The Evolution of CarPlay

Given the reports over the past week or so about Apple’s ambitions in the car space, I’ll share some thoughts related to a report on the connected car I’ll be publishing in the next week for my clients. This is a huge and broad topic, so I’m only going to focus on Apple’s potential role in all this and, specifically, the evolution of what is today called CarPlay.

A natural evolution

There’s a natural evolution in the relationship smartphone vendors such as Apple will have with the car and it’s mostly a question of how far this evolution will go. The diagram below shows four possible steps in this, with the red box in each case defining the contribution of the smartphone vendor to the overall solution:

Evolution of CarPlay

Phase 1: Generic UIs controlled by car OEMs

In this evolution, Apple’s CarPlay is currently in the second phase. The first phase was everything that came before, with fairly generic sync capabilities to allow smartphones to extend some of their functionality onto the in-car infotainment systems. The UI for these solutions was entirely controlled by the car OEMs, through systems designed by the various Tier 1 vendors that built these systems. Ford’s Sync has been one of the most sophisticated and they have just debuted a new version based, for the first time, on BlackBerry’s QNX rather than Microsoft’s in-car technology stack. But in such a model, a smartphone vendor such as Apple gets zero control over the in-car UI and almost no opportunity to extend its proprietary features such as navigation or voice control onto the car’s infotainment system.

Phase 2: OS-specific UIs for the infotainment system

2014 saw the introduction of phase 2 in this evolution, with Apple announcing CarPlay and Google announcing Android Auto. Both represent solutions for extending OS-specific UIs and apps onto the in-car infotainment system, focused on the main infotainment display. The smartphone vendors now define this experience to a far greater degree, including the look and feel, the specific apps and interaction models, and so on. Their sphere of influence has extended from the smartphone itself and an element of syncing technology to the display within the car. But this model is challenged in several ways: first, it threatens the car OEMs’ vision of what the in-car infotainment solution can be, namely something they can differentiate on and monetize. Having the smartphone and OS-specific UIs at the center removes their ability to differentiate and to monetize, putting smartphone vendors and car OEMs in conflict. The second challenge is that such solutions are in some ways a band-aid, sticking an OS-specific UI on top of the overall UI and in-car experience, which includes many other elements totally disassociated from them. Many modern cars have at least two information displays. Quite a few have as many as five, including the main infotainment display, the traditional dashboard dials, a small information display in the dash, a clock and climate control display, not to mention a slew of dials, knobs, paddles and so on to interact with all these. CarPlay and Android Auto represent progress beyond phase 1, but they suffer from conflict with the car OEMs’ objectives as well as a very limited role in the overall technology systems in the car.

Phase 3: Broader participation in in-car systems

I mentioned QNX and Microsoft earlier in the context of phase 1 systems such as Ford Sync. These companies have traditionally been among the major suppliers of in-car operating systems and software. Yet these companies are chosen, not for their ability to provide great user interfaces, but for the underlying technical capabilities they have, which are well-suited to the core functions of the car and the driving experience rather than the user interfaces and displays in the car. Microsoft lost the Ford business to QNX precisely because its system was poorly suited to the way consumers expect touch displays to operate today. One possible role for the Apples and Googles of the world in phase 3 is to extend beyond the band-aid-like approach taken with CarPlay and Android Auto into the in-car OS itself. This requires a much deeper integration with the car itself, beyond the infotainment system and that, in turn, requires going beyond each company’s traditional competencies. Apple and Google have always provided consumer grade operating systems and software, whereas both Microsoft and QNX have a long history in industrial grade operating systems, with both security and reliability characteristics suited to the highly performance sensitive environments in which their software has to operate.

I think it’s entirely possible Apple is exploring this kind of extension of CarPlay into a fully-fledged in-car OS that would go well beyond the current capabilities of CarPlay but, if so, this is a challenging task. There’s no doubt Apple’s expertise could make a huge difference to the in-car user interfaces we’re used to seeing but getting its operating systems and software ready to run core functions in a car would be a big leap. There is already talk about using Android as a potential operating system in cars and there are specific rumors about the next version of Android coming with a flavor designed explicitly for cars, but this is a leap for Android too, as a platform not known for robustness and flawless performance. On the other hand, Google is working in parallel on self-driving cars, giving it a great deal of insight in to and experience with what it takes to design software for more than just a car’s various displays. Given Google’s investment in this area, Apple may be tempted to make a move analogous to Google’s acquisition of Android, which was designed to prevent a Microsoft hegemony in mobile operating systems.

