After Being Denied by Mercedes and BMW in Self-Driving Car Scheme; Apple Lowers Expectations and Signs with Volkswagen
For a while now the word has been that Apple dropped the idea of building its own self-driving car in order to develop software that it could license to other companies. Of course, that’s a hard pill to swallow considering the stance it takes will all of its software and it’s hardware exclusivity. Now, word has it that Apple has joined forces with Volkswagen which includes a deal to turn some of VW’s T6 Transport vans into self-driving pods to haul around Apple employees.
EV Demand is Forcing Companies Like Apple to Source Battery Supplies Directly from Mining Companies
The explosion in electric vehicles with even more demand in the near future is putting cobalt supplies at its max. Cobalt, an important metal ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, has tech companies scrambling to secure large, multi-year contracts directly with cobalt mining companies, skipping the traditional route of a middleman company brokering the deal. Apple is one such high-profile company pulling up a chair at the negotiation table to secure its future access to battery supplies.
Continue reading for more information.
Apple’s Self-Driving Lexus Spotted On Public Roads
In case you hadn’t heard, Apple is secretly developing self-driving car technology, and earlier this week, one of the tech giant’s autonomous test mules was possibly spotted out and about on California streets. Made public in a brief video clip posted to Twitter, the car in question is a late-model Lexus RX SUV with what appears to be a roof full of cameras, radar equipment, lidar, and various other sensors critical to self-driving operation. Making the spot was MacCallister Higgins, co-founder of Voyage, a rival self-driving tech startup, who seems convinced that the car is indeed of Apple origin. In response to Higgins’ short video clip, Twitter user @idiggapple posted a pic of the same Lexus (or one that looks very similar), which apparently pulled up to an Apple shuttle stop briefly before departing.
By all accounts, it certainly looks like this is indeed Apple’s latest test mule. The company has already been approved for public testing of autonomous Lexus RX vehicles, the previous iterations of which have made headlines after showing up at random intervals around the Bay Area. To us, this definitely looks like the car is gathering data for self-driving software development, although the car could also be used for mapping purposes, another activity that lends itself to self-driving tech development.
Continue reading for the full story.
Steve Jobs Hated License Plates
Six years ago, Steve Jobs passed away at 56 years of age. As the co-founder of Apple, Jobs was known as an innovator and inventor, playing no small part in ushering in such iconic products as the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. But in addition to turning the tech world on its head, Steve Jobs was also known for never running any license plates on his car. As the story goes, Jobs took advantage of a California DMV loophole that enabled new cars to forgo adding plates for six months after purchase. Essentially, Jobs would lease a new Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG twice a year, which basically meant he’d never need to mount license plates. Ever.
Pretty clever, eh? While some of you out there might be tempted to copy this small act of vehicular shenaniganry, you’ll only have a few years to enjoy it, as the loophole will close as of 2019 following new legislation. Either way, it’s an interesting little factoid on the automotive habits of one of the tech world’s giants. Which leaves us wondering – if Apple ever gets around to finally making its own all-electric autonomous vehicle, will it need plates as well?
If you went back to 1984 when Apple released the very first Macintosh computer and told Steve Jobs that Apple’s creation would eventually lead to us carrying around hand-held computers with excessive amounts of computing power called the iPhone, he probably would have laughed in your face and kicked you in the nuts. Yet, on June 29, 2007, the very first iPhone was released, and the inevitable battle between Android and IOS was officially in the works. Aside from getting thinner and more powerful, the iPhone really hasn’t changed that much. Things got shook up not that long ago when the 3.5mm headphone jack was done with, but outside of computing power, battery life, the sheer size and weight, it’s pretty much the same. With the introduction of the iPhone X, however, we get a new feature known as Face ID and, while it’s received some criticism so far, it seems to be finding more favorability over time.
With distracted driving and just playing on your phone while in the car becoming an increasingly annoying and dangerous issue from which there is no escape, it’s time we find a way to combat it from the base level. As such, the TopSpeed staff has sat down to discuss how something like Face ID could change the way we drive in the future. Maybe it will deny you access while moving, or penalize you when attempting to circumvent the system while driving. Maybe it will allow all people in the car to have access to the infotainment system via Apple CarPlay. Or, maybe it will be used to detect how you’re feeling and change various aspects of the vehicle interior like lighting or temperature. Well, we’ve explored a little bit of all this, so check out what each of us think below then fill us in on your thoughts in the comments section. We can’t wait to hear what you all think!!!
Judge Rules Texting and Driving Accidents Aren’t Apple’s Fault
These days lawsuits are passed around like dirty diapers, with every American looking to hold someone responsible for anything they can think of. But it also comes down to people not wanting to take responsibility for their own stupidity, either. Just think of all the frivolous lawsuits surrounding Tesla, and its AutoPilot software – most of these were complete crap, and people didn’t want to admit they drove their car into their own house. Well, the same thing boils down to texting and driving, with people wanting to blame phone manufacturers for not doing something to block distracted driving. In this case, I’m talking about Apple, and the lawsuit brought against the company by David Riggs, whose son was unfortunately killed way too soon by someone who was texting and driving. That lawsuit has been withstanding for a while now, but it’s finally coming to a close.
