back to article Apple again late to another market others pioneered. Or is it?

Apple's long-rumoured interest in autonomous vehicles appears to be real. The company seems to have written to United States' National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to comment on its Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. A widely-circulated letter signed by “Apple's director of product integrity Steve Kenner”, …

  1. ratfox Silver badge

    Machine learning seems the tend of the year. I should start a drinking game.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Millions of Km behind Google etc

    You seem to forget that Apple has a test track and 'apparently' they have been using it heavily for the past 18 months.

    Apple will naturally be conservative when it comes to actually venturing out on the public highway.

    There are sure to be some out there hoping to gain financially from Apple by engineering a crash and suing them for a few million etc etc. All just because they (apple) have the money and need to be taken down a few pegs.

    Perhaps it is all a smokescreen?

    Are Apple actually going to make an electric car?

    We won't know for some time.

    At least it keeps more than a few people employed.

    Oh, and the USA still uses Feet, Inches, Pounds, Gallons, Pints and Miles. {even if the pints and gallons are the wrong size}

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember the Apple maps fiasco?

    OH not the guidance system, please...

  4. Cheshire Cat

    The all-new Apple iCar!

    Of course, the iCar can only be fuelled by a special, proprietary fuel nozzle (adaptor hoses available for US$139 each).

    You can also only use Apple Maps to navigate, and require an Apple Driving license ... and any time they want, they can cause your car to lock you out and drive itself back to the Apple office.

    1. moylan

      Re: The all-new Apple iCar!

      at least you'll be able to hear it approaching from the sound of smugness it generates :-P

    2. Sealand

      Re: The all-new Apple iCar!

      The electric version of the iCar will have one USB-C port for charging, and continuous nagged/forced updates to the carOS will cause it to go slower and slower.

      Siri, where's my coat?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Possible Specs

    Extrapolating from the latest range's specs:

    Charges from a new proprietary port

    non-replaceable battery or parts,

    cheap cables and convertors will be available from eBay or the car can be charged at the genius bar

    be underpowered requiring a dongle to attache seat belts, steering wheel, airbags...

    won't have quick charging,

    minimalist design will require the owners to be less than 80Kg/ 180 lbs until a plus size model is made available

    carved from a single billet of aluminium in china, assembled in California

    sapphire windscreen but will have a scratchable oleophobic coating

    No skeuomorphism, so will have five or more wheels (no spare wheel provided).

    Non-expandable limited storage capacity unless upgraded at time of purchase

    Initially be purchased by youtubers to blow up, shoot, drop and blend.

    Will require an iTunes account and cellular service to play music at $1 a track.

    Internet enabled dash and interior cams to record those special moments like accidents and dogging.

    built in aerial will require all passengers to wear rubber boots and sit in an apple certified position.

    no reverse gear.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Fourth Stooge Re: Possible Specs

      You forgot that it will only be compatible with Apple iTarmac and therefore the fanbois won't be able to park it on their drives until they have had them resurfaced at $500 per-square-foot.

  6. Mage Silver badge


    specialised in making gadgets that have enormous appeal but are for some reason not obvious to other companies. In retrospect, the jukebox-in-your-pocket that was the iPod and networked-computer-that-happens-to-make-phone-calls that was the iPhone were blindingly obvious. Yet no other company executed them well enough to achieve mass uptake.

    Nonsense really. Apple came late to every product sector after other companies proved there was a market.

    The iPod outstripped other MP3 players (Creative, Digital River) because of the Record label deals with iTunes and ability to buy tracks rather than buy entire CD and rip it.

    The iPhone was about 9 years after other smart phones (some were good), it was an iPod, + bought in GUI, cut down MacOS as iOS and Samsung reference phone design using Samsung SC6400 family chips.

    Yes the GUI was far better than S60 or WinCE (Nokia earlier had better GUIs they scrapped!), but no better than some other Linux based tiled interfaces on niche phones. It was the Operator promotion and cheap data plans that made it succeed. Previously cost arm & leg to use data on your "portable networked computer".