Apple may be better suited to work in close partnership with car OEMs to provide the design and user interface elements they’re so poor at, while leaving the underlying systems to those with a longer history. I’m not convinced Apple has the capabilities or the strategic reasons to participate at this lower level in the car technology stack, when participating at the higher, user-centric layers, makes a ton of sense. This is, to my mind, the most plausible explanation for the recent rumors about Apple’s broader ambitions in the car.

Phase 4: Building a car

Of course, as long as Apple works with the carmakers, it has several problems:

  • The inherent tension with carmakers who want to differentiate their experience, not adopt an Apple-flavored experience which might be shared with other carmakers and who want to monetize their own infotainment services rather than simply see Apple extend its services into the car
  • The inability to completely control the experience from end to end, as Apple tends to want to do. Steve Jobs was always fond of Alan Kay’s aphorism that “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware,” but Apple wouldn’t be making the hardware, or even controlling it, in the phase 3 scenario. CarPlay shows, in a small way, what happens when Apple can’t have complete control over the UI for something it designs: a wide variability in the quality of the implementation within the infotainment system
  • The fact competing smartphone vendors may well not want to integrate with a system designed by a competitor.

Tesla has demonstrated that it’s possible to totally overhaul in-car systems in such a way that both provides an enormously better UI, while adding a technology layer to core car and driving functions, but it’s in the position of having built the whole thing from top to bottom. Apple seems like one of the few companies out there that could match this level of reinvention, but it simply doesn’t have the heritage in actually designing and building cars. It’s been reported it would use a manufacturer to build the cars but it would still have to design the car itself, something that’s entirely outside of its core competencies – designing a car, after all, isn’t just about the outside and the technology functions but, most importantly, the mechanical functions Apple has no history of. Again, Tesla has demonstrated that it’s possible for a new entrant into the market to do these things enormously well, but it’s not clear Apple would benefit strategically from designing a whole car top to bottom when the technology functions are the main area where it would add value.

Phase 5: Self-driving cars

Of course, the whole concept of the connected car may just be considered a step along the way to autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles. This is obviously an area where Google has already invested significantly, and Uber, Tesla, Audi, and other car manufacturers are also far down this path. I continue to be skeptical we’ll see mass-market self-driving cars capable of driving nationally within the US, let alone globally, within the next five years, but it’s fairly clear this is an attainable goal within a longer timeframe. If this is what Apple is working on, which I consider a pretty long shot at this point, it’s a project that likely won’t see the light of day any time soon. But I continue to think the most likely scenario is Apple is working on what I’ve described here as phase 3: an evolution of CarPlay that goes deeper into in-car systems.

Published by

Jan Dawson

Jan Dawson is Founder and Chief Analyst at Jackdaw Research, a technology research and consulting firm focused on consumer technology. During his sixteen years as a technology analyst, Jan has covered everything from DSL to LTE, and from policy and regulation to smartphones and tablets. As such, he brings a unique perspective to the consumer technology space, pulling together insights on communications and content services, device hardware and software, and online services to provide big-picture market analysis and strategic advice to his clients. Jan has worked with many of the world’s largest operators, device and infrastructure vendors, online service providers and others to shape their strategies and help them understand the market. Prior to founding Jackdaw, Jan worked at Ovum for a number of years, most recently as Chief Telecoms Analyst, responsible for Ovum’s telecoms research agenda globally.

185 thoughts on “The Evolution of CarPlay”

  1. The thing being of course, that working on one of these levels, doesn’t preclude later moving on/into one of the others.

    1. This is tricky stuff. Car manufacturers are not going to let you play at Level 3 if they suspect your next move is to go to Level 4.

      1. Which is why Apple started out with the Iphone by selling it only through the smallest and weakest of the US carriers. Once they’d built a presence and the other carriers saw what a disadvantage it was to not have the iPhone, they expanded to be available from almost every carrier. Same deal with any kind of apple dashboard product — start small, with one of the lesser and more hungry car companies, then use that as a wedge to force all the car companies to open up to the idea of allowing an apple-branded, apple-made option to own the dashboard.

