What would an autonomous Apple automobile imply for Tesla?

I’m not sure what podcasts Elon Musk listens to. But I hope he caught Kara Swisher’s “Sway” today because it definitely affects him.

Apple CEO Tim Cook joined Swisher and the two discussed, among other things, the mysterious Apple Car.

Details are rare and I’m at the forefront: Cook hasn’t given anything big away or made firm statements. But he danced around the subject enough to leave a few impressions.

For starters, when talking about the Apple Car, Cook said to Swisher:

From my point of view, autonomy itself is a core technology. If you take a step back, the car is a robot in many ways. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there are many things that you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does.

We had already suspected that the Apple Car would be an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle, but it’s always nice to hear Cook confirm this. Unfortunately, when he talks about how “one can do a lot of things with autonomy” things get mixed up again. The company still hasn’t revealed whether the Apple Car is a passenger car, delivery van, robo-taxi, or shuttle service, or something else entirely.

Thankfully, Cook dropped another juicy treat – though it may have been accidental. He raised Elon Musk and if you ask me that tells us who he thinks the competition is: Tesla.

Here is the quote:

I have never spoken to Elon before, although I have great admiration and respect for the company he has built. I think Tesla has done an incredible job of not just establishing the lead but keeping the lead in the EV space for such a long period of time. I appreciate them very much.

Is it just me, or does it sound like Apple might have told the world’s top MP3 player maker a year or two before the iPod was released?

On the one hand, it is difficult to imagine that a vehicle could surpass that of Tesla in terms of form and function. We don’t have to go faster than they can, they are stunningly beautiful and they are relatively cheap to buy while being environmentally friendly.

On the other hand, Tesla hasn’t really done much in terms of autonomy. It’s almost ridiculous that the company should call its software “Autopilot” and “Full Self Driving”, considering that both require an attentive driver behind the wheel at all times.

It’s very easy to imagine Apple’s AI team building a product that dwarfs Tesla’s meager autonomous offerings – don’t forget Ian Goodfellow is now with Cupertino.

And realistically, Apple doesn’t have to beat Tesla when it comes to making an electric vehicle. In fact, Apple probably won’t even make its own vehicles at first. I would bet the company is still pursuing another manufacturer to partner with after a reported Hyundai-Kia deal goes down.

It just needs to deliver on the promises Tesla failed to keep by giving people a car that is safe to drive themselves or offering the public a robo-taxi service.

Who would you bet your money on in a fight for a driverless future?

H / t: Rebecca Bellan, Tech Crunch

Published on April 5, 2021 – 23:55 UTC

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