ago, a lot can happen in that time.

Forbes: How Driverless Cars Will Radically Change Every Aspect of Our Lives

17 October 2015

By Marshal Phelps at Forbes

Good driver discounts? Accident premium hikes? These are about to go extinct, along with a good portion of auto insurance profits. Because in just three years’ time, driverless cars are going to start hitting the roads and reshaping a host of industries — not to mention all of our lives.

But before we look at how, exactly, our lives will change, let’s explore a curious feature of this radical innovation: it’s coming primarily from outside the auto industry itself.

Two days ago, Tesla released autopilot software for its Model S cars that allows for hands- and feet-free driving in either stop-and-go traffic or highway speeds. It does not yet allow for fully-autonomous driving not because of any technical constraints — the tech is already there and ready to go — but simply because of regulatory and insurance concerns. Tesla said it plans to release its first fully-driverless car in three years.

Meanwhile, technology giants Google and Apple are also furiously at work on their own autonomous vehicles. Reporting from last month’s Frankfurt International Motor Show, The New York Timesnoted that “Along with Google, Apple has focused the minds of auto executives on the challenge posed by new technologies that have the potential to disrupt traditional auto industry hierarchies.”

Think it can’t happen? Think again. It’s the tech companies, not automakers, who’ve been driving the rapid development of intelligent dashboards in recent years. Then there’s the fact that Google is worth five times more than any auto company on the planet. As for Apple, it’s worth a whopping eight times more than any car company, and it also has the proven technological and cultural capacity to utterly transform the auto industry just like it did the mobile phone and recorded music industries.

In contrast to this breakneck innovation by outsiders, the traditional auto industry itself seems largely stuck in a defensive crouch. What does it say about the auto industry’s attitude towards innovation that a premiere carmaker like Volkswagen was willing to bet its entire future on an emissions-control scheme just to save the $4 billion it would have cost to R&D a real solution to the emissions problem?

Whatever you think of Apple, Google, or Tesla and their various corporate missteps, can you imagine any of them ever behaving like this?

In the end, VW will now have to spend at least $40 billion to repair the flawed emissions systems in its cars, compensate customers for the fact that their cars have depreciated 25 percent overnight, and settle the tsunami of lawsuits soon to come crashing down upon their corporate headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

That’s a 10-to-1 loss caused by the failure to innovate. And when you add to the VW scandal the lethal ignition switch fiasco at General Motors and similar industry foot-dragging going back at least 40 years to the exploding gas tanks in Ford’s Pinto, it seems pretty clear that we’re looking at an industry not run by innovators.

This is not to say there is no innovation in the traditional auto industry. My Mercedes has some pretty amazing driver-assist and connectivity technology. And General Motors CEO Mary Barra has already announced plans to unveil a fully-autonomous electric Chevy Volt by this time next year — though only for employee use on its Warren Technical Center campus near Detroit.

But quick to spotlight the auto industry’s greatest flaw, the satirical magazine The Onion made this announcement: “General Motors announced plans Thursday to recall a fully autonomous car by 2021.”

So it’s outsiders like Apple, Google, and Tesla who are pioneering the road to an on-demand autonomous vehicle future that will totally disrupt not only the auto industry, but a dozen other industries as well — and all of our lives along with it.

Imagine the world five years from now, filled with driverless cars at your service as needed. What’s the biggest change we’ll see?

For one thing, they will start saving an astonishing 300,000 American lives every decade!

As The Atlantic magazine reported last month, researchers at McKinsey & Company “estimate that driverless cars could, by mid-century, reduce traffic fatalities by up to 90 percent. Which means that, using the number of fatalities in 2013 as a baseline, self-driving cars could save 29,447 lives a year. In the United States alone, that’s nearly 300,000 fatalities prevented over the course of a decade, and 1.5 million lives saved in a half-century.”

Moreover, once the technology spreads worldwide, where a total of 1.2 million people now die annually in car crashes, “driverless cars are poised to save 10 million lives per decade — and 50 million lives around the world in half a century,” added The Atlantic.

This fact, noted the magazine, makes autonomous vehicles one of “the most transformative public-health initiatives in human history — on a par with the efficacy of modern vaccines,” which have saved millions of lives all over the world.

It will also make them the most disruptive economic force multiplier in modern industrial history. Because once driverless on-demand vehicles are on the road in large numbers, look what will happen to other industries we interact with in our everyday lives:

• The auto insurance industry will be transformed or else wither and die as 90 percent of traffic accidents go away. Don’t forget, driverless vehicle software won’t get drunk, fall asleep at the wheel, or violate speed laws. And guess what — you’ll be able to legally text while driving!

• The hospital business will go into shock as millions fewer people are injured or killed on the roads. Emergency rooms will still treat cardiac cases and gunshot wounds, but with few accident victims to care for, ER’s will specialize in discrete care areas and become differentiated profit centers for major hospital chains.

• No more schlepping to airport car rental facilities and standing in line for an hour. Instead, on-demand rental cars will pick you up at the terminal and drop you back off again when you return to the airport, then drive themselves to their remote facilities.