        1. AT&T is not in the “smallest and weakest US carrier” set. T-Mobile was the smallest of the majors then and it was the last to get the iPhone out of the Big 4.

          1. I should have said, the weakest carrier with nationwide coverage. T-mobile is basically an urban carrier, with no coverage to speak of outside of cities.

            AT&T was basically an underdog at the time — Apple has followed the same system in every market, signing first with the smaller (but not too small), more hungry carriers that are more willing to compromise and do things Apple’s way, then signing up the other, less hungry carriers and the bit players once not having the iphone became a liability to them.

          2. More importantly, the merger of AT&T into Cingular (and subsequent re-branding with the more national name), was going badly; they were probably losing as many customers as the other 3 biggies put together.

            AT&T needed something innovative. Verizon was growing and profitable; they told Jobs to get back on his high horse & not let the door hit them on the butt when they got out.

            AT&T, near-desperation notwithstanding, ended up having made the better choice. Verizon, given how quickly they were able to get Moto into the game, didn’t suffer too badly.

        2. There was a far bigger reason for AT&T being chosen, …supply chain. By going “AT&T only” at US launch, they got to keep one model for most of the world. GSM vs. CDMA.

  2. GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, BMW, …, as well as Tesla I might add, have absolutely neither the expertise nor the cultural acumen in building an Apple kind of car. Without, of course, being ‘handheld’, close to the vest, by Apple’s holistic proclivity; not remotely foreseeable.

    Apple absolutely lacks both the expertise and the topical cultural degenerescence needed to build a prototypical modern-day branded-car, …Tesla included. Without, of course, tying Apple’s holistic swagger into a piecemeal Gordian knot; neither is it remotely foreseeable, …nor would it be commendable.

    Any serious analysis ought be initiated from the aforementioned symmetrical asymmetries. As for my personal journey, the cultural divide…the ambition precipice…led me straight to a sociological upheaval brought about by an Car economy.

    If an Car there shall be, integrity shall be its mainstay.
    If an Car there shan’t be, well then, …an Car there shan’t be…, and life-changing love-making will linger on in the foreplays, in the trivial concupiscence of CarPlay…

  3. Palm CEO Ed Colligan from 2006: “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

    General Motors retired CEO Dan Akerson, recently commenting on Apple: “They’d better think carefully if they want to get into the hard-core manufacturing. We take steel, raw steel, and turn it into car. They have no idea what they’re getting into if they get into that.”

    I’ll say it again, building a car just isn’t as hard as a lot of people seem to think it is. The question isn’t whether Apple can build a great car, the question is whether they will choose to. I tend to think if Apple can do something better and simpler, they will. If they can’t, then they won’t.

    1. “I’ll say it again, building a car just isn’t as hard as a lot of people seem to think it is.”

      The liability as a car maker is much more extreme than with cell phones, too. THe mechanics are easy enough. Making them so no one blames you for an accident, no one has done that yet. Maybe Apple has figured that part out.


      1. I tend to agree that the political and regulation side of things is the harder part in the auto industry. Vehicles could be built to a much higher level of quality and they could last much longer as well, the auto industry just doesn’t do this, because they don’t have to. There’s also quite a difference if you’re building ten thousand cars as opposed to a million. As Horace (Asymco) recently noted, “It’s easier to design and build a Ferrari than a Ford”.

        Better quality would mitigate some of the liability issues of course, but there’s a lot of regulation to deal with. That said, Apple is wading into the health industry and Apple does get sued a lot and initiates its own legal actions as well, so maybe these issues wouldn’t deter them. I will also note that, unless I missed it, Jim Dalrymple has not weighed in on the Apple car with his famous ‘nope’.

        1. Sure, but most of Apple’s litigation has been about annoyance or IP. No one has died from brake failure or a sticking accelerator on an iPhone.


          1. Cost depends on the manufacturing and design, the scale. I don’t think we can say a well built car has to be expensive. It can’t be dirt cheap, but we’re not talking 100K. Building a higher quality car is about better design and engineering, being more thoughtful.