    I had Nokia N9100 and then Nokia N9200i. The Nokia N9200 had browser, email, fax, office apps etc.

    In neither case was it Apple tech innovation (SW or HW) but the deals with Record labels and Mobile operators. Frankly the iPod and iTunes was horrible. The lauded Apple GUI (which was a big improvement) was bought in and wasn't the reason for success. Phone contracts made it a success. My E65 was a better phone, had copy/paste, email, web browser but cost a fortune in data charges. Widgets were good (Nokia stupidly scrapped them and had the stupid Ovi store instead, loads of websites offered S60 apps, the Ovi store misunderstood by iTunes worked).

    Let's stop re-writing history. Apple came late to every party, then overcharged for inferior HW spec and created walled gardens. They never have been a technical innovator, except maybe the Newton, though better PDAs existed earlier, Newton didn't deliver what it promised. Not Apple II, Lisa, Mac, iPod, iPhone or iPad or Watch.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Revisionism

      >The iPod outstripped other MP3 players (Creative, Digital River) because of the Record label deals with iTunes and ability to buy tracks rather than buy entire CD and rip it.

      That's just incorrect Mage - it's actually you that is being revisionist. The iPod did well because it was better than the devices that came before it in some important aspects. The Creative player was too big to fit into most pockets - it was the size of a chunky portable CD player, whereas the iPod was the size of a chunky cassette walkman. The iRiver H120 (which is what I can only assume you mean by 'Digital River') was a good machine, but it came out (2003) two years after the first iPod.

      The first-gen iPod wasn't designed to sell massively, as it was Mac-only. It used FireWire to both charge and transfer music, because USB 2.0 hadn't yet been widely adopted. It did nail the UI and form-factor, though.

      The other pre-iPod MP3 players were flash-based, which was then too expensive to store much more than an album of music, and they started to appear at a time when MiniDisc players were just becomming popular in the West. Richer Sounds would sell you a blank MD (74 or 80 minutes of music, roughly 100MB) for £1, so their size, cost and cost/album were acceptable.

      There was nothing to stop Creative adding a scroll wheel to their player - even my 1999 Sharp 722 MiniDisc recorder had one (though its main function was for titling tracks and scrubbing within tracks - as it would be on a Sony AV-editing rig. Apple's implementation of the scroll wheel came from a Bang & Olufsen telephone.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Revisionism

        "That's just incorrect Mage"

        The main thrust of his point is still correct. Apple improve rather than invent. It's still innovation to some extent, but they don't invent new products or markets.

        Considering their own PR and the general public perception, they are surprisingly conservative in their outlook.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Revisionism

          >The main thrust of his point is still correct. Apple improve rather than invent. It's still innovation to some extent, but they don't invent new products or markets.

          His main thrust to was to call 'nonsense' on the article's claim that Apple achieved mass market uptake of certain product types, then he concluded by talking about hardware specs (which are only meaningful with regards to user experience) and things being 'overpriced' (By what criteria? Certainly not overpriced with regards to market acceptance, as is proven by Apple's bottom line. Overpriced in terms of Bill of Materials? Er, no company sells products at a price equal to the BoM, unless they are getting a return on their investment in a different way, such as selling services on top).

          It is a shame that his language distracted from some pertinent points. Nokia could indeed have brought an iPhone-like device to market first - but they tripped over themselves. Sony had all the engineering, manufacturing and UI talent to make an iPod-like device first, but they tripped over themselves.

          Yes, Apple's approach to negotiating with the likes of record companies (iPod) and mobile network operators (iPhone) saw them in good stead (and is perhaps pertinent to this article), but it wasn't a one way street as Mage suggests - having a physical product that people actually wanted to buy helped Apple in their negotiations.

          Mage suggested the article was being revisionist, but he used factually incorrect examples to make his point.

