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Sunday, 03 May 2015


Check out the car2go app on the iphone.
My neighborhood is awash with them.

As much as I like owning my own car, the car sharing services seem to be taking off and are increasingly attractive.

The other thing to think about is that the car dealers are offering great new cars at affordable monthly payments for EIGHT year terms. Depreciating asset + ongoing interest costs for a really long time = ugh.

A car shouldn't require a mortgage, if they really wanted us to own one.

Oddly enough, and even though it would not fit my current needs very well, this is the very first product from Apple that actually appeals to me. (Usually, that logo is to me like a cross is to a vampire.) I've always loved the Zipcar model of car usage, and going with an all-electric version sounds great. I'm sure imitators will arise and, after a few clunky iterations, their imitations will be far more appealing to me than Apple's version of the product...

"... what does a car designed by Sir Jony Ive look like?!?"

Google "lowly worm car" and you'll have some idea.

Mike wrote, "One thing we can probably count on: the goal would be to make driving more convenient, and eliminate most of the hassles of individual car ownership."

I'm not sure how more convenient owning a car could be for me. When I want to go somewhere, I back my car out of my garage, drive to where I need or want to go and park it. When I'm done, I drive home.

In my experience, cars less than 10 years old and with fewer than 150,000 or so miles require very little maintenance and just don't break. If you want a new car every year or two or three your local dealer will be happy to lease you one (maintenance included) and deliver it to your door.

Now if Apple would come out and clean my garage ...

You hinted at a "paradigm shift" away from fossil fueled cars. Unless Apple, or whomever really tries to shift things, puts most of their market cap into lobbying various world governments, there will be no shift in our lifetimes. Maybe I'm a cynic, but I'd sooner expect a federal ban on firearms, or rescinding tax-exemptions for religious organizations! Kodak went down without much of a fight, but then film didn't run the world.

Hey, I drive a stick-shift too, and yet have been flirting with car-share services (Prii, natch). Outtake: “At which point, driv­ing your own car will be like shoot­ing film or lis­ten­ing to mu­sic on vinyl.” PS: I listen to music on vinyl but don’t shoot film any more.

Oh, an 'app' for temporary usage of a car? Uh, it's been around for some time now. It's called 'car sharing,' but that's a silly name. It's 'car short-term leasing.' This is what I've been this using this outfit for a decade or so

But leave to Apple to make it glitzy and totally proprietary. They'll leave South Park's 'Smug Alert' in their off-shored toxic dust...

The more interesting thing I heard is the idea that Google intends to drive Uber out of business by having a fleet of driverless cars available on call. That this is the real goal of the driverless car- an automated taxi service.

Wonder what Zip Car will make of this?

If those subset rumours are true, Apple would likely target denser urban areas. Here in Toronto my wife and I gave up car ownership years ago and have used Auto Share happily since - but then we have access to good - if unevenly maintained - public transit and I can get to most of my usual destinations by bicycle.

Apple would already have several business examples to look at: Auto Share has about 5 pick-up locations within easy walking distance of our house, we can spontaneously book online by computer, smart phone app, or even by voice line. Two other services are also locally prominent: Zip Car and Car2Go.
I'm sure these companies would all be keeping an eye on Apple. And if Apple intends to muscle into this market it'll be very interesting - but watch out for those AppleCar IOS upgrades.


I think that the distinction between pleasure and business is important here. Sure I can shoot my Hasselblad for pleasure, but for business its the Nikon DSLR. Likewise, the majority of driving is not so much for the pleasure of it but to get somewhere or haul something and in that context utility and comfort win.

I saw a BMW i8 on the road today, in Los Angeles of course. I know it is out of my price class, but man, BMW certainly have their own Jon Ives caliber designers.

Apple is working on a car. Unless they're not. Only Apple knows what they're doing with all of those automotive types they've hired. Building a car is one possibility. Creating design specifications for automotive manufacturers who want to incorporate Apple technology is another.

Imagine the field day assorted pundits and investment analysts would have if Apple hired aeronautical engineers. With all that petty cash they could do that just for entertainment purposes.

I am a bearded old grumpy guy and I too hate those wheels that look like chrome plated Conestoga wagon wheels.

> The development of the automobile could have stopped with the E21
> Series 3 as far as I'm concerned.

Heathen ! If automobile development had ceased in 1975 with the BMW E21 series, then we'd never have had the Audi Quattro !