            On the legal side, I’m inclined to think that if the auto industry can handle it, so can Apple. The question for me isn’t whether Apple can do these things, it’s whether they’ll choose to.

  4. Cars are so far behind the infotech curve. All but the top three car makers must…must be mulling over what partnering with Apple on a car might mean to their position in the industry. If Apple gets to stage 4, it could look like the iPod acquisition; Apple buys a neat piece of hardware, then whips it into shape as a consumer product.

    Cars will become more and more consumer products, as we shift to working at home or making a home where we work. No car required for work means no car required at all for many people.

    Cars already seem like tech from the last millennium: Gas burning boxes on wheels. Fifty years out we will be deemed barbarians by our progeny. “Six hundred million years of oil and all you could think to do was burn it up? Really?”

          1. I’m sure. Apple does the best for the rest. A Tesla is for the one percent. It doesn’t meet Apple’s mission, market, or money goals.

          2. My understanding is that the main roadblock for widespread adoption of electric cars is in the battery technology. Everything depends on it. Even with Tesla, I’m sure they would be more than happy to sell affordable models if they could make good enough batteries, at a large enough scale and at a reasonable price. Current limitations in battery technology and/or the supply chain are blocking that.

            If the situation around batteries change for the better, a lot of things become possible, including selling cars for the rest of us. I unfortunately know next to nothing about the technology or supply chain. That’s why I’m not sure.

    1. Yes, I’ve said for awhile, given everything that one can do with petrochemicals (plastics, etc.), including recycling all of those things into other things, they’ll say: “You burned it? You just burned it?”!

  5. Cars are so far behind the infotech curve. All but the top three car makers must…must be mulling over what partnering with Apple on a car might mean to their position in the industry. If Apple gets to stage 4, it could look like the iPod acquisition; Apple buys a neat piece of hardware, then whips it into shape as a consumer product.

    When? Ten years out: Cars will become consumer, recreational products as we shift to working at home or making a home where we work. No car required for work means no car required at all for many people.

  6. This is the best analysis I’ve seen of this subject. But when people talk about “Apple building a car” they don’t consider the following:

    (1) A car has an engine, steering, brakes, a transmission, a suspension, wheels, doors, and a body. A car is primarily a mechanical entity and must be designed as one.

    (2) Dealer networks would have to set up, not only to sell cars, but to repair them as well.

    (3) Marketing cars is a special art.

    Apple has no experience in these areas, and I’m pretty sure Tim Cook is not dumb enough to try to learn them.

    1. Tim Cook would be dumb enough to try not to learn them. If Tim Cook (or even Steve Jobs) took everybody’s advice on what Apple should do, they would only be making Macs. Good thing they didn’t listen otherwise I’d still be using a crappy Blackberry.

    2. “(1) A car has an engine, steering, brakes, a transmission, a suspension, wheels, doors, and a body. A car is primarily a mechanical entity and must be designed as one.”

      Yes, and none of this is particularly difficult to design or build. If you’ve actually worked on cars, rebuilt engines, built vehicles from kits, and so on, then you’ll know this. If you have little or no mechanical experience, then I suppose it’s easy to assume it’s incredibly difficult. Let me be clear, I’m not saying Apple will build a car, but they could, and they could exceed the current quality of the auto industry, if they chose to.

      “(2) Dealer networks would have to set up, not only to sell cars, but to repair them as well.”

      Apple has a fair amount of experience in retail and a fair number of retail locations. Keep in mind that electric cars need far less service. Why do you think the auto industry drags their heels on electric vehicles? Because the money is in servicing the combustion engine.

      “(3) Marketing cars is a special art.”

      Apple is great at marketing. There’s nothing special about cars in this regard.

      “Apple has no experience in these areas, and I’m pretty sure Tim Cook is not dumb enough to try to learn them.”

      I think it’s clear Apple has enough experience in all the areas you list. But I think you’re right, Tim Cook would not learn to do things in the way the current auto industry does. If they make a car it will be something different and better. And if Apple can’t do something better/different, they won’t do it.

      1. “Yes, and none of this is particularly difficult to design or build.”

