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AI Businesses Transportation Apple

Cook Says Apple Is Focusing on Making an Autonomous Car System (bloomberg.com) 146

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: After years toiling away in secret on its car project, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has for the first time laid out exactly what the company is up to in the automotive market: It's concentrating on self-driving technology. "We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. "It's a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects," Cook said in his most detailed comments to date on Apple's plans in the car space. "It's probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on." [...] "There is a major disruption looming there," Cook said on Bloomberg Television, citing self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-hailing. "You've got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame." Cook was also bullish about the prospects for electric vehicles, a market which last week helped Tesla become the world's fourth-biggest carmaker by market capitalization, even as it ranks well outside the top 10 by unit sales."It's a marvelous experience not to stop at the filling station or the gas station," Cook said.
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Cook Says Apple Is Focusing on Making an Autonomous Car System

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  • Meanwhile (Score:3, Insightful)

    by backslashdot ( 95548 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @11:25AM (#54609759)

    Hardly anyone is doing research on breakthrough battery technology. How about pumping some dollars into increasing battery capacity 4x?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Battery research isn't very profitable, most of it goes nowhere. Not only do you need to find the right chemistry, you then need to figure out a way to make it cheaply enough to be commercially viable.

      Having said that I wonder if self-driving tech will really be profitable either. Most major manufacturers seem to be working on it and it will likely become fairly standard, a more or less commodity item within a couple of decades. Maybe there is an opportunity there to make some money for a few years, or mayb

      • How would an Apple AI distinguish itself from other AIs?

        Rounder edges....

        ;)

        • That would equal IP infringement on VW (The various iterations of the Bug) and Ford (90's Ford Escort and Taurus sedans where everything was an oval) and other designs of the past .

          Oh, but Apple would somehow try to claim prior art and sue.
          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            No, no. They don't start out rounded. They start out with square corners. The random collisions on the highway just round them out over time, like a rock tumbling in a stream.

        • Cough! Cough! Hey, give a guy a little warning before you start knocking the dust off of that old joke, wouldja?
        • Apple's AI efforts are basically just market followers to other companies who were already first. In fact, Tim Cook is pretty much banking his company's future on clones of other companies products.

          Think about it: What does Apple have coming down the pipe that isn't yet another iPhone/iPad/Macintosh or a clone product? They have a knockoff Amazon Echo, and Google and Tesla are already way ahead of them for self driving.

          Other than that, nothing.

          And even then, their existing AI, Siri, has already fallen behin

          • Apple's AI efforts are basically just market followers to other companies who were already first. In fact, Tim Cook is pretty much banking his company's future on clones of other companies products.

            Remind me again... you are talking about Apple right? The same company who has made their philosophy "Adopt existing music player tech and bring it all together with some Job's magic sauceTM, market it to the masses and call it new"... then repeat with phones, tablets, notebooks, ... ... and we are supposed to be surprised that they intend on doing the same thing in another field.

            Personally I dislike Apple, however they have proven their business model works.

            • Yes, but they ran out of Job's magic sauce. If they want any more of it, they would have to dig him out of his grave first, and then try reanimating the dead magic sauce glands.

      • Re:Meanwhile (Score:5, Interesting)

        by plague911 ( 1292006 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @11:48AM (#54609967)

        Ive discussed this ad nauseam with my MBA crowd. Long story short our guess is self-driving tech itself will not be a great industry to be in. As you correctly indicated the tech will be a commodity in a few years with a dozen different companies offering from a consumers point of view identical tech. The first to market will enjoy a temporary dump but that will be short lived.

        What can be profitable is the driverless car platform, much the same way a phone OS is valuable, not because the technology to make a call is still a differentiator but because it allows you to control an entire industry

        The current future paradigm is that the smart home, smart car, cell phone, and PC industries will become just one industry.

        • by trevc ( 1471197 )
          Gotta love MBA's :-)
          • Gotta love MBA's :-)

            Well, they are right about this. An industry can revolutionize society while producing very little profit for participants. Look at the airline industry: cheap air travel has bound the world together, but the airlines themselves have been perpetual subsidy sucking money losers. In aggregate, they have failed to return any profit to investors.