Dear Mike,

Mmmmm, I have this feeling we're missing something. It's just intuition. But, I'm getting a feeling that reminds me of the early 80s before the Mac came out but the project name had leaked. I was an Apple “insider” at the time, so I knew just what was under development and what stage it was at. I was also a columnist for InfoWorld. I was very careful to never, ever talk to anyone there about anything having to do with Apple. But, they had their own sources, and many knowledgeable columnists wrote many speculations about just what the Mac would turn out to be. In fact, there were so many of them that they pretty well covered every single computer product or configuration that was possible.

At least, it seemed that way. In fact, not one of those speculations was right, not even particularly close. The Mac turned out to be Something Else.

And that's the feeling I'm getting about this Apple car business. It's a Something Else. Don't ask me what.

The “app car” is actually the best, most Apple-ish speculation I've heard to date. If you look at it closely though, it requires taking a rather larger bite (ahem) than would seem at first glance. For example, that business doesn't really get off the ground until you truly have cars “at demand.” To get that, you need sufficiently autonomous cars that they can drive themselves from client to client and back to AppleCar Central. That's probably 10 years off. That feels like the wrong timescale.

Economically, I don't have doubts about Apple. That market cap is largely irrelevant. It's a vapor money; you can't really do much with it as a company. But what Apple does have is massive amounts of cash. If, unlikely as it sounds, they were to decide to become a model citizen and repatriate their money and pay the corporate taxes on it, they'd have $100,000,000,000 in greenbacks to work with (in reality, they'd have several times that, because when you're working at that level of finance you don't spend money, you leverage it). That is an unbelievably large sum; there is pretty much no product that you can imagine (that could actually be engineered and built) that requires that much money. Really, nothing. So, if they want to build cars, they can build cars. They can build really good cards.

The other puzzlement in the puzzle is Elon Musk. Musk and Cook have talked to each other. A lot. They won't say what they're talking about. Some folks have speculated that Apple was going to tender an offer for Tesla. That seems unlikely to me. It's not that I can't think of circumstances under which Mosque would sell Tesla–– while it's a central part of his vision of the future, it's not where his heart really is–– that's SpaceX. So, you know, if for some reason SpaceX needed a truly massive infusion of capital and Musk couldn't think of any other way to get it except to sell Tesla, he'd do it. That is a rather improbable scenario, though.

But, they have talked about Something. It may be meaningful, it may be meaningless, it may have nothing to do with an Apple Car. They could have been discussing how to make Apple's new flying-saucer campus totally solar-energy self-sufficient (it's doable). Or matters as trivial as how Apple's next automotive iOS will deeply integrate with Tesla's next car.

Or, Something Else.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

I am afraid that "car people" and "camera people" may both become minorities and we will need to become home mechanics just to keep our hobbies alive...
On the other hand, while there have not been many cars in the last 10 years that "do it" for me, there have been lots of new cameras I lust after...

It's important to remember that electric cars are still coal powered cars as almost half our electricity comes from coal. Of course they are loved in places like L.A. as the electricity is generated in some other state. In fact coal, natural gas, and petroleum account for 67% of our electricity while nuclear accounts for 19%. Yes, we do subsidize solar and it gives us .4%. http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3
Cheers, Jim

Mike, I share your attitude about the low-profile tires/wheels, but to me the more serious car design malfeasance of recent years is the "chop top" cabin design featuring smaller window size, which actually REDUCES the ability to see out of the car.
Reducing visibility? Since when was that EVER a good idea?

I've seen the top secret plans for the Apple Car.
It appears to have no doors or operable windows.
The Only way in or Out the through the Power port.
But it's lightweight and very sleek.

PS They already have pre-pre orders.

PPS Samsung will have one just as soon as pictures of the Apple car are released.

PPPS Steve Balmer says No one will ever buy it.

"...I was fully planning on one day being the last of the last of the film holdouts, too..."

Yeah, I thought you would be too. I miss the days of the 37th Frame and still hold out hope I'll get the 3-4 issues you still owe me! ;-)

Being dragged into the 21st century has been traumatic for me. My dream for a car is a 1965 VW bug, maybe converted to 12v but thats all, stone stock otherwise. So I cannot believe that tomorrow, May 4th, we are getting a Nissan Leaf. The missus talked me into it so I blame her. They have a lot of them coming off lease and no one wants to pay the 20K residual so our used one is a 2012 with 10K mi. for 13K. Now I have to wear a paper bag over my head everywhere we go.

