Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Bloomberg: Apple Aims for Fully Autonomous Car as Early as 2025

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

For the past several years, Apple’s car team had explored two simultaneous paths: creating a model with limited self-driving capabilities focused on steering and acceleration — similar to many current cars — or a version with full self-driving ability that doesn’t require human intervention.

Under the effort’s new leader — Apple Watch software executive Kevin Lynch — engineers are now concentrating on the second option. Lynch is pushing for a car with a full self-driving system in the first version, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

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Apple is internally targeting a launch of its self-driving car in four years, faster than the five- to seven-year timeline that some engineers had been planning for earlier this year. But the timing is fluid, and hitting that 2025 target is dependent on the company’s ability to complete the self-driving system — an ambitious task on that schedule. If Apple is unable to reach its goal, it could either delay a release or initially sell a car with lesser technology.

This is the project I am most doubtful of — not just from Apple, but from the entire industry. I will believe in the possibility of a fully autonomous car when I see one driving like a human would in mixed weather conditions, construction zones, gravel roads, and twisty mountain passes — not until then.

Other companies have loudly trumpeted their attempts at autonomous vehicles with not great results, but Apple has, as you would expect, kept its efforts mostly to itself. I wonder how it is getting along. Gurman reports that a key milestone has been achieved that puts it on the path to launching in the foreseeable future, but I still cannot shake my doubts. It is not because of what we have seen from Tesla or Waymo or others; I think the best way to view Apple is through its own work. And that is a big problem because its history of automation, cartography, and machine learning has not been encouraging. From the company that brought you Apple Maps and Siri is not a great tagline for a vehicle weighing many tonnes and travelling at high speeds with only its own programming to guide it.

But if 2025. or even 2030, is seen internally as a reasonable timeframe for public availability of this thing, it can only be seen as a promising project. I refuse to be anywhere near one — inside or out — until it has proved its capabilities, but this is intriguing.