Last week, Doug Field, a former Tesla executive who led the Apple car project, left Apple and went to Ford to serve as Ford’s director of advanced technology and embedded systems. After the news broke, Apple held a plenary meeting. Field is the fourth Apple car project leader to leave in seven years, and the team has lost three more executives in the past few months. The media speculated that Apple might unplug the car project.
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However, according to two people present, during the half-hour briefing, Apple executives said that they would reorganize, but would not lay off employees. According to media reports on Thursday, Kevin Lynch, who has been in charge of Apple Watch and health projects, will take over Apple’s car project “Project Titan” (Project Titan)-Apple cars are still on the way.
Laurie Yoler, a director of the Tesla founder’s board of directors and a former member of the Zoox board, said that despite the turmoil, it is too early to stop Apple’s seven-year car manufacturing plan.
However, after so many years, Apple does not seem to be one step closer to launching a car. Apple has never acknowledged the existence of Project Titan, although it must submit a report stating how many miles its test vehicle drove in California.
These prototypes are usually white Lexus models with a row of sensors on the roof. But the 19,000 “autonomous driving mileage” that Apple drove last year was only a fraction of the 630,000 miles completed by Alphabet’s Waymo car project in California. This number is also decreasing; this number is only a quarter of 2018. Waymo also said that during the test period, Waymo’s vehicles traveled an average of about 30,000 miles, compared to Apple’s vehicles which traveled 145 miles.
In 2015, Apple CEO Cook issued a code for Apple cars at a conference, saying that he wanted people to “experience iPhone in the car.” He added: “All this is to make your life outside and in the car seamless.” At that time, the smartphone market seemed to be saturated and revenue was declining. Apple needs a new product.
Apple’s advantages are unclear
The prospect of self-driving cars is still immature. Leaders who have spent billions of dollars in research and development technology have not come close to recovering their investment. Some of them have suffered obvious failures: Uber and Lyft have both divested their projects in the past year.
Today, this revolution looks more and more distant, and Apple’s advantage in the market is also difficult to discern.
Bernstein analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said: “I don’t see where Apple’s technological advantages are.” “It can only be automatic, which is the direction the world is pursuing. However, in a market where it is extremely difficult to make money, there is no Advantage is not a good proposition.”
Apple has a professional supply chain and an attractive brand, and has the ability to combine hardware, software and services. Nevertheless, from the perspective of its product portfolio, Tesla may surpass Apple in terms of battery performance, but in terms of interior design or mass production, Apple may be surpassed by Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
“Apple can’t build a car”
For Manuela Papadopol, a veteran in the automotive industry and CEO of Designated Driver, a startup that focuses on remote driving, all signs indicate that Apple is shifting its goal from cars to enhancing the digital cockpit and redefining the elements of the passenger experience.
“It is absolutely impossible for Apple to build a car,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think Apple’s opportunity in the automotive field is incredible-not in manufacturing cars, but in the interior space. They can project augmented reality and virtual reality onto the windows. This is the opportunity.”
At the same time, some people who have left the Titan project say that it has not yet chosen a clear path forward. For the iPhone manufacturer to invade its territory, existing automakers rarely show fear.
Sasha Ostojic, an operating partner of Playground Global, a venture capital group, and a former engineer at GM’s Cruise, said: “I really don’t think anyone in the (auto) industry is afraid of Apple.”
“When I was managing engineering at Cruise, I interviewed a group of people from Apple’s special product group (including the Titan project group). “Most of them were disappointed and said,’Most research is directionless. We really don’t know where it will go. We would rather do a serious project. ‘”