The Apple Car and the Google Car are two products that we perhaps never expected to see appear on the market. Yet it is looking an increasing certainty that these two technology giants will indeed both release vehicles in the foreseeable future. So what can we expect from the Apple Car and the Google Car, and which of the two will best suit consumers?
Apple is certainly well placed to take on ambitious projects, having achieved massive financial success in recent years and being particularly cash rich at the moment. However, the Apple Car will certainly be a massive challenge for the corporation. But it is one that seems increasingly likely to be a major project for the company, after CEO Tim Cook suggested that the automotive industry should expect massive changes in the coming years.
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Reports have already indicated that Apple is working on the so-called Project Titan behind closed doors, and has even begun the recruitment process to triple the number of staff currently tasked with developing the vehicle.
It seems that Apple has set a target shipping date of 2019 for the vehicle, but it should be said in mitigation that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Apple Car will be available at this date. This could instead refer to point at which the engineers will sign off on the main features of the Apple Car product. Pre-orders will be absolutely essential, and knowing Apple’s perfectionism it is possible that even this date some years into the future could be pushed back if the corporation does not believe the vehicle is up to the standard required.
It is extremely early days to guess what the Apple Car might cost, but the American investment bank Jefferies & Co has already released a 69-page report on the Apple Car which goes into a surprising level of detail. Among this report is the suggestion that the Apple Car will retail at $55,000 in the United States. This would ensure that it sells at a significantly cheaper price point than one of its major rivals, the market-leading Tesla Model S, although it should be noted that the test the Model 3 is expected to be more affordable.
The prototype of the Apple Car is said to resemble a people carrier, but it is far more likely in the long run that the vehicle will take its cue from the BMW i3. Apple could also release a high-end sports car or coupé considered a luxury vehicle, and there is no doubt that the Apple Car will be fully electric. Apple has long since promoted its green credentials, and there is no doubt that the Apple Car will fit into this overarching ethos.
Additionally, in answer to the Google rival, the Apple Car has been linked with autonomous driving, although there are still issues related to the regulation of self-driving cars that need to be ironed out.
Apple is also likely to strongly focused on in-car connectivity technology, with its CarPlay system, which allows drivers to display calls, play music and talk to Siri, already available in a wide range of vehicles. By the time that the Apple Car goes public, this system should have developed significantly, and Apple will no doubt have some software surprises up its sleeve for the release of the massive Apple Car project.
The Google Car is based on a driverless concept that began as a modified Lexus. The prototype of the Google Car is extremely distinctive, featuring neither a steering wheel nor any notable controls. The internals of the vehicle really represent a couple of chairs with a control panel in between, and not a lot else. This may seem like a bizarre concept, but it is one that Google has been honing behind the scenes ahead of its release. And the corporation was able to demonstrate the Google Car navigating its way through an obstacle course on top of one of its own buildings recently.
Early indications related to the vehicle are that it is incredibly safe, and indeed that the self-driving system involved with the vehicle is more cautious and attentive than any human driver. It seems that this is the central gimmick of the Google Car concept, and there may be situations in which this is supremely attractive, not least for busy commuters working in urban areas.
But one early criticism of the Google Car is that it is rather boring. The car will never cut corners, nor speed in order to pass through traffic lights before they change, or do anything resembling the joyful process of driving that many associate with cars. Certainly the Google Car is excellent in built-up areas, but it currently does not excel in the wide open expanses that often represent the most enjoyable aspect of driving.
Nonetheless, the Google Car will be an environmentally-friendly vehicle that delivers an extremely safe and technologically impressive experience for motorists that perhaps don’t relish the prospect of motoring. It seems likely at the time of writing that the Google Car will not attempt to be as cool as the Apple Car, but will instead attempt to attract a technologically minded, city-based audience who will objectively benefit from the ethos of the vehicle.
Meanwhile, both Google and Apple will be faced with challenges as they attempt to develop their car concepts. There is no doubt that roadworthy vehicles are considerably more complicated to manufacture than any product that either corporation has been involved with thus far. This is an extremely demanding marketplace, as evidenced by the fact that some motoring journalists who have sampled the Google Car have already been rather underwhelmed by the experience.
Industry veterans and critics have already warned both companies that manufacturing a successful electric vehicle will extremely difficult. Bob Lutz, a retired General Motors vice chairman, has asserted that both corporations will lose money over their car projects. Perhaps Lutz is an old-timer who is somewhat out of touch, but certainly both Apple and Google will have to deliver something outstanding if the Apple Car and Google Car are not to be confined to the garbage can of history.