Apple’s self-driving car plans could change the entire company

What would an Apple driving car look like? We don’t know yet, but we do know that the company has serious plans to fulfill its plans Electric self driving car by 2024.

Apple has not officially confirmed any information disclosed in Reuters reports that broke the news last week. And we’re still missing many details on the company’s self-driving plan. However, this news is important for both Apple and the self-driving car industry.

Depending on how the situation unfolds in the following months and years, the fact that Apple has a solid date for its self-driving car plans may indicate that the company is undergoing a fundamental shift in its product-development strategy Still working.

Current state of self-driving car technology

The history of self-driving cars is very reflective of decades of discovery. Artificial common sense (AGI): The finish line always seems to be around the corner. But the closer we get to it, the more difficult it becomes.

Like many AI technologies today, self-driving cars have their roots in the 1970s and 80s. But until recent years, they were limited to academic and military research laboratories and science competitions only. In 2010s, in advance Read or learn to meditate Has improved a lot Computer vision, Is one of the key technologies that power self-driving cars. We are finally seeing cars that can drive themselves on real roads.

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Deep learning algorithms have helped self-driving cars go a long way towards navigating in challenging environments. But, he The technique is perfect. Deep learning models are only as good as their training data. If the data is representative of all situations where a self-driving car will be encountered, it will have a strong performance. But when confronted with cases of torrents, novel situations, AI’s actions will be unpredictable, it has rarely happened or fire has hit the truck An odd angle Or a overturned car.

Human drivers meet novel conditions all the time, but can handle them thanks to their understanding of how the world works in general. For example, you do not need previous training to know what to do if you see a deer calf on the road. We understand causes and effects, intuitive physics, goals and intentions, and This knowledge Helps us make rational decisions when we face situations that we had never seen before.

Some companies are using complementary technologies such as LIDAR, laser-emitting devices that create 3D maps of the car’s surroundings. LIDARs can help detect obstacles and people where the computer vision system fails, but they are not resistant to environmental factors and speed, and they do not solve the work-cause problem.

Apple’s self-driving car efforts

Apple has been conducting autonomous driving research since 2014 under the title “Project Titan”. But unlike the efforts of other companies like Waymo owned by Uber and Google, little is known about Apple’s self-driving car project and the company’s progress.

It was reportedly the initial target by Apple to build the car from scratch. In 2016, the company shifted focus and aimed to develop software for self-driving cars. In January 2019, Apple Hired 200 employees From the project, then acquired self-driving startup in June. In December 2020, the company transferred Project Titan, its head of artificial intelligence, under the care of John Titanand.

The history of Project Titan suggests that while Apple has always maintained an interest in self-driving cars, there were never signs of plans to launch the product. This changed with a Reuters report that claimed Apple had “made considerable progress that it now aims to build a vehicle.”

Apple’s product development strategy

Apple is usually not a first mover, but it certainly knows when to enter a new market. The Apple II was not the first personal computer, but it was the first to be very successful, building on top of a decade of rapid development in storage and processing technologies and the cost of manufacturing the pieces needed to assemble a home computer. There was a gradual decrease.

The iPod was not the first device to play audio files, but it launched at a very reasonable time, when digital media adopters had reached critical mass and the market was ripe for high-end consumer products. Even with the iPhone, which entered the scene in the form of mobile communications, Internet and computing, it became common thanks to the likes of Nokia and Blackberry. There was nothing new for the iPhone, but it was a novel combination of “an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator”.

If you look at Apple’s other products, HomePod, Apple Music, Apple Watch, they were never the first of their kind, but a revolutionary version of what already exists. With the exception of maybe graphical user interface, Apple has rarely ventured into areas where the market is not already established.

But the self-driving car industry is still marked with deadlines missed by all major players. Despite tremendous progress, there is still no real self-driving car solution. The self-driving cars of Uber and Waymo have covered millions of miles, but they are still attended by safety drivers. Tesla offers a fully autonomous autopilot feature — but still requires drivers to place their hands on the steering wheel when it is enabled.

While most experts agree that we will eventually have driverless cars on the roads, many questions remain, such as what they will look like, how and if they will share the roads with human-driven cars, what are the regulatory requirements , And what will the meaning of car ownership change.