        Actually, no that’s wrong.
        Mechanical systems can be fiendishly difficult to design correctly/well.
        Particularly engine/power train systems.
        Who do you think buy super computer clusters to model and develop these things. Designing engines and gear systems to the required reliability/safety levels can take decades of continual evolution and iteration.
        And this is all super tightly held proprietary secrets.
        Sure it is easy enough to sketch it all out, and build badly.
        but the devil is surely in the details – harmonics, surface treatments and coatings, lubrication, heat expansion/tolerances, corrosion… (and do it cost competitively – that’s a killer)

        1. I grew up on a farm where we did plenty of mechanical work, fabricated when necessary, rebuilt engines, ripped apart and redesigned heavy machinery (because it was so stupidly engineered), and so on.

          You’re correct that there’s a good deal of science and engineering involved, and I don’t mean to say it’s easy, but it isn’t magic that is beyond the scope of mortals (especially when you go electric). And the current quality of the auto industry is, from what I’ve seen working on engines/vehicles, not stellar. I see a lot of poor engineering, from lug nuts that weld themselves stuck over time to rims that gather gravel to terrible cabin design, bad steering assemblies, poor placement of parts that need service, plastic parts that break too easily, it just goes on and on. There seems to be no end to the stupidity and poor design. I imagine some of that is due to cost and time constraints, but Apple wouldn’t have those problems to the same extent. If I can see what’s wrong as I work on a vehicle and I can easily figure out how to do it better, then Apple can, without a doubt.

          Apple could build a car if they want to, that’s not the relevant question. The question is if there’s any reason for Apple to build a car.

          1. agreed. It’s really not.

            Apple would do really well manufacturing a car at scale with impeccable quality.

            The iPhone 6 is leaps & bounds more complicated to manufacture

          2. A few decades ago I had the pleasure of combining three wrecked Austin-Healy Sprites (plus a license to a 4th) into a dandy little car. I’d always had a bit of mechanical aptitude, but this involved comparing third gears from one car vs the others and choosing the one in best shape, then building up the car. Even did the body work & painting.

            Every damn part except the master brake cylinder. Had to order new tires, pistons and main bearings but everything else made do.

            I got to see why the British auto industry failed. Much as I loved my car, the parts were all cut-rate—gears chipped, cylinders scored, excessive wear on those finicky carbs—damaged from ordinary driving.

            There were, IIRC, 1600 separate parts that I assembled. Toyota says a typical car these days has 30,000—20 times as many. A recent comparison of a 2009 Chevy Impala with a 1959 one made a similar point—today’s cars, while not costing much more in inflation-adjusted dollars, last longer, get better mileage, have more power/performance, are MUCH safer and have MANY more features. They are MUCH more complex.

            At heart, they’re still the same but each subsystem is pushed quite a bit more. Those nasty carburetors have been replaced by precision-machined fuel injectors, controlled by a computer reading many—dozens of?—sensors.

            People talk about Apple being disrupted by modularity of parts as products become commonplace. But if Apple gets into the auto game, it’ll be with Cook, the unchallenged maestro of complex logistics, playing that tune like a fiddle.

          3. Yeah, the reciprocating ICE might well go the way of the mechanical watch movement: an amazing achievement in complex precision engineering, but on a purely utilitarian basis, economically unviable.

          4. I agree. Cars are certainly more complex in the number of parts, but it isn’t magic. And we all need to keep in mind that Apple isn’t taking a thousand Comp Sci PhDs and saying “Hey, figure out how to build a car”. Apple is hiring expertise from within the auto industry and combining that, integrating that. These people already know how to build cars. And Apple knows design inside and out. Design is how something works, and Apple has a great design team with deep experience in all sorts of areas. I think the result of Apple’s design and manufacturing process and auto expertise could be quite interesting.

          5. What really makes me wonder about an Apple car is that an “Apple cellphone” is a complete misnomer: 90% of it was a general-purpose computer and 10% was the radio that allows communication.

            I don’t see how Apple will produce a car that’s 90/10 computer/vehicle—not even 30/70, as vehicles are already equipped with increasingly sophisticated computerized information, control and entertainment functions. By 2020, vehicles will be even MORE defined by these functions.

            All the major manufacturers already offer collision-avoidance, parallel-parking assistance, backup cameras, radar warnings, etc. They all have deals with Microsoft, Google or Apple.