Whether or not Apple has really put profits above safety remains to be seen but, much like the case from 2016 that said it was unreasonable that Apple be held “responsible for ultimate harm,” the Judge ruled in Apple’s favor for this case as well and dismissed this lawsuit, ultimately saying that blaming of the fatal accident on Apple was “attenuated.” The case was thrown out and cannot be filed under the same claim again. The driver that was responsible for the accident was charged with a misdemeanor for using his iPhone while driving, but Riggs ultimately wanted to put the blame on Apple. For now, it looks like Riggs will have to look somewhere else to place blame, and should perhaps consider going after the person responsible for the accident… just a thought.
Apple Announces new "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode for iOS 11
You know, it’s kind of funny. Lately, I’ve been seeing stories that claim the smartphone is already dead or will be in the next decade. Meanwhile, every time I’m on the road, I see someone playing with their phone while they are cruising along. In 2015 alone, there were 3,477 fatalities and 391,000 injuries that involved distracted drivers. Surely not every single incident was related to cell phone usage, but you can imagine it probably accounts for a big chunk of it. The NHTSA even claims that approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones during daylight hours each day. That’s a staggering number, and it’s probably getting worse, but Apple just announced a new mode that will combat distracted driving automatically. Well, kind of.
It’s called “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode and will be released as part of the iOS 11 push later this year to iPhone 5s and later models, as well as the sixth-gen iPod Touch and newer iPads. By use of the various sensors, iOS 11 will be able to determine when you’re driving and will automatically silence notifications so that the screen remains dark. It can be set up to send an auto-reply to contacts listed as favorites to say that you’ll respond when you reach your destination. Apparently, passengers will be able to click on an “I’m Not Driving” button so that they can use their device as normal, so there shouldn’t be any issues with those riding shotgun. Of course, that’s also the big flaw in the programming as well.
Keep reading for the rest of the story
Apple Wants to Make its Watch Less Distracting for Drivers
Wearable devices like the Samsung Gear and Apple Watch didn’t exactly take off as well as electronic manufacturers expected, but they’ve grabbed enough hearts that they have been blamed for distracted driving from time to time. The Apple Watch, for instance, has been known to notify drivers of upcoming turns even though they are using their iPhone or have it connected to their onboard infotainment system. It’s also be known to tell folks that it’s time to rest while driving, or time to stand up, all the same. There are other notifications that come through as well, all of which can lead to distracted driving very easily since we humans don’t know how to ignore electronic devices to save our lives – literally. But, Apple is looking to fix all of that now, with a new patent that was filed last September and approved just this month.
According to the patent, Apple wants its watch to detect when you’re driving based on motion detection, and then change what alerts are sent to the watch, how many can be sent, and where you receive them. Apple even wants the watch to be able to determine what notifications are too important to ignore when you’re driving as well. This feature could potentially be customized by the user of the watch or even car manufacturers, the latter of which could mean that notifications are sent to CarPlay-enabled receivers or car speakers instead of the watch.
If you have an Apple Watch and have found the alerts to be rather annoying at times, this patent could be the solution to your problem. There’s no telling if or when this feature will make it into Apple’s lineup of mobile devices, but it could come as early as watchOS 4 and iOS 11 later this year.
Apple May Not Be Done With Autonomous Driving Technology Just Yet
Previous reports of Apple washing its hands clean of autonomous driving technology may have been unfounded. The California-based tech giant made that emphatically clear in a five-page letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration where it confirmed what has become an open secret to a lot of people within the auto industry. It’s working on being a significant part towards the development and adoption of autonomous driving technology.
Without diving into the specifics of what exactly it’s doing, Apple nevertheless made it clear that it is “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation” and that it’s looking forward to what this study evolves to, particularly with regards to the “potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”
The letter, signed by Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, answers a lot of questions pertaining to the company’s involvement in autonomous driving technology. It’s been reported numerous times that the company was looking into possible entrance points into the industry, even creating a project – codenamed Project Titan – to specifically work on the enterprise.
Much has been made about the company’s interest in autonomous driving technology. Recent headlines, including a partnership with Magna International to help develop the Apple Car, all pointed to significant levels of activity within the company that were geared towards advancing its goals. But the tables were turned in October 2016 when a Bloomberg report indicated that development was not advancing to the pace Apple’s big wigs intended it to and that those still involved in the project have until the end of 2017 to prove its feasibility, or risk having the project scrapped altogether.
To be fair, Apple’s letter to the NHTSA made no mention of this timetable as the company opted to instead point out its position on a wide range of topics related to the segment, most specifically the NHTSA’s “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy,” a rough guideline that the agency describes as a “starting point that provides initial guidance.”
