Right now, Tesla is miles ahead of its rivals in the autonomous driving technology. Tesla founder Elon Musk has called the Apple car project – internally code named Project Titan – an “open secret” and a “missed opportunity.” The iPhone maker’s ambition to build an autonomous electric vehicle has seen a few hurdles due to some high-profile departures. As a result, the Cupertino company had to push back the release of the Apple car from 2020 to 2021.
Ford is no longer just an auto company
Turns out, Tesla will not be the only rival to the Apple car. Ford CEO Mark Fields announced Tuesday that Ford will be launching a fully autonomous car in 2021, the same year Apple car is expected to go on sale. Ford is going to triple its development fleet by the end of this year, and then triple it again in 2017. The company is also investing $75 million in Velodyne, a LIDAR systems maker. Ford added that it would double the number of researchers at its Silicon Valley facility from 130 to 260.
Ford’s autonomous cars will be “built specifically for ride sharing and ride hailing.” Mark Fields told the company employees that Ford is no longer just an auto company; it’s now in the “mobility” business. It means Ford will be going after the same ride-sharing and ride-hailing market that Apple is said to target with its self-driving electric cars.
Will Apple car revolutionize ride-hailing?
Earlier this year, the Cupertino company invested $1 billion in the Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing. It indicates that the iPhone maker is interested in the future of ride-hailing business. Apple is re-imagining mobility as the rise of Uber, Didi and Ola have changed the way people view car ownership. Understanding the rider habits, driving patterns, traffic data, and developing software are far more important than hardware in autonomous cars. Investing in Didi could give Apple tons of data that it could use to develop self-driving cars.
Only time will tell whether the Apple car has what it takes to challenge Tesla and Ford. Other companies like Uber, Baidu, and Google have also been working on their own autonomous driving vehicles.