            How does Apple disrupt vehicles that already have such efforts going in Apple’s area of expertise? Horace Dediu ha said all the innovation in autos has come not in the power train (?—yes, he’s unimpressed with Tesla’s Impact being “disruptive”) but from the design/build process; what does Apple bring to logistics and manufacturing that everybody hasn’t already copied from Toyota’s JIT focus?

            As a Prius owner, I’ve been using an electric power train for over a decade. The only disruption I can envision is autonomy for the vehicle, which seems over a decade in the future, even with infrastructure such as special lanes, beacons and standardized communication protocols allowing close coordination and extended awareness.

          6. “How does Apple disrupt vehicles that already have such efforts going in Apple’s area of expertise?”

            Well, the computer part of the car is still not exceptional. Some bits work great, other bits are terrible. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. But this is the right question, is there an opportunity for Apple to offer a better experience. Any talk of whether Apple *can* build a car is foolish in my opinion. Of course they can, and at a high level, no question. But will they? What could Apple do differently?

            The two things that come to mind are power management and manufacturing efficiency. Apple is very good at those, and they impact performance and price.

            “As a Prius owner, I’ve been using an electric power train for over a decade. The only disruption I can envision is autonomy for the vehicle”

            For me it would be range and price. I have long thought if an electric car (5 passenger minimum with good cargo space, all electric, no hybrids allowed, has to work in northern Canada in the winter) can be financed for say $300 per month, including a solar home charging station, and had a range approaching 500 miles, at that point who would buy a traditional vehicle?

            Add to that the opportunity for a car to be a mobile accessory, another node in the Apple Network of Things.

            Also, Apple is great at polishing the user experience. Of course most people don’t see this value, but a great many of the best customers do. The old argument against Apple is always that you can do all the same stuff on cheaper devices. Well, yes, but the experience is not exactly the same.

            Vehicles, for me, could use a lot of polish.

        2. If Apple builds a car:

          They will hire the best automotive engineers in the business.
          They will build an electric not an ICE car. The ICE is where most of the complexity you talk about lies. Outside of the ICE, the engineering problems are far easier to solve.

          You talk as if people and the agglomerations thereof that we call “corporations” have no capacity to learn new things.

  7. Cars will become primarily recreational products as we shift away from the factory system to self employment, working at home or making a home where we work. No car required for work means no car required at all for many people. As an industry, cars may decline in importance to something like Hasselblad today.

    Ergo, any car Apple creates must have a new size, shape, and purpose.

    1. “Cars will become primarily recreational products as we shift away from the factory system to self employment, working at home or making a home where we work.”

      I’ve heard the same song for almost 20 years now. Wake me up when it happens.

      1. Too true. But I cannot picture the traffic jams of my kidhood in Chicago fifty years ago, fifty years from now, adding in China and India.

        1. Here’s the thing, even if you say cars will not be the necessity they are now, look at the pattern in dense urban areas with fully built up mass transit systems. The place is still packed with cars! And a lot of people, generally the more affluent ones, who use mass transit daily still own cars.

          Unless government puts in draconian measures to restrict car ownership, cars will never go completely out of style. At worst, only the more affluent people will own cars. But that plays right into Apple’s strategy of targeting the high end only.

          1. That’s just it: Apple doesn’t build its products for the rich. It’s market is craftily defined to be those who can pay for quality and quality that’s made as affordable as possible—somewhere between 15 and 50 percent of the market. But not the 1 percent.

          2. “More affluent” to me doesn’t mean the 1%. The people in London, New York, Tokyo, and similar cities, who own cars fall in a far larger demographic than the 1%. No government in its right mind will restrict car ownership to only the top 1%. The car buyers and car companies would rise up in revolt.

          3. “More affluent” isn’t the 50 percent either. You know, “the rest.” And Apple as I know it, aims that high and settles for less.

          4. It is. I do see cars in decline, but I don’t see your stats in conflict with that. NB today over 60 percent of US homes own more than two cars and more than 20 percent own three or more cars. If the US fell to your London stats, it would be a precipitous decline.

            Here’s a hint of that decline in an urban setting: “… the proportion of San Francisco households who own zero cars increased from 28.6 percent in 2000 to 31.4 percent in 2012, the fifth-highest rate among large American cities… The stats show that the city’s average car ownership rate is declining, even as the population is growing.”