          For the record, I've never owned any Apple kit, but I studied Product Design from '98-2001, during which time the iMac and iPod were released, and CAD solid modelling came down from the mainframe to land on the Windows desktop). I've had Sony Walkmen, CD Walkmen, Sharp MiniDisc player (with scrollwheel), an LG MP3 player with 32MB storage, a Creative Zen Jukebox (the iPod sized one, not the CD player-sized Nomad model), a Neuros, an Archos GMini, iRiver H320 (which I repaired by cannibalising the HDD from a dead iPod, and installed Rockbox on it), and many more. The iPod is damned fine piece of product and UI design, and the only reason I've never bought one is Apple's restricted file management and codec support - which is their prerogative. Just as it is my prerogative not to buy one if I don't want to.

      2. Infernoz Bronze badge

        Re: Revisionism

        BS, Creative moved from a CD size MP3 player (with a scroll wheel and high end audio support!) to a smaller than "Walkman" sized player, so Apple were not first at all!

        Apple were sued by Creative for copying an MP3 player UI design; so Apple paid up!

        Minidisc was too expensive, tiny capacity spinning optical media, and short lived; early MP3 players were better, used mini/micro Hard Disks, then flash players took over, and now mobiles/tablets do this.

        I regarded optical media as an effectively obsolete nuisance 4 years ago, including all Blu-Ray, and moved all my optical media to my NAS then, and shredded all my recordable CDs and DVDs, I saw data corruption on several carefully-stored 'decent quality' disks much earlier and then due to dye layer rot, this rot was part of my motivation to migrate all my optical media!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Misunderstanding what Apple does

          Apple takes things that only the more technically inclined can master and turn them into a product for the masses. Sure, music players existed before the iPod, but what percentage of people do you think would be able to get songs to it off their PC (nevermind that you had to illegally download them since there was no legal market for MP3s back then) The majority wouldn't have had a clue without being hand held by the family tech expert, and wouldn't be willing to bother - even if the products themselves weren't so poorly designed.

          Same thing with smartphones. Sure, they existed before the iPhone, but they were geek toys or used by PHBs as a calendar to keep track of their meetings. The average person was never going to have a need to do something with their phone other than call or text until it was made super easy to access the internet, get apps, etc. I remember fiddling with my KRZR trying to get apps on it, which invariably turned out to be completely useless. WAP was completely useless, Apple was smart enough to know that you needed a proper browser for people to ever use it on their phone. They also realized a keyboard on a phone was about the dumbest thing ever conceived of, and 99.999% of those Crackberry addicts who scoffed at the iPhone are now using a touchscreen phone.

          I still remember the concept drawings people came up with before the iPhone was announced and trying to guess what it would look like showing a phone with an iPod like jog wheel. Still makes me laugh!

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Revisionism

      >Nonsense really. Apple came late to every product sector after other companies proved there was a market.

      Creative didn't prove there was a big market for a big MP3 jukebox that wouldn't fit in your jeans' pocket. In fact, they demonstrated that there wasn't a big market for them. But yes, Sony had already proven there was a mass market for audio players that fit in your pocket with the Walkman and later MiniDisc, and in addition, Sony had shown there was a smaller but lucrative market for very expensive pocket-sized audio players (again, with some models of the cassette Walkman).

      I don't consider Apple to be geniuses, but I am often surprised at how often their competitors have dropped the ball. But hey, it makes it interesting to read and to learn why, for example, it wasn't the Sony iPod or Nokia iPhone.

      Or heck, why it wasn't the Nintendo PlayStation. Seriously, the Sony employee who fought for and designed the PlayStation (in a market everyone assumed was sewn-up between Sega and Nintendo) was a self-professed admirer of Esslinger's work for Apple, and with the kudos he received for the games console he went on to develop the VAIO range of laptops and desktops - the later aimed at Audio Visual editing. When Jobs killed the MacOS clone scheme, he wanted to make an exception for VAIO gear - in fact, the first x86 builds of OSX were tested on VAIO laptops. Was it genius of Jobs to keep NeXTStep's descendant easily portable between architectures and thus keep his CPU options open? No, it was just common sense.