Training data for AI algorithms

Apple Store

There is a very solid reason that Apple will enter the immature and risky market as self-driving cars. Unlike other fields that Apple has conquered, self-driving cars are heavy on artificial intelligence and have a different development strategy. Intensive learning algorithms Used in self-driving cars Driving on the roads requires large amounts of training data obtained from cars. Therefore, aside from sound engineering and design, you need one AI factory Built on top of a solid data infrastructure.

Waymo and Uber are collecting their data by testing their cars in different cities. On the other hand, Tesla has collected its data directly out of thousands of cars sold to consumers.

According to reports, Apple did some small-scale road tests in the past, but Reduced effort in 2019. Plans to launch a consumer-level self-driving car may indicate that Apple will adopt a strategy similar to that of Tesla, which would be slightly controversial for a company that takes pride in collecting very little data for customers.

It may also imply that, like Tesla, Apple will advance its self-driving technology in a phased manner, gradually developing and fine-tuning its AI algorithm as it collects more data from its cars. This, too, would go against the nature of Apple having the right products to bat with. This could, of course, change if the company finds another way to collect hundreds of million miles of driving data before 2024

Who will buy Apple’s self-driving car?

As Reuters reports, Apple’s goal is to create “a vehicle for consumers”. In this regard, Apple’s approach is similar to that of Tesla and is in contrast to Waymo and Uber, which plans to launch a robo-taxi service.

But selling directly to consumers raises the question of how much will the car cost? The benchmark we have is Tesla’s electric vehicles with autopilot support, which cost between $ 35,000 and $ 120,000. But when Tesla is using a pure-computer vision approach, relying only on deep learning and modest help from front radar and sensors to navigate the roads, Apple has incorporated Lidar on its self-driving cars Is planned.

according to this A 2017 estimate, The lidar used in self-driving cars can cost between $ 8,000 to $ 85,000 and each self-driving car requires multiple lidars, which can sometimes triple the price of a car. This may force Apple to rethink its product delivery strategy and change to provide an autonomous ride-hailing service in the future.

But the industry is changing rapidly. Right now $ 100 And $ 500 lidar, And Apple has evolved Your own lidar scanner At a cost that makes them affordable to embed in iPhone 12 and iPad Pro devices. For its self-driving car, Apple will use its own LIDAR and partner with other manufacturers. Therefore, consumer-level Apple cars would probably be more expensive than Tesla, but by 2024, hardware costs would have fallen to the point that the difference would be negligible.

Giving full control?

According to a Reuters report, Apple wants to outsource the manufacturing of the car, which would be contrary to the company’s preference to maintain full control of its product stack. Apple controls the hardware, operating system and its phone, watch, TV and computer’s App Store.

But even though Apple has decades of experience running manufacturing plants and managing complex supply chains, manufacturing cars is a completely different challenge, one that would warrant partnering with a car manufacturer.

Apple will have an option to acquire the automotive company. With more than $ 200 billion in liquid assets, the company could easily purchase several top-tier carmakers, including General Motors and Volkswagen, and manufacture large-scale vehicles.

The future of Apple’s self-driving car?

Apple logo

Throughout its history, Apple has set an example of design, performance and durability (and high value). Today, companies that deliver great products are compared to Apple (for example, Apple of gaming, Apple of cars, etc.). But this history of perfection has also set high expectations for Apple. Where consumers allow other companies to fail and recover, they expect Apple to be innocent. And at the moment, self-driving car technology is anything but flawless.

This may be partly the reason that Apple has recently been reserved and only leaked information about its self-driving car project through anonymous sources. This gives the company mobility for parts of its plans as it develops the industry and its project. The self-driving car industry is changing rapidly, and I would not be surprised that what we see in 2024 is very different from the initial report.

But to ensure that Apple is serious about building a self-driving car, and its engagement could have a serious impact on transportation and the company’s future.

This article was originally published by Ben Dickson TechtalksA publication, which examines technology trends, how they affect the way we live and do business, and the problems they solve. But we also discuss the bad side of technology, the deep implications of new technology, and the things we need. You can read the original article here.

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Published January 10, 2021 – 13:00 UTC