We hardly knew that it was the Apple Car

Apple is Getting Closer to the First Step: Finding a Partner for Autonomous Systems with an Autonomy Prototype, According to Afeela

The fate of the Apple car may be different than that of the other tech giants who are publicly pursuing auto projects.

Positive cash flow is painful, and Prototypes are easy, volume production is hard. This is a lesson that would-be car companies could learn from again and again. Even after a decade of work, Apple never quite got to the first step. (Granted: The company, not one for half-baked prototype reveals, reportedly blanketed any other firm that touched its automotive project with non-disclosure agreements.)

According to the Korean automaker, they are talking to Apple about manufacturing a car at its plant in Georgia. Apple car representatives reportedly met with European manufacturers as late as last month.

The senior vice president and chief innovation officer for the Center for automotive research says that partnerships are needed for any tech company trying to enter the automotive space. He says the same thing about any auto company that hopes to compete with the tech natives.

Other tech-car schemes have been about partnerships. The electric prototype Afeela is going to be built by a joint venture between Sony and Honda. Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told the Wall Street Journal that visiting the tooling, welding, and paint shop at Honda’s Ohio assembly plant confirmed that working together was the right move for the electronics company. “That would be rough to do on our own,” he said. “It turns out you really do need a partner.”

Chinese smartphone-makers are particularly eager to break into selling cars, with the hopes of propping up flagging phone sales. And a lot of them are teaming with more traditional auto players to do it. Xiaomi introduced its first electric vehicle late last year, and announced its goal to become a top global automobile company with a manufacturing assist from BAIC Group. Baidu is working with the Geely Holding Group on its EV. A new electric car was unveiled by Chery and is under the brand Luxeed.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems. Cook said in an interview that self-driving car were one of the purposes of the system. “And we sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. I think it is one of the most difficult AI projects to work on, that is exciting for us, but we are going to see where it takes us.

Wall Street was always skeptical of Apple’s vehicular dalliances, viewing it as an expensive distraction with more pitfalls than positives. Dan Ives applauded Apple for abandoning the band-aid, which he felt was the right move for the company. Morgan Stanley’s analysts praised the company for “focusing on what matters” and “exhibiting cost discipline.”

The demise of the Apple car coincides with a gloomy outlook for the future of electric and autonomously driven vehicles. The industry is going through serious growing pains, after many years of promising that battery- powered, self- driving vehicles would dominate personal transportation. Factory production is put on pause and model lineups are canceled. Pure EV plays like Rivian and Lucid, companies that are exclusively making plug-in vehicles, are struggling to find customers as most people are looking for something more affordable — or hedging their bets with a hybrid.

Apple Cannot Have a Closed Robot Axi Ecosystem Unless It is a Robotic Economy: A Case Study With a Million Million People

If Apple were to suddenly parachute onto this stage, the tech giant would likely confront similar headwinds, said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights.

But Apple never really caught up to its rivals, who had been working on this problem longer and with more resources to spend. It never obtained a permit from California regulators to operate its vehicles without safety drivers in the front seat. And the size of the company’s fleet stayed relatively flat. But Apple stuck to it. Last year, the company bested Waymo and Cruise in the rate of increase of miles traveled by its autonomous vehicles, The Washington Post reported.

But it is the next step that proved too difficult. Given the company’s control freakiness, the only way Apple could make this work was likely as a closed robotaxi ecosystem, perhaps as a monthly subscription service. That business model hasn’t been proven yet. Even the man who created technology cannot seem to make the math work.

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