  7. Stevie Silver badge



    This is the opening announcement that Apple plans to sue every local municipal bus company for having busses with rounded corners.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How can you be late to a market that doesn't exist?

    And won't exist for probably a decade or more?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An apple cart?

  10. EnviableOne Silver badge

    Apple are a marketing machine, they are not the first, not the best and probably not the most innovative, but they get the product placement and the product promotion right almost every time.

    with respect to Mage's claims of overcharging, there is certainly an Apple premium, and if you do a feature/spec comparison, for every apple device, you will find comparable products at considerably less cost or their main competitors at similar cost, but greatly improved spec.

    You bung an Apple logo on it, change the connector to something only apple fanbois have and charge 33% more

    On top of this, the Apple eco-system locks you in, to make any use of their products, you need to have apple devices and only apple devices. iCloud can't be accessed from android devices, facetime only works apple to apple, iTunes are only accessible via apple devices (unless you pay more for a third party sync service)

    IMHO we will see the iCar (probably a lower spec Milk Float with a LIDAR retrofit) at 33% more than the google car, with DriveOS and Apple Maps Navigation, that requires a constant 5G and DGPS connection (that requires an iNavCloud subscription) and will only charge at iCharge stations (unless you have an adapter (at considerable cost))

  11. Iain53

    Apple Automotive Autonomy

    This is how I view the matter:

    Autonomous automobiles are going to happen.

    Most trips are work commutes

    The real costs of automobile ownership must include insurance, maintenance, and parking to name but a few. The latter is becoming ever more difficult and expensive.

    If you can have the car drive you to work, surely it can drive itself home.

    What then is the case for owning a transportation unit that you only sit in for the duration of your commute?

    Maybe making a deal with Uber (e.g.) and a few big market cities shifts the notion of public transportation from sardine can buses to a fleet of smaller modules of minivan size. Traffic management and smart vehicles go hand in hand.

    Getting a vehicle for personal use would involve renting the vehicle you need for the activity at hand. Doesn't that make more sense than owning a huge SUV that spends most of its time parked either at home or at work?

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Apple won't build cars. They will build (or develop and license/sell) stuff for cars, and probably rather software than hardware.

  13. hoola Bronze badge


    What is more of an issue is the content of the letter around legislation. They want the same legislation for new entrants as established manufactures. Established manufactures appear to be far more cautions with new technology, primarily because they are not tech companies. The industry has a pretty well defined safety first viewpoint and when there are problems, they are mostly recalled in reasonable time. The technology industry on the other hand has an appalling record of supplying equipment and software that does not work or breaks at unexpected times. Given the controversy around Tesla essentially beta testing software in the field, one can only surmise that Apple wants the same lax regulation. There has to be a reappraisal of the regulation as the technology is being pushed too quickly and we are now in the situation where lives are at risk. If a vehicle with some sort of autonomous control goes wrong and kills a load of innocent people, exactly who is to blame? If the software has crashed, then is it the manufacturer? Should the "driver" have been aware that the software has crashed and been able to take back control? There is simply insufficient information around this but the implications are huge. A software license generally allows you to use something but is full of so many disclaimers, there is no comeback if does not do what it is supposed to or crashes due to a bug and loses data.

    One only has to look at the likes of Uber and AirBnB where they are doing everything possible to avoid regulation because they believe they are a technology company, not a Taxi firm or Accommodation Agency. This is precisely why regulation is needed, and needed sooner rather than later.

    Personally, if someone wants a self driving car, then just order a taxi.

  14. imaginarynumber

    Mass market uptake?

    The iPhone didn't start outselling Windows Mobile until early 2009.

  15. EnviableOne Silver badge

    I seem to remember an article if GMC made computers and Microsoft made cars ....

    the results were none too clever

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