            And, I’m hoping, that’s the case: As cars become less necessary for work and more a recreational option, folks will simply choose not to own them.

          5. I do not deny that car ownership rates will decline as the proportion of populations living in densely urban areas rise. I just don’t see it declining to the point that producing autos for private vehicle ownership becomes an insignificant activity, Uber notwithstanding.

            I could be wrong, there could be a cultural sea change in which people no longer view ownership of a private means of transportation as a symbol of one’s status. That would of course mean upending thousands of years of human civilization that used the horse, elephant, litter, chariot, carriage, and automobile as conspicuous markers of societal standing.

    2. Cars are already primarily recreational vehicles in that even if most of a car’s mileage is commuting to and from work, when people buy cars, they focus on the recreational value that it offers. i.e. Is it fun to drive?

      1. True today in the USA, tho’ we are literally running out of road. Looking down the line at the next bunch of buyers in China, India, Asia generally, cars will have different form and function.

        And today I read that Apple plans to go into car production about 2020. Imagine what cars might be by then. This, by the way, makes no sense. Apple would never commit to production over a decade out, on anything.

        1. Oh, I agree. If Apple builds a car, it will be one that changes our notions of what a car is or they won’t build one at all. And when you say “Imagine what cars might be by then”, maybe we can’t imagine it but I bet Apple has some relatively well-formed ideas.

          And the 2020 date? When you embark on a project, you always have a timeline. That’s just a plan, not a commitment. And plans evolve as you go along.

  8. The rumour about an apple car included the claim that apple had assembled a thousand engineers to work on the project. Which sounds like too many for a new version of carplay, but not nearly enough to be building a whole car.

    My take: they’re trying to build a drop-in dashboard system (music/gps/video/etc). They will launch it as an exclusive upgrade option available through one major US auto company, then gradually over time they will expand it to be available from other companies, just like the Iphone started on AT&T and then became available from other providers. It will work on its own, but be greatly enhanced by mating it to your iphone. Once they have a wedge in the door, they will over time expand the abilities of this “apple drive” system from music and maps to climate control/antitheft/engine health/gas gauge/speedometer/etc.

    Self-driving cars are much further out than Google would like you to think — right now they can only send a self-driving car along one of the few streets that they have analyzed to an extreme degree and pre-programmed into the car’s autopilot. If and when it becomes practical to send a self-driving car to any given destination, apple will already have a strong presence in the market and a lot of experience with mating their software to automotive systems.

        1. But music/gps/video are already on an iPhone. Wiring up to speedometers and stuff is also quite trivial.

          I don’t understand the technical challenges that would require such a large team.

  9. I see problems no matter how this automotive loaf is sliced. Recent Apple hire Johann Jungwirth led an advanced research team for Mercedes which integrated a lot of predictive intelligence into a system for Merc cars of the future. It was all based on Android and done with some level of collaboration with Google. If such android based systems are under development with other auto manufacturers Apple, specifically the iPhone, will be left out in the cold. CarPlay as we know it would be dead. Watch the videos here to see the extent of the smart systems Merc is working on

    For Apple to go head on against all competing auto manufacturers also is problematic. What percentage of cars world wide could Apple hope to sell especially if luxury makers like Mercedes are already taking advantage of Android in their advanced research? Distribution, dealerships, servicing etc would all be massive undertakings and make Apple a competitor to all existing makes. They did this in phones but phones pale in cost in comparison to cars.

    I’m not sure I even believe the following but… All the speculation floating around is about Apple building a personal vehicle. But Uber is showing us that personal vehicles may not be the future of transportation and certainly city transport is particularly ripe for personal vehicle ownership disruption. Could Apple be interested in making an autonomous electric vehicle service for city use? That have or are working on the mapping data. This scheme wouldn’t need a sales and service distribution network. it could be brought in city by city. It would still allow for an integrated CarPlay play at existing manufacturers if they were so interested without competing with them at retail. Apple has or could have the cloud based chops to pull it off. I’m going to call Gene Munster to see what he thinks.

  10. I think your reasoning is very sound and I totally agree. The only problem is, extending CarPlay seems to be too small of a project considering the hires we are hearing about (and which can easily be confirmed).