            • “If a capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk back in the early 1900s he should’ve shot Orville Wright; he would have saved his progeny money.” Warren Buffett.

              That said, Buffett has recently pumped $10B or so into airline stocks.

        • Ive discussed this ad nauseam with my MBA crowd. Long story short our guess is self-driving tech itself will not be a great industry to be in.

          I doubt it... While engineers think that software works just like hardware and being 98% there means that you'll eventually get to 100%, Computer Scientists know that solving 98% of an intractable problem doesn't bring you any closed to a 100% solution.

          The state of self-driving cars improved by fractions of a percent after throwing 10000x more powerful resources at it. The odds do not look good for the problem being solved anytime soon.

          As you correctly indicated the tech will be a commodity in a few years with a dozen different companies offering from a consumers point of view identical tech.

          Yeah, right :-/ ... Five years ago the true believers were sure that S

          • I was a hardware engineer originally, moved into software later, so maybe I am falling into your stereotype. People always dreamed of flying, then eventually someone figured it out. The question is why now? What is different? The resources are larger, and tech is more advanced now. Those are semi good reasons ,however, my core estimate for "soon" is the advances in AI tech/machine learning.

            A few years ago I interviewed with one of the Product owners over at Google for the self driving tech, I was impress

      • I don't think its always a problem of chemistry or manufacturability, but one of existing patents meaning that unless you're willing to invest in a team yourself to invent something new that doesn't step on any patents, it's not financially feasible.

        Self-driving tech has a massive profit potential. A quick Google search said there are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. and they have an average salary of $40,000. That means there's a $140 billion yearly market to be tapped into there alone. That'
        • Many of the SDC patents are owned Google. Google has said that they don't want to build cars. They want to license technology. To do that they need to set prices reasonably, so other companies pay for them rather than working around them. Their track record on Android and other IP is pretty good. License fees are reasonable and Android is very widely adopted. They want to repeat that success with SDCs.

      • How would an Apple AI distinguish itself from other AIs?

        by taking twice as long to arrive at your destination than the google variant.

        • How would an Apple AI distinguish itself from other AIs?

          by taking twice as long to arrive at your destination than the google variant.

          Google will have standard cup holders.

          Apple will change the cup holders every year, requiring a new adapter for your Apple iCoffee Cup...

        • People will say it's nicer, but it'll consistently only get 3-5% of the market.
      • "Having said that I wonder if self-driving tech will really be profitable either. Most major manufacturers seem to be working on it and it will likely become fairly standard, a more or less commodity item within a couple of decades."

        I think you're mostly correct. But I also think holders of a couple of dozen key technology patents that can't be worked around will probably profit hugely from a very modest up front investment -- at least for a decade or so before the patents expire. And of course the folks

    • Hardly anyone is doing research on breakthrough battery technology.

      You are insane if you don't think Apple has a ton of resources researching exactly this. Apple is one of the largest consumers of batteries in the world, mostly custom... they obviously spend a lot of time researching battery technology as it could mean a huge improvement in product performance.

    • You mean, like the Tesla Gigafactory?
      https://www.tesla.com/gigafact... [tesla.com]

    • It's hard to find accurate data, but there is at least as much money being spent on rechargeable battery research as there is new silicon chips.

      Lots of new and exciting research being done on battery technology with many different chemistries being developed and evaluated.

      • Also: Let's give a little credit. The laptop industry, more or less*, paid to develop the batteries in this generation of electric cars and phones.

        * obviously, the entire rechargeable battery market. But in 2000 that would have been what? 65% laptop, 15% phones, 15% toys, 5% model aviation. With laptops and RC being the ones needing 'more, more, more...' 1995? 1990?

    • "Hardly anyone is doing research on breakthrough battery technology."

      You're kidding, right? DARPA alone is funding nearly 50 projects. The reason that we don't have dirt cheap batteries the size of a pencil eraser that last forever, charge quickly, don't use exotic materials, don't explode, don't leak charge, don't lose capacity over time, operate over a wide temperature range, etc,etc,etc. isn't that no one is trying. It's that batteries are hard and -- as with many things technical -- progress comes in

    • Hardly anyone is doing research on breakthrough battery technology. How about pumping some dollars into increasing battery capacity 4x?

