Apple Is Working on a Car

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Apple is going into the car business. According to BusinessInsider, an Apple employee wrote to say that his group was working on something that will, "give Tesla a run for its money." My own sources back this up.

Apple Car

I learned last week that Apple has been poaching employees from Tesla. I don't mean the kind of tit-for-tat headhunting that goes on between all Silicon Valley companies (now that the no-poaching agreements are out).

Bloomberg reported that Tesla and Apple have been in a hiring war for some time, but the focus of that report was general hiring. There are all kinds of positions that are needed whether you're making cars, computers, or kiosks. Human resources, software engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, human resources, artists, designers, recruiters, supply chain managers, secretaries...the list is long.

But what I learned is that Apple has been looking for—and acquiring—the kind of people from Tesla with expertise that is most suited to cars. So much so that I went from being a doubter to a believer almost instantly.

From another source who travels in more rarified circles than yours truly, I also learned that a lot of people at the top in Silicon Valley consider it a given that Apple is working on a car. This is circumstantial, at best, but if you're going to crowd-source wisdom, you could do a lot worse than polling the C-suite.

I should add that when I asked one of my sources flat out to put a percentage chance on Apple working on an actual car—rather than some kind of car-related technology—I was told, "80 percent."

When coupled with everything I've learned since, I'm personally closer to 100 percent.

Wheelhouses

You might be thinking that the world of automobiles is well outside Apple's wheelhouse. In some ways that's true. But so were cellphones when Apple was developing the iPhone. If you go back to 2007, one of the common talking points from Apple doubters and haters was, "What does Apple know about making cellphones?"

Not all that much, but it turned out that Apple knew—or figured out—practically everything about how to make a smartphone practical and easy-to-use. Keep your eye on the iPhone, too. One day it might be big.

Smartphones have something in common with cars, especially electric cars, and that something is software. Apple is one of the world's leading authorities on software, and applying that expertise to cars is less of a stretch than one might think.

Tesla, the world's leading electric car maker, recently demonstrated that, too. The company brought a significant performance increase to one of its cars through a software update.

Which brings us to the full quote BusinessInsider published from the person claiming to be an Apple employee:

Apple's latest project is too exciting to pass up. I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.

To that end, he said that some top folks have left Tesla for Apple. My sources confirm this, while stipulating that Tesla is still doing just fine. In fact, if you look on LinkedIn, there are currently more Tesla employees who used to work at Apple than Apple employees who used to work at Tesla.

But Apple has always developed new products with a startup mentality. That means small teams with a great degree of freedom to do what needs to be done to make the best product possible.

We know from comments made by the late Steve Jobs and other Apple executives that very few products are given a green light. At the same time, once those products reach a certain phase in development, they almost always end up being released.

I don't know if Apple's car has reached that point—or if it will—but I am certain that Apple is working on one.

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Comments

Jamie

Outside of their wheelhouse? Let’s hope it’s better than Pippin. wink The modern world is a strange, strange place. wink

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Bandai_Pippin

BurmaYank

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/opinion/joe-nocera-the-riddle-of-powering-electric-cars.html?rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=Blogs

Jamie

I love that we, who are usually so verbose,  are all posting links. wink

BurmaYank

(sorry)

The Riddle of Powering Electric Cars - Joe Nocera (NYTimes - FEB. 10, 2015)

Lee Dronick

Apple is going into the car business. According to BusinessInsider, an Apple employee wrote to say that his group was working on something that will, “give Tesla a run for its money.” My own sources back this up.

Tesla is making batteries and it is believed that they have plans for not just big ones to power vehicles, but perhaps for small gadgets as well. Apple may be wanting a slice of that pie.

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/02/01/tesla-is-more-than-a-car-company-and-thats-terribl.aspx

CudaBoy

As usual you guys have it wrong. More than 150 Apple employees have jumped ship to Tesla (more than any carmaker!!) and VERY FEW Tesla employees have gone to Apple despite $250,000 signing bonuses and 60% salary increases.
From the link: Some high-priced Apple execs who bolted for Tesla include Doug Field, vice president of vehicle programs at Tesla; George Blankenship, vice president of sales at Tesla until he retired in 2013; Rich Heley, senior director for manufacturing technology and now vice president for product excellence; Lynn Miller, associate general counsel; Beth Loeb Davies, director of training programs since May 2011; and Nick Kalayjian, a director of power electronics.
Face it, it’s about vision - which company has vison? The one that keeps fixing iPhones and iPads, or the one that is changing the WORLD.

Lee Dronick

Both companies can have vision.

geoduck

Uh, no. The idea is absurd.