[Okay, but be sure to cut out eyeholes. --Mike]

"I keep thinking that the way this is going, pretty soon people are going to decide that it's really most convenient just not to take photographs at all."

Just go online and get frame grabs from the surveillance camera instead! I could see Disneyland offering this as a service. They already have a "MagicBand" that tracks people all over the park.

I've driven the freeways of Southern California since I was 15.5. Now at 70 I've sold my old Ford and I have been trying to find a used car I can afford. Not there yet. So the idea of just picking up a car, using it for whatever, and then returning it really appeals to me.

Then again Apple will price it far beyond my budget. They did it with the Apple 2 and they've never stopped.

I like owning a car. I like driving. I like being able to decide in an instant to drive somewhere. I like the design of my car. Design is all important to me. If I were sensible, I wouldn't own a car and simply use taxis, but taxis take too long to arrive, if they arrive at all. I suspect the same would apply to Apple's cars.

I'm thinking of buying a 10 year old Mercedes CLK to see out my days. Sheer pleasure. Give that up for a bland electric car with range anxiety? No way.

You're right-I do love to hate Apple, and I know who I am. Here's another one: I updated the operating system on my iPhone and it included an app for the iWatch. And I can't get rid of it. What if someone sees it and thinks I am so self-important that I would actually buy one of those things?

Dunno if I'll love Apple's implementation of this (if they ever get there) but I've loved the idea for years, ever since people started talking about the Google self-driving cars. An obvious place to go from there is not having to park the car because it drops you off and goes away to serve someone else.

I can't wait for this "electric car app" from Apple. It's going to be so convenient when I need an urgent drive and my iphone tells me that it needs to be updated to ios and I have to use itunes to do it and wait for the usual 2 hours for everything to download and install...
Ah yes: and then be told the app needs updating as well. Oh joy, another hour or so!

I keep getting this ad in facebook, recommending that I buy my mother a toothbrush with Bluetooth connectivity for Mother's Day. Nothing is immune.

Hey ... what is so awful about 30-series tires on 19" diameter wheels? I have them on both of my cars and where I live, at least, they're both sufficiently comfortable and reliable while offering superior performance compared to 17" wheels with 40- or 45-series tires or 18" wheels with 35- or 40-series tires. Of course, it would also be nice if they weren't so expensive, but ain't that always the way of these things?

You're probably aware but just in case.... Using an app on your phone to reserve a shared car is not new. I belong to tell car share. One is local and the other is a major multi-national (car2go) owned started by one of the major auto manufacturers.

Of course Apple may very well come up with something that is both more stylish and more functional and convenient but they didn't and aren't going to be inventing anything new of that is what they plan on doing.

Isn't this as much a part of the Apple/Google rivalry as anything? Google have been into this technology for some while.

There was a time when Microsoft was in that position. Tentacular, all powerful, unassailable, the Borg: assimilating everything in its sight. We all know how that went. Now it's Apple and Google, and I am curious how that will go...

... and I'm also the kind of dinosaur that wants to own his car, to drive it himself, and preferably with some nice engine roars.

> ... and eliminate most of the hassles
> of individual car ownership.

Yeah, sure ... at the expense of more to pay per mile driven, and letting Apple know precisely where you go, and when, and for how long—in real-time, of course.

But then, smartphone users are giving away this information anyway ... oh well.

Interestingly, this article in the Guardian caught my eye today:

The 3 minute video is worth watching. I didn't know GM had bought LA's bus system so it could deliberately shut it down (in order to sell more cars presumably). Just think what Apple can achieve with even more money.

"Always with you" is only one third of the convenience story of smartphone photography. Another third is apps. Don't like the interface? Download a different camera app. Want to adjust shadows, sharpen and crop? Open the image in Snapseed. The other third of the convenience story is connectivity, or the ability to share with anyone, anywhere at anytime.

It is sad to watch the demise of the camera industry without a single manufacturer bothering to include a fully connected Android OS on a serious camera (the Samsung effort was not a serious camera). In the same time that it takes a lazy snail to journey around the world, a couple of serious ILC cameras have been equipped with WiFi. Hooray! Now users can download images straight to their smartphone...

Of course the big joke would be that you would start seeing people using their cameras to make telephone calls or surf the internet. But would that be a bad thing considering the alternative?

