Mark Gurman: Apple's car deadline of 2025 fits with company playbook

While others have taken the robotaxi route for their self-driving technology, Apple will likely shoot for that same goal as it has with its other products.
Mark Gurman: Apple's car deadline of 2025 fits with company playbook

Apple traditionally likes to sell its products directly to consumers, no matter how challenging that might be.   

Tech giant Apple is redoubling its efforts to become a player in the car market. 

After seven years of false starts, delays and management changes, the iPhone maker is going full throttle on developing an electric car. Under its new leader, Apple Watch software chief Kevin Lynch, the team behind the car project is now pushing hard to debut a product by 2025. 

It is trying to build a vehicle that, without a steering wheel and pedals, will require no human intervention at all. A completely autonomous car has been the holy grail for the auto industry, and is an idea that Tesla, Google-owner Alphabet's Waymo, and others have been chasing for years. 

Tesla owners can now charge at the new Supercharger location at Mahon Point Shopping Centre in Cork. Picture: Mahon Point Shopping Centre
Tesla owners can now charge at the new Supercharger location at Mahon Point Shopping Centre in Cork. Picture: Mahon Point Shopping Centre

But no company — other than Waymo, to some extent — has come close. It has become increasingly difficult to envision that fully hands-free cars will be widely available in just four years. Even with its vast resources and ambition, it's hard to believe Apple will achieve the goal of a fully driverless car by 2025. 

That adrenaline-fueled timeline is more of a motivating factor for the team than a hard deadline, but I do anticipate them pushing hard to showcase a prototype by then. It’s the firmest launch goal Apple has put forth for its car since its first vehicle attempt in the mid-2010s. This all fits predictably within the Apple playbook. 

Before Steve Jobs pulled the original iPhone out of his pocket in 2007, the late Apple founder summed up what the device was at the time: A “leapfrog” product that outperformed all existing smartphones. 

That’s the modus operandi defining all of Apple's major new products since then: the iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods. It stands to reason Apple will shoot for that same goal with its car — a vehicle that eliminates driver involvement with a fully hands-free experience.

One lingering question about the car is the business model. It doesn't sound like Apple has made a final decision if it will ship its vehicle for an Uber or Lyft-like service, or for individual ownership. 

I would bet on the latter, though. While Waymo and others have taken the robotaxi route for their technology, Apple traditionally likes to sell its products directly to consumers, no matter how challenging that might be. 

The iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad each are examples of products where hardware, software, and services meet in the middle. It appears the Apple car will eventually do the same, mixing an Apple vehicle design, Apple software inside the car, and advanced services like its AI self-driving engine and in-car media capabilities.

That would line up with an answer chief executive Tim Cook gave during a January earnings call when asked how Apple evaluates new product categories. 

“The kinds of things we love to work on are those where there’s a requirement for hardware, software, and services to come together,” he said. “Magic occurs at that intersection.”

Bloomberg


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