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Apple car speculation: It’s getting clearer now!

April 15, 2016


Mark Thomas

Motor Trend just published a thought-provoking article on the Apple Car.  According to their sources, an estimated 1,000 people at Apple in Sunnyvale are working on the project, which goes by the name “SixtyEight Research.”  It’ll be interesting to hear the origin of the name, but perhaps ’68 was chosen because it was a great year in US automotive innovation?

Mobility-as-a-Service: The belief is Apple will be the first car company to launch both a vehicle and a car-sharing service at the same time. If so, the Apple Car would be designed from the ground up to be shared. If Apple were to do what they do best, they would offer hardware with a deeply integrated service offering. That would be a step ahead of many auto OEMs who are just now dabbling in Mobility-as-a-Service.

The hardware + service model would enable Apple to enter the automotive industry and still maintain a target of 40+ percent profit margin.

Sharing the car: Car sharing is more than letting different individual drivers each use the car one after the other, like ZipCar or Drive Now. Sharing the car also enables multiple passengers – who don’t know one another – to share the same vehicle, similar to Uber Pool.

Designing a car that offers a sense of privacy between passengers would be an industry first. As the Motor Trend team discusses, there should be no airline-style “armrest debate” when sharing a car.  Apple missed the boat on music streaming, remaining focused far too long on music ownership. I doubt they will make the same mistake again. The world is beginning to view car ownership as inefficient, with vehicle ownership becoming a fading priority, especially among the generation z crowd.

Designed from the inside out: Traditionally, cars are designed from the outside in. The Apple Car is speculated to be among the first designed from the inside out.

The iPhone revolutionized the mobile phone market by prioritizing the screen and the contents of the phone over adding adornments to the form factor of the device. In that same way, the Apple Car may follow this design philosophy.

Phone-dependent interface: Originally, I thought the vehicle user interface (UI) for the Apple Car would primarily be Siri. Siri is perfect for drivers, and it will likely be built-in as the primary UI for driving. But as a shared car, shouting out commands to the vehicle goes against the shared space ethos and introduces privacy issues. So strong ties with mobile phones before and while using the car will be important.

Most car companies are working on the design principle that the car has a set of services it can offer, and they are just now pondering how to make the car’s services change as the driver changes. But a car designed for sharing must offer services designed for multiple occupants at the same time. For example, the built-in HotSpot should track passenger usage individually, with charges billed respectively to each user’s account.

There’s a lots to ponder and anticipate as Apple pushes forward developing a car and mobility service. It’s a foregone conclusion that every car in the future will need an embedded Internet connection. And those auto OEMs will all need Jasper Control Center to help launch, manage and monetize their connected car services.

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