      You mean other than the university research institutions all over the world, private companies working on electronics, DARPA and other millitary institutions, oh and there's someone I was forgetting. ... oh that's right at least one maker of electric cars. [electrek.co]

  • Dear Cook,

        Your car hobby is neat, but can you please just keep the MacBook up-to-date?

    Thank you,
    Developers Everywhere
    • by Anonymous Coward

      A MacBook (Pro) is just an expensive fancy looking terminal to connect to Linux computers.

    • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @11:49AM (#54609973) Homepage

      ...and please don't try to make the car as thin as possible, OK?

    • Didn't they do that just last week? Maybe they didn't? Perhaps I was dreaming.... zzzzzzzzzzzzz

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        No, they brought it up-to-date. The GP asked them to keep it that way, by which I assume the GP means updating it more frequently in the future. That said, MBP users should be happy. The Mac Mini hasn't had a real upgrade since 2012. (The 2014 refresh was not an upgrade, but rather, a major downgrade. In that downgrade, it gained a better GPU, a slight speed bump, and a slight reduction in power consumption, but it lost removable RAM, the second hard drive, and half of its processor cores, which on th

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @11:29AM (#54609793) Homepage Journal
    AI and autonomous cars are the current hype cycle. So much for VR.
    • That's because you are living in VR now and just forgot. How else do you think autonomous cars can work?
    • AI and autonomous cars are the current hype cycle. So much for VR.

      That is because the folks selling VR software are trying to gouge too much profit out of it.

      I was thinking about buying a Vive. I have a computer good enough to handle it so all I need is the headset and the software. Some of the software is really neat but the prices ... well, my nose started bleeding once I started adding up the prices.

      The problem is that there is no easy transition from regular programs to VR programs. Valve allows Team Fortress 2 to be played in normal mode or VR mode, but most software

  • I don't see how Apple can pull of a whole car solution when they can't even get car play out in the field.

    It might be due to the fact that they don't own the head units in car play but they aren't getting market penetration. The car play I last tried you have to plug in your phone to use it. That is so far away from 'it just works' that I switched back to the default interface.

  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @11:31AM (#54609805) Homepage Journal
    Proof autonomous cars are about to be a mature technology, *pple is jumping into the market.
    • I want to point out that when Apple released the iPhone, they announced it at the last possible moment before releasing it. That was how Apple made a big splash.

      Talking about it now, when he doesn't even have a device ready, seems like normal CEO talk, trying to pump up the stock price.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It will only go to approved destinations using iRoads...

  • I can't wait! (Score:5, Informative)

    by lhowaf ( 3348065 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @11:48AM (#54609961)
    What the world needs now is a $200K+ car that can only be repaired at the factory (and all the windows are incorporated into the fingerprint locks).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And in true Apple fashion, It will only stop at Apple approved charging stations which cost 150% more than others.

    • You must be new here ... Slashdot readers never bother to visit the actual link itself.

      The fact that you're the first person to notice this and there are already 32 posts kind of proves this.

  • by jasnw ( 1913892 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @12:01PM (#54610115)
    ... is that the iCar will be really thin, will have a battery that lasts only 30 minutes (or 30 miles), will have only one multi-use port (door/window/hood/trunk), and you won't be able to open it up to make upgrades or repairs. But it will come in gold and pink, and did I mention it would be thin?
  • Apple wants to own the software that goes into autonomous vehicles; it's actually pretty smart.
    • Apple is to late for that.
      Most of the software for autonomous cars are owned by Toyota and Continental, smaller stuff by Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz.
      They all have already autonomous cars, partly over a decade (Continental is only a supplier for them and is not manufactoring cars themselves), with millions of miles of runtime on real roads. Even google had its first autonomous car minimum a decade ago.
      The industry is basically only waiting on two things: change in legislation and price drops for stuff like l

  • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @01:38PM (#54610969) Journal

    There's already a couple dozen companies working on self-driving cars. Is Apple trying to lead, or follow?

