Apple is planning to unveil its own electric vehicle by 2019, according to a Wall Street Journal report. But details about its secret car project dubbed “Titan” remain vague at best.
Sure, we know the company is hiring auto industry veterans and that it is experimenting with autonomous vehicles. But, we don’t know much about what technology will actually be included in the Apple car, nor do we know what the vehicle itself will look like.
However, we do know Apple will likely do what it does best when it enters a new market and take what competitors have done and make it exponentially better. Like Apple did with the smartphone, tablet, and laptop, the company could take the smart car to another level.
So we took a look at some of the most impressive cars on the market — as well as some automakers’ concept cars — and pulled together a list of some of the features, functions, and design elements that would make the ideal Apple Car.
Let’s start with what Apple does best, design.
There's been no shortage of renderings from designers displaying their vision of an Apple car. But when it comes to what the car will actually look like, well, there's not much to go on.
However, to make the electric vehicle as energy efficient as possible, the car will need have an aerodynamic design to reduce drag.
While we don't know exactly what that looks like yet, entrants in a recent Apple concept design contest sponsored by Freelancer.com came up with some pretty good ideas.
The one shown above was the winner and is described as having external high resolution LED screens front and back for head and taillights, as well as doors that open latterally.
By 2019, Apple will have a lot of competition in the electric car space.
Tesla's CEO Elon Musk has said he will begin production of his company's more affordable Tesla Model 3 by 2017, which is expected to have a range of about 250 miles on a single charge. And Audi's e-tron quattro is expected to go into production in 2018 and will go as far as 310 miles with just one charge.
If Apple is going to compete with these companies and others who are making huge progress in battery life, then it will need to set the bar exceedingly high when it comes to mileage per charge.
While the company will no doubt have to at least match the competition, it would be ideal if it could greatly surpass the expectation and get somewhere between 400 to 500 miles with a single charge.
Of course it's not enough for the company to just extend the range. It also needs to keep the charging time low.
Audi's e-tron quattro car is said to fully charge in just 50 minutes. Porsche's latest concept car the Mission E, which is expected to go into production in five years, is said to charge about 80 per cent, or get a 250 miles range, in just 15 minutes.
Apple would do well to match this time or beat it.
It would also be impressive if Apple could integrate some sort of solar panels on the vehicle so that the car's battery could get an extra boost when needed.
Companies including Google, BMW, and Volkswagen are already testing out their self-driving cars on public streets in California. While Apple has yet to join them, the California DMV told Tech Insider the company has met with authorities to discuss regulations.
Yet, The Wall Street Journal reports that the company's first car will not include the technology. However, like Tesla and BMW, Apple could include an 'Autopilot' feature that enables the car to self-park and perform other partially autonomous functions like navigating at low speeds in congested areas.
The market for autonomous driving, which is the fastest-growing connected car feature, is expected to be worth about $US44 billion by 2021, according to Strategy& PWC Connected Car Study 2015. So we can bet that Apple will likely roll out a consumer car with the technology eventually. The company is likely waiting for all of the legal and regulatory framework to be established before including the technology in a consumer vehicle. According to the report, fully autonomous long-range driving at highway speeds will likely come between 2020 and 2025.
More connectivity in cars means more convenience and improved safety with features like autopilot and automatic braking, but unfortunately, it can also open cars up to hackers.
Vulnerabilities have recently been discovered in Fiat Chrysler, Porsche, and even Tesla vehicles. And we are likely to see more security holes discovered in connected vehicles before the year is out.
But Apple could have a huge advantage in the smart car space if it builds a vehicle that is as safe as its other products. Consumers know that for the most part, Apple's mobile devices are vastly more safe than Android devices.
Ideally, we'd like to see a closed operating system for the vehicle, like with iOS, with all car data encrypted.
Apple does displays exceedingly well, so an Apple car should have a lot of touchscreen displays.
According to a study by the Das Auto-Institut, Volkswagen has ranked as the number one automaker for both its safety and infotainment systems in 2014 and 2015. Apple may want to take a few cues from VW.
For example, Audi, which is a subsidiary of Volkswagen, features screens just about everywhere throughout the car. The entire dashboard is an OLED display, as well as the console in the center of the car, which enables those in the back to control the car's functions as well.
Tesla also has an impressive 17-inch OLED display in the center of its Model S and Model X that is used to control every function of the car.
An Apple patent in 2009 for 'programmable tactile touchscreen displays and man machine interfaces for improved vehicle instrumentation and telematics' that mentions similar technology.
Besides using Siri to control functions, Apple would also do well to introduce gesture control into their vehicle.
BMW has already introduced the feature in its BMW 7 Series as part of its iDrive 5.0 infotainment series. The technology behind the feature includes a 3D sensor that can detect a set of pre-selected hand gestures.
So, for example, you can control volume, answer a phone call, or control the displays with just a swipe of your hand. This makes it safer to use so you can keep your eyes on the road instead of on your dashboard.
The same patent that Apple filed in 2009 for 'programmable tactile touchscreen displays' also mentions in-car camera technology that could possibly be used for this kind of control.
Like Porsche's concept car, Apple could also integrate eye tracking technology so that come features could be accessed just by looking at an instrument.
The technology could also be used as a safety feature so that the car could take over when it knows the driver is not paying attention.
Drivers of BMW i-models users can monitor their car with their Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch.
Apple could potentially do something similar with its Apple Watch and the iPhone. Users could check their car's battery, diagnostics, or even start their car with an Apple Watch or their iPhone.
An Apple patent filed in 2012 shows the company may already be working on similar features.
According to the patent called 'Accessory control with geo-fencing,' an Apple iPhone could be used to control certain car functions when withing a certain distance of the vehicle.
For example, it would use the phone's geofencing technology to automatically lock or unlock the car when you are within a certain distance.
The company also filed a patent in 2011 that describes using a designated iPhone to start a vehicle or even disable the engine during certain hours.
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