Well, I hate many things but Apple is not one of them. As an Apple shareholder since the mid-eighties, and with well over 28,000 shares I don't care what Apple does. They WILL be successful. Darn shame there are so many Apple haters out there. Heck, I have a few in my own family! But, makes no difference to me. I own Apple products, heck I owned an original NEWTON! back in 1996 I think.
Is Apple perfect? No way. But neither is any other business out there.
And just as an FYI I "hate" (see, there's something I hate) taking photos with my iPhone 6(whatever) S, P, Q, I have no idea...
Best regards,

"the world is waiting on a great big paradigm shift away from fossil-fuel-powered cars."

But we don't mine electricity. Most of the electricity used in the USA (and China) is made from coal, which is even more of a pollutant than oil.

[But electric cars could be, and eventually will be, powered by sunlight. Millions of portable batteries are actually an elegant solution to the problem of solar energy storage. --Mike]

Imagine what a nightmare a car from Apple would be. The engine would be sealed off with a transparent glued-on cover that only Apple could open for access.

It's not as outlandish as it may seem, cars as apps. There are a couple companies here in the Bay Area doing this already (Getaround and City Car Share and Zipcar). There's even one that does electric scooters, called Scoot. At least some of apple's plans are to add a self-driving to the mix, so you don't even have to drive yourself; just order the car, and be outside when it arrives.

The problem with all of this is that every time someone tries to develop a market for something I already am doing, or owning, it ends up costing me more. The single cup coffee system was a way for coffee roasters to charge me almost as much for a cup of coffee sitting in my house, as they did when I went out to the cafe (which is why I still buy and grind bulk coffee and use a French press). I'll bet in a very short time after introduction, you'll end up paying as much to "car share", as you would have to own and operate an inexpensive, dependable, bottom of the line Toyota or Honda over ten years, it just won't be as convenient.

This is all about the tyranny of market development vs. actual quality of life improvement. I made more money freelancing in my career, and had a better living, when I was running a studio with an answering machine, a columnar accounting book, a pencil, and a camera I could keep for 30 years.

I've thought about that, too -- what an Apple car would look like. I think that among current cars, Porsche is closest to the current Apple design ethic.

Couldn't agree with you more about the "rubber-band-on-wagon-wheel big wheel / skinny tire look". Really looks ridiculous when taken to extremes.

I'm sticking with my stick shift, too.

As for the the E21 Series 3 being the apex of automobile development, I'm sure you'll get plenty of arguments.

I should have added that Sir Jonny apparently has a Bentley, and a driver to go with it. Not sure what that would say about an Apple designed car.

I've already got an app like that -- from Hertz. I reserve a car, then go and get it. I don't even have to go to a counter to pick it up -- I'm a member of the Gold Club, so I just walk out to my car, the keys are already in it, and I drive away. The "Green Collection" offers both electric cars and hybrids.

I don't mean to advertise for Hertz, but this Apple plan doesn't seem like a great leap forward. I don't know what it seems like...maybe, groping for a new market?

Ah, that sound a lot like the famous Dutch WitKar.....a fleet of rental electric cars that whizzed through the streets of Amsterdam in the late 60th and early 70th. IMHO car sharing and modal transport (train, tram and E-car and (E)-bike) are the way to keep us moving in the middle of the 21 century. Car ownership will be futile (like resistance to the Borg).

But having said that this might be the first good idea (in the sence of being GOOD in the classical term of the word as opposed to profitable in the Ferengi term of the word). So live long and prosper!

Greets, Ed.

More like the oligarchs will drive whatever they want, and rest of us won't need to drive because there won't be anywhere to go in the refugee camps.

As for what Cook & Musk were talking about, if I were to guess it would be batteries or super capacitors.
We have only to think back to giant cell phones and a pocket full of spare batteries, or early digital cameras with giant batteries, or what held up electric or hybrid cars. Batteries have been the 'enabling Technology'
Good batteries have made modern smartphones almost incredibly capable. Power density has made them pocketable.
A quick charging high capacity moderately priced battery /capacitor with enough capacity to store solar or wind energy locally is the missing link to change everything.
So while there are many things they could have talked about, that's probably the one that could change the world the most--most quickly.

Am I the only one here with a garden-variety job? Around 90% of the miles I put on my car are commuting. No way that shared vehicles are going to work there, because everybody is commuting at the same time (for large values of "everybody"). And they're all in my way.