    • Apple has failed to lead anything since Steve Jobs died. Remember Tim Cook's latest and most amazing announcement? A home assistant. 2 years late and double the price of all the established competition.

  • by u19925 ( 613350 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2017 @01:43PM (#54611025)

    Self driving cars will have more economic impact than cell phones have. Self driving taxis will be cheaper than owning cars, so most people will ditch owning cars (like a landline) and go with car on demand. Companies will own large fleet of cars to serve everyone and you just request when you want. Most personal cars are sitting around in parking lots and garages while company owned vehicles will be running around, so you will need very few cars (about 20-25% of current cars). Also, these will be fairly standard non-custom cars mass manufactured long lasting vehicles. They can offer ride sharing during peak hours to minimize traffic and may even let kids ride alone to school, libraries etc.

    No more owning car, garages, insurance, gas, oil change, repair, gas stations, dealership, auto parts stores, parking fines, traffic violations, stuck vehicle on road. Manufacturing will be highly trimmed. Parking lots will be smaller and traffic will be lighter. People will be able to live in high density apartments without worrying about traffic. It will also reduce traffic accidents.

    Oh and they will be all electric vehicles. Built in intelligence in vehicle will mean that they will go to charging stations on their own during low demand times of the day and night and serve users during peak hours. Long distance drive? No, problem. Just exchange the car when it is low on battery. Another car will pick you up while your current car goes to charging station.

    Who will make first iPhone equivalent of self driving car? That is a trillion dollar question.

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      Self driving taxis will be cheaper than owning cars, so most people will ditch owning cars (like a landline) and go with car on demand.

      I was in Paris last week, and used a self-cleaning automated public bathroom in one of the downtown tourist areas.

      It stank. There was garbage in it. There was small pile of shit on the floor. And there was no toilet paper. The second one was better, but it was still an experience I'd rather avoid.

      How are you going to prevent your self driving car on demand fantasy from ending up there?

      What's to stop the car picking you up from being full of garbage, condoms, urine and vomit? What stops prostitutes / johns f

      • These are all good points. I'd like to add that this is a non-starter for a HUGE group of people: parents with kids that require car seats. I don't know, maybe they will build car seat technology into it, but it would be a disgusting pool of snot, spit up, germs and goldfish. It also doesn't account for the (smaller) group of people who need work trucks for hauling and towing, and people who like to work on cars as hobbies. Oh, and did I mention rural folks? This would just be another tax on the have-nots w
    • Self driving cars will have more economic impact than cell phones have.

      How much do you want to bet the net economic impact of smart phones has been negative? People playing games and texting instead of working, etc....

    • and the taxes / upkeep / liability of an large fleet will make places like uber / lift not want to be part of it. Apple may have change high prices to keep in profit running one.

    • most people will ditch owning cars (like a landline) and go with car on demand.

      I fail to see how this viewpoint fits into the American dream of owning luxury stuffs and keeping up with the Joneses. Nobody likes to ride in someone else's car. By any name or ownership, it's still just a taxi. Even in 3rd-world countries, people own and self-repair rusty beaters instead of renting vehicles.

      Plus, even if taxi prices tank due to automation, not everyone lives in a bustling city where distances traveled is low enough so taxi services can meet demand and turn a profit.

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      I'm not so sure about that - I want to be able to keep my stuff in my car, and know that the mess is my mess. Sure, some people will go for cars on demand, and I think that a lot of people will shed the 2nd or 3rd cars in a family. But I think there will be demand for private cars for some time yet.

      I'm also skeptical that you're going to see standard cars - I'm thinking more an explosion of customization. If you look at the skateboard type platform that electric cars can offer (like Tesla), you can see that

  • The intelligent road takes control of the (dumb) cars that drive on it. All cars drive at a high, constant speed, there are roundabouts at intersections. Changing of the lanes, etc. is all controlled by the road and happens very smoothly. (Hey, that's so cool - you modify some algorithm in the road software and the fuel economy improves for all cars driving on the road.) There was a startup allegedly working on a similar concept but I cannot find their site.
  • ... a new destination has been selected for you - your convenient Apple Store.

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