• Urban planning will face its greatest challenge since the invention of high-rise apartment living as cities no longer need be designed around auto traffic and parking needs. Urban congestion will ease as cars move about only on demand.

• Municipalities will need to find new sources of revenue as their police forces are redeployed from traffic and ticketing duties to solving crime and catching crooks. Crime rates will decline dramatically.

• Gas stations will become fully-automated 24/7 operations where cars will fuel themselves when not in use by humans.

• Just in time delivery and transport services will become much more profitable without the cost of labor as a major factor. “How Am I Driving?” and “Drivers Wanted” signs will sell on eBay as collectors’ items.

Where will the profits lie in this driverless future? In lots of places, as I’ll demonstrate.

My innovation-on-demand company, ipCreate, has mapped out the economic opportunity in just one small area of the autonomous vehicle future: on-demand tour guide services. We found there is little intellectual property in this area, and what little there is consists of patents held mostly by a wide array of individual inventors, with no clearly-dominant player among the top five patent holders (Uber, Frias, IBM, Microsoft, and Xerox).

In short, there is lots of white space for invention, and a wide-open opportunity for players to seize key chokepoints in the on-demand tour guide services market. Based on our proprietary analytics as well as some market research using Survey Monkey, we estimate on-demand tour guide services to be a $130 million to $300 million business in the near-term.

And that’s just the opportunity in one little segment of the driverless on-demand future! We have also identified over 100 other brand new businesses that will emerge in the driverless future — new businesses that the big auto companies may end up playing little or no role in.

So what are some other ways that our lives will change when autonomous vehicles start hitting the road in three to five years? Where will the best business opportunities lie?

Post your ideas in the comments section and hopefully we can get a “driverless futures” discussion going.

GM’s Mary Barra, “absolutely” making cars for an age when human driving is defunct.

15 Oct 2015: GM Has ‘Aggressive’ Plans for Self-Driving Cars.

From Wired:

GENERAL MOTORS IS quietly developing autonomous vehicle technology and plans to have a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Volts roaming the campus of its technical center in suburban Detroit next year.

The company has been relatively quiet about the technology, which companies like Google, Tesla Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi have championed with big promises and impressive demonstrations. But General Motors is no stranger to autonomous tech, which is started exploring almost a decade ago when it collaborated with Carnegie Mellon University for an autonomous vehicle competition sponsored by DARPA.

It plans to capitalize on that work with “Super Cruise,” a semi-autonomous feature that will let a car handle itself on the freeway. The feature is expected to appear on an unspecified Cadillac model next year. The company also will deploy a fleet of robo-Volts, with engineers at the wheel just in case, at the Warren Technical Center.

The center, in suburban Detroit, covers roughly a square mile and features many of the variables autonomous vehicles would encounter in an urban area. Eleven miles of road criss-cross the center, which includes intersections, roundabouts, pedestrians, and cyclists. In that way, it’s GM’s own little city. “We’ll leverage that,” Barra told WIRED. “There’s so much you learn by actually doing.”

It’s a fitting locale for this kind of testing: Since 1956, the Eero Saarinen-designed Warren campus has served as the automaker’s main research hub. Since 2009, it’s been the home of the country’s largest battery lab, where GM develops and tests the all-important lithium-ion batteries that power the Volt, and will power the Bolt, the affordable car with 200 miles of electric range it intends to introduce in 2017.

And the Volt is a fitting car for the project: an electrified system makes it easier for engineers to tap into the controls, but more importantly, it’s the most forward-looking car in the GM stable. There’s a reason nearly every autonomous prototype out there is electric: When you’re talking bout one technology of the future, it makes sense to pair it with another.

Barra adds a third category: connectivity. “You need embedded connectivity to make autonomous work. And that’s where General Motors has a lead,” with nearly two decades of OnStar-equipped vehicles on the market. It’s moving from there to vehicle to vehicle communication, starting with two Cadillac models next year.

Barra says GM isn’t going to rely on the traditional owner-driver model to keep its business going, and will “absolutely” make cars for an age when human driving is defunct. “We are disrupting ourselves.”

GM’s not revealing how the fleet of Volts in Warren fit into grander plans for automation, or if it has a target date to introduce technology beyond Super Cruise to the market. But, Barra says, “we’re gonna move aggressively.”

Future Page Ideas


Airline industry disruption. If high-speed cars can transport people quickly and cheaply, short-haul airline flights could suffer. (Thanks to Dean for the idea).

DMV Vanishes

Drivers License Redundant. 196 million licensed drivers Source All DMV’s close (research # of locations, costs, # of jobs, economic impact).

Drivers Education Schools Vanish

Parents free from taking kids to daycare, sporting events. More labor force participation. Higher earnings.

Fewer trips to motels and hotels during travel.

Resurgence of suburbs. You could live 100 miles from L.A., but be at the office in 1 hour in a high-speed autonomous vehicle.

Facial recognition could identify every passenger in a vehicle. If wanted by law enforcement, the vehicle would transport directly to police station. I doubt any criminal would get into a vehicle knowing this.