First as CudaBoy alluded to there’s an article that indicates far more people are going to Tesla from Apple than the other way.
http://www.macrumors.com/2015/02/05/apple-tesla-employee-poaching/

Second, I simply do not believe anyone who leaks a rumour of this magnitude and self identifies themselves AS an Apple Employee really IS an Apple employee. As soon as they were found out, and they would be, their career at Apple, not to mention every other hight tech company, would be finished. You don’t violate this level of NDA without severe consiquenses. Anyone who had access to this kind of information would have far too much to lose to leak it.

Third, Cars aren’t like watches or Phones. It’s a completely different kind of engineering. Sure the computer and automation part is something Apple could handle but how about suspension design, steering engineering, environmental controls, safety systems, or even seat ergonomics? Apple has no expertise in any of this. You know Apple would want to handle the “whole widget”, but their have been no reports of them hiring the large numbers of automotive engineers needed to bring this thing to fruition any time in the next decade.

This rumour has been bouncing around for week or so, kept aloft by the same people that insisted that Apple was going to release an Apple Branded TV. That didn’t happen either. Sorry but I’m not buying it unless their’s a lot more firm evidence.

geoduck

Oh and Fourth:
Apple enters markets they think they can revolutionize. With everyone from Tesla to GM to Toyota to Daihatsu not only already making cars but either investigating or producing electric vehicles Apple couldn’t bring anything to the table that hasn’t already been suggested. Their simply isn’t enough mead on that bone.

PSMacintosh

You’re a little early with this article. April 1st is still 2.5 months away.

But do I believe that its possible, yes…..unfortunately.
Why?  Because, like in the previous article that you just got done sending out,  Apple needs to get its own software act (Mac and iOS, iTunes, etc.) together. 
I agree with that!  Focus on that!
Apple has too much money to burn!?!

Apple, take the plank out of your eye…..before you start dreaming about building a self-guiding car (that runs over everything).

d'monder

“How about suspension design, steering engineering, environmental controls, safety systems, or even seat ergonomics?”

...all in a package that’s expected to last 10+ years and 200,000+ miles.

Another significant entry barrier is the dealer/support network.  Sure Apple could concentrate on the core metro areas, but what happens when you have an incident on the road, and the nearest place that’s qualified to do the repairs is five hours away?  The current makes didn’t build their networks overnight, and neither would Apple.

CudaBoy

All that money Apple has…. a boatload, it sure COULD go to disruption.
You know me - the old disgruntled guy who misses the Apple Computing days when Moore’s Law was evident every day seemingly, and Apple was ahead of most curves with shocking new things. The “evo” rather than “revo” lution aspect of the (despite being a cash cow) of playing “catch-up” in phones and pads features is just so boring to me - it’s not Apple Comp, it’s Apple Sony Samsung and I don’t care.
Google is a car company today - they’ve done the concept, the prototype and now they are producing the Goo-Car autonomous thing for proof of concept and trials etc. That’s Vision. Go ahead and laugh, but I’ve seen them here in SoCal. Think Bike Share on Campuses and downtown cities that want to designate areas explosion-free; no big deal in 10 years I’ll bet. I know- and I’m ready for you - but I’ve been pretty good with the predictions vis a vis Apple on this site over the years. If Apple ever decides to grow a pair again - with all that CACHE they have - I’d be re-born if they did a “car” - but then they’d be playing catch-up again, right? Still if Steve-O was here SOMETHING other than a damn watch would be up his sleeve.

CudaBoy

Last thing. You do NOT start a car company at this juncture to make money. I don’t care if the car excretes diamonds, NOBODY is making any money selling these alternative fuel cars. This ultimately would be why an Apple would be foolish to “play” with cars. Having said that, I do NOT think it is a stretch to see the owner-less car revolution happen “soon” whereby you will dial up a Goo-Car or Cargle via iPhone and it will be on your curb to drive you wherever, and it will meet you back at designated or other time as ordered by you on your iRing or iNecklace to drive you back. I’ll bet anything this paradigm will be functioning on campuses and certain downtowns relatively soon. Too bad Apple & Google are oil & water - they COULD make great dressing if only…

skipaq

Sitting here at the Magic Kingdom on break at work, I cannot help but

skipaq

My post got cut off.

Smile at the clever graphic.

Paul Goodwin

Well, that would be the fastest way to get rid of all that cash. This ranks right up there with the biggest horsesh#t ever making it’s way around the web.

Lee Dronick

Apple could have an existing car manufacturer build the vehicle to specification. This would probably more in the way of electronics, iPhone synch, and such. An Apple model by DeSoto, Nash, Thomas, or some such manufacturer.

mhikl

I rather doubt Apple is going to do a car. However, that Apple might be doing something regarding a car that no one else has thought up yet, and could be sold to car manufacturers or to dealers or the general public; and that could amaze us and put wings on our cars, that I could see—well, not really see, but see Apple doing Apple and pulling a rabbit out of its hat that is amazing. (Could ‘amazing’ ever become boring?