No stick-shift, in fact no gears at all, but my soon-to-be-solar-powered (presently mainly wind-powered) BMW i3 REx does have big diameter high profile tyres (which upsets some owners, apparently).
It's quirky, but I love it. It suits people who drive far more shortish journeys than long. It's no Miata/MX-5, though.

Mike, you're probably right - Portland would be a great place for Apple to try out this idea. People here are open to alternative approaches to transportation. But Apple should be forwarned, as we already have two established companies here doing this very thing. I'm kinda surprised Carrie and Fred haven't already done a sketch on it...

The technosphere went ga-ga when the first reports of Apple's secret car projects appeared. But Apple is much too focused to be building a car.

It's more likely an R&D project to figure out how wearable technology will fit into the driving experience. Just remember that Apple does R&D differently from most companies.

Apple's profits let it create an automotive R&D center bigger than those at Ford, GM, or BMW - or all of them combined. The patent pool it creates by doing the research on its own, would give Apple a competitive advantage over other wearables competitors.

It also gives Apple a negotiating advantage over the car companies which can't afford the same kind of research on something tangential to their core product.

Certainly the technologies for electric cars are changing. An important area is the batteries. The Chinese and other manufacturers are snapping up the worldwide supplies of vanadium for a new generation of batteries to replace the lead acid types. Of course all of this stuff will work as long as the electric grid is up and running. If it goes down, electric stuff will not work and 90% of the population will be dead in 4 to 6 weeks. Digital cameras cannot be charged or downloaded. So photography goes back to the chemical age of hand made materials. What materials can be found for this will have to be delivered by horse drawn cart. That is how the first electrical appliances were delivered before gas powered vehicles existed.

"Guess what the world's leading maker of smartphones is up to now?"

How do you define "leading"? Apple's share of the smartphone market, in units, is just under 20%, roughly tied with Samsung, after falling behind in 2011.

Together, they account for slightly less share than in 2011.

Not that's unit share, and the big brand guys certainly account for a much higher monetary share. But nothing there to make them leading in that sense.

I happen to prefer iOS to Android, but Android is by far the leading phone and tablet OS

I have a long list of things I hate about Apple. I think their design gestalt favors form over function all too much, they are too aggressive about DRM (number of region-resets on DVD drives, deleting people's MP3 collections without less than certain proof of the MP3s' provenance), the way Apple fanboys blame Adobe when an Apple OS update breaks 'shop, the way InDesign on Mac crashed every week when I was doing production in the wee hours the same years InDesign hummed neatly along on Windows...

But let me tell you what brief I have against human drivers. My friend Liza's death. Among my luckier friends, numerous concussions, broken bone here or there. Texting and driving. Sure, enjoy driving if you must. But let me tell you, when the enjoyment of driving is finally confined to racetracks--then I will breathe a giant sigh of relief.

And if old-line car companies go bust, well... GM went bust, went to bankruptcy court to be born anew. And when it came out that the ignition problem was known by the engineers while the executives carefully kept their heads in the sand, that bankruptcy filing protected New-GM from Old-GM's liabilities. The car companies deal death and destruction at every turn. When they go away, well, good riddance. So for all the hatred I may harbor for Apple, I can't muster any this time around.

> I hate the rubber-band-on-wagon-wheel big wheel / skinny tire look, too.

As long as the gals dig it, I don't see what the problem is.

I want an app that lets me drive an original Shelby Cobra

Dear Mike,

I'm going to amend my previous comment. I think everyone in this thread (including me) is making an unrecognized error. We're all trying to guess what Apple might do, based on what Apple has done in the past. Not that we have anything better to go on, but Apple's behavior in the past was dictated by Steve Jobs. It's not how Apple does business, it's how Steve did business. Tim won't do it the same way. That's axiomatic. How he will be different from Steve, we don't have enough information to know. We can just be sure he will be.

Unfortunately, we don't know any more than that. So continuing with the pointless speculation [grin…]

On the whole car service idea, several people have made comments that are true but don't have the implications they think they do. One is the observation that there are plenty of car services out there already. That's true, but Apple has not been in the habit of inventing consumer-products. They did not invent MP3 players, tablet computers, or integrated all-in-one-box computers. All those consumer products existed before. What Apple's modus operandi has been is to look at such a product and say to itself, “What feels inadequate about this? What do the customers not like? Overall, in what ways are the user experience unsatisfactory?” And then they see how much of that they can fix. That's how they take over the world, iPods being the most striking example, but they've followed this strategy time after time.