The policy itself is not ironclad, as the NHTSA intends to have it viewed for public consumption with the intention of fostering discussions and suggestions on how to best shape the policy when the time comes that it becomes binding.
The Apple letter pretty much dives into the company’s own suggestions for the NHTSA’s policy. In doing so though, it finally let the cat out of the bag. It may – or may not – be developing an autonomous car of its own, but it’s definitely fully invested in being a part of the autonomous driving tech industry moving forward.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
McLaren Confirms Talks With Apple
After initially denying that any such talks occurred last September, McLaren has done an about-face and admitted that it did have discussions with tech giant Apple over a possible partnership between the two brands. No less than McLaren chairman Mike Flewitt made the revelation to Reuters, saying that Apple “visited” and the two companies talked about what each other did in their respective line of work.
Unfortunately, the talks amounted to nothing, or as Flewitt said, “it never matured to a definitive proposition.”
What Flewitt meant by “definitive proposition” wasn’t made clear and could lead to a flurry of speculation surrounding the British automaker. McLaren is already in the headlines over the very public ousting of former chairman and company forefather Ron Dennis. The controversy rocking McLaren’s ownership status centers on the rift that developed between Dennis and fellow shareholders, namely Mansour Ojjeh and the Bahraini investment fund Mumtalakat. According to Reuters, the tipping point that led to the ouster of Dennis came when Ojjeh and Mumtalakat rejected a takeover bid from Chinese investors.
For his part, Flewitt didn’t dive into the details of the management dispute, although he did say that there have been a number of bids from several parties about purchasing the company, but Ojjeh and the Bahrainis were “committed to keeping the current shareholding in place.”
Based on Flewitt’s comments and Dennis’ own statement after his exit from McLaren, the former McLaren chairman appears to have at least been in favor of new investors joining the company and that Ojjeh and Mumtalakat were dead set against it, opting instead to retain ownership of the company. With Dennis now gone from McLaren, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Apple come into the picture with a takeover bid, although a partnership may still be in the cards.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
Apple’s “Project Titan” has been one of Apples best kept, but widely speculated secrets. The project started by in 2014 with the mission to take on the automotive industry with an Apple Car. Primary competition would, of course, been Tesla and its wild Model S and Model X electric cars. Since the word spread, Journalists everywhere have speculated about what it will look like, what features it will have, and just when we would actually be able to lay eyes on this unicorn of a car. We even made a rendering of it not that long ago, but new reports are suggesting that Apple has canned the idea of building its own car altogether in favor of building an autonomous drive system instead.
That’s the word, according to Bloomberg who quotes unnamed sources that are “familiar with the project.” Out of a team that was once about 1,000 members strong, hundreds of members have been reassigned or terminated altogether. And, Apple is now focused on building a system that will allow it to partner with other manufacturers or ultimately build its own car someday in the future. On the other hand, Bloomberg reports that sources have indicated that Apple has been hiring new employees to help with the new focus.
Apparently, the team now has a deadline of late next year to prove that it can develop a feasible, self-driving system and must decide on a final direction. If not, the project could be scrapped altogether. All of this comes to light after months of uncertainty, strategy disagreements, and leadership problems within the project’s team. One of Bloomberg’s sources has even said that the project displayed “an incredible failure of leadership” until Bob Mansfield stepped in and gave the project a whole new direction. So, as much as you would like to see an iCar rolling down the street, it doesn’t look like that will be happening anytime soon.
Continue reading for the full story.
Apple In Talks With McLaren; McLaren Denies
These days, rumors in the automotive world are passed around like the dirtiest of diapers. One outlet publishes it, and 30 more outlets extend that reach. Take the most recent rumor originally brought to the surface by Financial Times that claimed apple was looking to buy McLaren – the maker of cars like the McLaren F1, McLaren 675 LT Spider, and the upcoming McLaren P16. These so-called talks, according to FT, were leaning toward apple securing full ownership of McLaren, but strategic investments were also said to be part of the discussions. This would have been a huge move for Apple’s Project Titan, which is rumored to bring us the world’s first Apple Car, but McLaren wasted no time in shooting down the rumor.
A McLaren Spokesperson has told multiple media outlets that “There’s no takeover, no strategic investment. It’s completely untrue.” McLaren has also released a statement that says, “We can confirm that McLaren is not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment.” Even with these statements, Tim Bradshaw – one of the reporters responsible for FT’s original article – has taken to Twitter saying: “Obviously we stand by our story despite McLaren’s statement.”
So the question is, who is right? Is McLaren trying to keep such talks a secret or is the whole thing fabricated? If the rumors are true, and Apple is looking to purchase McLaren, why would McLaren deny having any talks with them at all? It’s hard to say for now, but the New York Times is reporting that Apple was also in talks with Lit Motors, a company that makes electric motorbikes. Perhaps FT’s “sources” misinterpreted the situation altogether. We’ll be watching this closely and will update you as we learn more, so stay tuned.
Continue reading for the full story.