Namaste and care,
mhikl
Adding final point with a different emoticons (typed kind, not from Character Viewer which doesn’t work on MOS) at the very end just incase it crashes the rest of my post <all this stuff>

Nice pic, Bryan. I am a pic thief and use them on my folders. Not sure what I would use this carriage for, (with the Apple emblem) but . . . emoticon—><.< >.>

mhikl

Nope.
<.< >.>

wab95

Bryan:

First, great graphic. I can just picture the Queen giving her electric carriage a spin around the grounds at Windsor (mind the dogs!).

I just want to underscore a point you made in your piece, namely that few products under development at Apple are ever given a green light. Coupled with SJ’s comment that the products to which Apple have said ‘no’ are perhaps even more important than those to which they have said ‘yes’, and one is treated to an expansive field of possibilities for one of the world’s most successful and disruptive companies of all time.

It is also worth remembering that Apple are all about the long game; the very long game. That includes not simply taking time to both think through and develop the supportive systems for a product, but something that Apple have demonstrated with their iPods cum iPhones cum iPads and now soon-to-be-released watches, namely building upon prior expertise to develop new expertise to extend their disruptive power into yet new industries.

If Apple are paying attention to the convergence of technologies across sectors (they are), then they, better than anyone, can assess their current and potential capacity to enter and disrupt which industries. Remember, Apple have tested far more products, thus acquiring a broader skill set, than anyone outside of Apple knows about, nor will Apple likely admit to working on a specific product if they decide not to release it.

Not releasing a product, therefore, does not prove lack of capacity or skill set; neither does it rule out a possible future release.

Analysts continually harp on the point that Apple cannot rest on their iOS laurels forever. At some point, that juggernaut will come to rest. I suspect that Apple figured that out long before they read it in press.

That Apple are working on new products should surprise no one.

That those products might expand beyond Apple’s current product range into seemingly distant industries, given their history, should also surprise no one.

That Apple would launch a new product prior to working out and ensuring its sustainability would defy precedent. Given their cash hoard, time is on their side.

Caution might therefore be in order about declaring, too emphatically, what Apple can or cannot, will or will not pursue.

wab95

I meant to add:

CudaBoy makes an important point about the relative shift of expertise between Tesla and Apple.

That said, just as Tim Cook points out that, given Apple’s shear scope of work, one cannot look at one piece of the supply chain and gauge what Apple are doing next; I would argue neither can one look at a relative hiring spurt between Apple and another company and determine what Apple are or are not likely to explore, let alone release.

Paul Gigante

No one has asked the most important question of all!

Will it have Windows?

...

mrmwebmax

+

On February 3, Patently Apple ran a story about a patent granted to “Apple Electric Car, Inc.” The patent is for some sort of computerized golf cart.

This gets weirder: The article shows a picture of said golf cart sporting not only an iPad, but a very prominent Apple logo. Another photo shows company founder Tony Bonito standing side-by-side with none other than Woz.

The article raises far more questions than it answers, but may have some bearing on Bryan’s TMO article:

http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2015/02/apple-electric-car-inc-shows-up-in-todays-granted-patents.html

Lee Dronick

Good one Paul!

Question for those of you who track emloyee hires and fires, is Apple hiring automotive engineers from companies other than Tesla?

JustCause

It’s the batteries that Apple is making, in direct competition with Tesla. It goes to the core of Apple’s business, and is critical to it’s success and differentiation.

RonMacGuy

I know- and I’m ready for you - but I’ve been pretty good with the predictions vis a vis Apple on this site over the years.

LMAO, um, no, you haven’t.

 

mjtomlin

First of all, as they say, “never say never”. The fact is - and as was already mentioned - NO ONE really knows what’s going on inside Apple. Furthermore, “sources” in a weblog are about as reliable as “facts”.

Just because Apple hires someone (or a few) from a specific discipline, doesn’t mean that’s what they’ll be working on. What it could mean, is that Apple thinks that knowledge might be applicable in some other fashion. Sometimes solving a problem in one area can lead to discoveries elsewhere. There are many areas where Apple researches for its products that could apply to building a car, including 3D mapping, augmented reality, artificial neural networks, batteries, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, material science, etc.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Apple was actually “experimenting” with cars, even self-driving cars. Just as I’m sure they have several TV’s. And probably several highly advanced medical/bio sensors. And even some home automation kit in the works. I’m sure a tour of their R&D facilities would feel like walking through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Will any of it make it to market, who knows?

Kris G

Here is my reasoning why Apple would hire from Tesla. If BMW/Cadillac/Porsche/Lexus/Ferrari/Jaguar were located in the bay area, they would be hiring from those companies before hiring from Tesla

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140717132519-30013-to-be-like-apple-think-like-bmw

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