And, yes, Apple does sell glitz… but it is shiny sprayed on top of performance. Apple has, a couple of times in the past, tried to sell just the shiny. It has failed. “Show, but no go” doesn't work for them; there has to be “go.” [Note: this most emphatically does not apply to the watch, because jewelry/fashion accessories are all about show. Apple may very well be able to sell solid gold watches, and they have as much to do with its real business as the LeiKravitz does to Leica's.]

What you can pretty well count on is that Apple (and Google) will not simply introduce Yet Another Car Service. Because they could, very easily. All it takes to set up one of those is enough capital to pay for the fleet and the infrastructure and to hire the rental/car fleet management executives who already know how to do this, because this is not really a new thing. Which is exactly why they won't do it. Because...

... If they did do it, they would be very successful at it initially, because the Apple and Google names carry enough brand visibility that a whole bunch of consumers would become interested in this who were never interested before. What's referred to as the “X market" would be massive. In this case, that's a bad thing. Anybody with a billion can play the game and there are lots of entities with a gigabuck to invest in a rapidly expanding market. A whole bunch of them will jump in and then Apple and Google find themselves in a race to the bottom against competing services where they don't offer anything to distinguish themselves but their brand-names.

It's a lot like what happened to IBM with personal computers. That is absolutely, positively not a business model either company wants to be in. The only way they would get into this is if they think they can offer a feature set that nobody else can compete with.

I think it's entirely possible. Start with the given that short-term car rentals are not for everyone. Yes, many, probably most people will still own cars. But it's also a fact that most households have a fractional car need. Sort of like the mythical family with 2.3 kids. The problem is that cars come in integral units, so you have to round up to the next whole number. Short term car rental, IN THEORY, can provide that fractional car.

In practice, it can't. Not the way it works today, not for most people. I'm a pretty good example. Before Paula retired, we needed about 1.1 cars. One car simply didn't cut it; it was too inconvenient for me when Paula had the car at work four days a week. So we actually had two cars; the older and more decrepit one was mine so it hardly got driven at all. But still, we maintained two cars. This shouldn't have been necessary. Daly City is primarily a residential city, what you'd call suburban, but it is a very dense suburb. It's got 100,000 people, distributied pretty uniformly over 20 km². That actually makes it one of the more densely populated "urbs" in the country. A good place for a short term car rental service. You'd think.

Daly City doesn't have Zip cars. Or City cars. Or any such thing. It's laid out like a suburb; where would you put them? And, then, how would I get to them when I need them? If I have to walk 15 min. to get to the Zip car or, even worse, take a bus, it gets ridiculous. Most of what I need that 0.1 car for is short trips. Spending between half an hour and an hour to make it possible to make that trip is nuts. On top of which, what if it's raining?

Okay, that latter concern **is** ridiculous–– it's never going to rain here, ever again.

But y'know, in most parts of the country, they have bad weather. Having to schlep through it to get to and from your short-term rental car? People don't much like that. Not convenient.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The short term car rental experience is nowhere close to ideal or even particularly debugged. If Apple or Google could do for that what Apple did for MP3 players, they could own the world… again.

How they do that? I have no idea. But IF car-renting is in either company's future game plan it's going to be in a form that sets it well above your ordinary rental system, because that's the only game they're interested in playing.

I still think it will be Something Else.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Just an OGG now, huh? Welcome to the club.

Don, here's more on the GM controversy...


There's a lot of hay made, and some truth, to the fact that a company owned jointly by GM, Firestone, and others conspired to break up trolley companies, and replace them with bus systems that used gas, tires, and needed to be built by GM. I'm not sure that they conspired to wreck any bus systems, tho like the trailer says, instead they were actually building the buses. Not mentioned in the wiki article as another city this happened in, was Milwaukee.

As a mass-transportation proponent, I'm not so sure trolleys, or even buses would have served us very well. Buses were considered better, back in the day, because they could move around traffic jams and accidents, whereas trolleys would have been stuck. Neither is considered truly "modern", as anyone that really believes in a modern system knows it cannot run well on city streets, and much like the "EL" in Chicago, or the "Metro" in DC, functions best when it is running on a separate system, to avoid accidents and slow-downs.