    That’s why I conclude that it must be about something else, which at this point, I suspect involves green energy.

  11. The iPhone is a tremendously solid piece of hardware but anybody who’s used one can recall times when Safari closed unexpectedly or some other significant app stopped. Many of us heavy users have seen the machine reboot for unexplained reasons, quite possibly errant third-party apps that weren’t sufficiently sandboxed.

    I’m not saying it’s remotely as frequent as the old Windows Blue Screen of Death or similar reboots on other platforms, but I will say that any software that gets CLOSE to driver-control functions needs to be designed for the specific purpose. Very likely, that means an OS that’s NOT designed for arbitrarily adding apps when the user wants.

    Existing core control systems, however, DO present an opportunity in that they’re not good enough today in a very important dimension: security. When a kid can turn on your windshield wipers from outside the car, there are too many insecurities that hackers could exploit. Who wants a voice coming out from their radio, saying to pay $10,000 before the next time they get in the car, if they don’t want it to suffer uncontrollable acceleration?

    So it’s possible that these control systems will need rewriting from the ground up anyway. Just that they seem an especially poor fit for Apple’s type of expertise. Jan’s transition approach makes a lot of sense.

    1. That’s why a car not should BE a computer! Closed all the way. Want a computer in the car? Install one independently, and isolated from the critical driving components. The car should still be a car if the computer fries.

      1. Not sure what you mean by “a computer,” but cars pretty much ALL use one to control efficient, smog-reducing fuel injection, monitoring vital functions, etc.

        Computers have become so well-understood that almost everything as complex as a coffee pot is going that way. Whatever line you think you’re drawing in the sand, was washed away years ago.

        More power in cars’ computers than the calculators that went to the moon, which actually doesn’t mean much.

        1. Lysdexia struck again! 😉 I don’t know if you caught it, but I edited it to read “should not BE”.

          I was agreeing with you.

          By a “computer” I mean like a PC, smartphone or tablet. If that’s desired it should be completely isolated from the transport functions of the vehicle. The car should perform exactly the same without them.

          I’m quite aware of embedded systems such as those in sensors, engine, emission, traction control, brakes, etc. Those should not be user programmable without a layer to assure legal compliance.
          Yes, I’m aware that there are fixed function computers such as toasters and calculators, and microcontrollers. I do not mean those.

      2. K, I don’t think this is a topic where closed versus open systems, at least the way you argue it, comes into play. There are federal standards that limit a carmaker’s ability to completely close off a car’s systems. There are laws insuring that independent repair shops have access to a car’s diagnostic and monitoring system.

        1. I don’t see us disagreeing anywhere on this. We agree things are done within the confines of the law. I don’t expect to “compute” with my car.

  12. I very much doubt that Apple would want to be a component supplier. That would mean they have no control over the quality of the final product, putting Apple’s brand reputation at significant risk. It would be like the Rokr.

    So “nope” to any predictions that Apple would develop a drop-in dashboard for existing car companies to install in their cars.

  13. Couple more thoughts, Apple does have a lot of expertise at power management, as well as supply chain management. If applied to an electric vehicle this could mean better quality at a lower price, and it could mean that using the same battery tech available to everyone else, Apple’s car would do more, have a longer range.

  14. “Apple may be better suited to work in close partnership with car OEMs …This is, to my mind, the most plausible explanation for the recent rumors about Apple’s broader ambitions in the car.”
    This is a tough one. The last coupe of days I find my self wondering the proverbial question of “where is the puck going?” Is the puck really going to self driving cars? I’m with Brian Hall here on this one, I like driving myself thank you. I can’t imagine a computer, no matter who is the creator of the UI/X, taking away the best part of driving a car.

    But I also know how debilitating it can be to not have the freedom, for whatever reason, to drive oneself. A self-driving car would help in many ways.

    But is this really where the puck is going? Is this really just a variation on a theme, a car for a car’s sake? Or is the paradigm of a car to an individual what could be changing? Sociologically speaking, is this the beginning of greater class distinctions and division (see the affect of the Silicon Valley attempts at mass transit in SF) or could this lead to a less divisive transportation system?

    Just some thoughts,

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