I realized by moving to Indianapolis, that at my age, if I want anything even slightly like a viable mass-trans system (they have a terribly laughable one here that for all intents and purposes is useless), that you're going to have to move to a city where it exists, and the people have all ready built it (or kept it running) because they had a belief in civic responsibility. Washington DC, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, etc. If Gov. Pence in Indy, woke up tomorrow morning a reformed socialist, with a billion dollars in a sack at the foot of his bed; mass trans wouldn't be fixed here before I was dead.

The fact that Apple is hiring people with an automotive background is, IMHO, certainly not indicative that Apple are considering producing cars, be they of the electric or autonomously-driven variety.

In particular, due to technological and legal liability issues, I don't really see a service like the autonomous delivery of an unmanned rental car, summoned e.g. with your iPhone, happening before a decade.

Apple's recent hires include e.g. Johann Jungwirth, the former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz North America R&D.

Apple is essentially an infotainment devices company, producing technological gizmos that are used for information, communication and entertainment. Content creators and IT persons, who need the serious computing capabilities of a Mac Pro or a Macbook Pro, are probably a minority in Apple's current customer base.

IMHO, it's much more likely that Apple is conducting R&D on ways to better integrate its devices into the connected cars of the future.

Today's Bluetooth- or USB-based connection of an iPhone to the car's audio and telephone capabilities, while nice, is probably the bare minimum people will expect from cars in the future.

In particular, the integration of

• the advanced communication (web access, message notifications, Siri speech recognition etc.)

• user context awareness (meeting schedules, contact list, location, email contents)

• navigation capabilities

of a modern smartphone with today's cars leave a lot to be desired.

A car's GPS navigation, for example, could be augmented with real-time traffic jam indications synthesized in Apple's or Google's datacenters from the "big data" obtained from the multitude of iPhone-using drivers automatically sending their location and current velocity information.

The speech recognition capabilities of Apple-, Google- or Microsoft Cortana-powered systems is likely to be much more extensive than what a car manufacturer could develop on its own.

I wouldn't be surprised if Apple was working on a sort of small gateway device to be integrated in a car, that would be able to bridge the communication gap between the Bluetooth- or USB-speaking smartphone on the one hand, and the CAN bus, FlexRay, MOST or Ethernet AVB network in a car.

Besides this hardware bridging capability, one could imagine a set of comprehensive, yet to be standardized software capabilities — an API, in some sense — that would be made available by this gateway device to the car's various infotainment subsystems.

Such capabilities could include e.g.:

• the access to the iPhone's music and video library, with digital AV streams sent e.g. to the rear-facing displays integrated in the front seat's headrest, to be enjoyed by the rear seat passengers.

• the access to the smartphone's speech recognition engine, which, in the case of Apple's Siri or Microsoft Cortana, in turn imply access to the computing power in huge datacenters.

• seamless relaying and interaction with the smartphone's notifications (text messages, alarms etc.) via the car's touch-screen display, as said display is generally in a more ergonomic position for the driver than a phone in his jacket.

• automatic, "smart" setting of satnav destination based on the smartphone's analysis of the user's schedule, time of day, location etc.

• injection by the smartphone e.g. on the CAN bus of crowdsourced traffic jam messages formatted e.g. as pseudo TMC packets, destined for the car's GPS navigation unit, so that the car's satnav automatically suggests alternate itineraries.

• providing full satnav capabilities, in situations where the smartphone-based navigation is more advantageous, e.g. if the phone has access to more current route data and more sophisticated route calculation algorithms than the car's outdated — or even non-existent — satnav.

The factory integration of the Apple-supplied gateway device into a car's infotainment infrastucture (console display, instrument cluster display, hands-free microphone, speakers etc.) though a bit similar to what car manufacturers' OEM audio device suppliers like Bose or Harman Kardon must do today, would require significantly more development effort: that level of integration requires, besides an in-depth understanding of automotive on-board network implementations, the definition from scratch of flexible and versatile message and API standards to access the various AV, speech, messaging and navigation capabilities made available by the gateway device.

To have any credibility at all in the fora — SAE, ACEA... — where these kinds of messaging protocols and standards are discussed and agreed upon, Apple would presumably need on its staff people who have the required industry background and credibility.

Something that's not to be neglected is that once someone buys a car that has an AV and satnav which interoperate elegantly with an iOS device, that someone is likely to stick with Apple's smartphones for the next few years.

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