Autovolt Magazine

The Apple iCar Rumour Mill – What are the facts?

The rumour mill is rife with talk of Apple’s possible purchase of Tesla Motors to produce what is being touted as the, unoriginal, iCar.

So Apple executives have met with Tesla executives in a meeting, so what? Why all the fuss and what has it got to do with electric cars, buyouts and other profoundly conclusion jumping theories?

Last year, Apple made several deals with vehicle manufacturers, such as BMW, to introduce their iOS operating system for integration into vehicles. This is a completely logical step for the software giant to take, as it would involve media – which Apple are experts in – being input into the centre consoles of some very popular and high end automobiles. Not only that, but Apple’s would not be the first to do so. Microsoft have ventured into the in-car entertainment system before, with none other than BMW too. Interestingly enough, the system which made it’s first debut in a 7-series BMW in 2001 took the name ‘iDrive’, uncannily similar to the plethora of Apple devices now abundant on the market.

The iDrive system had a love/hate relationship with drivers who either praised it’s ability or loathed it’s complexity. Either way, the media infotainment system was introduced to BMW properly over previous attempts and was bundled into many vehicles thereafter, becoming a compulsory piece of equipment for most purchasers. In 2008, BMW updated the system with one based on the QNX operating system made by Blackberry, better known for the business oriented smart phones.

Moving forward to today, 13 years on, Apple’s i-devices have been on a march. They’ve become the standard phrase for many people, just as many still call vacuum cleaners, ‘Hoovers’ (a brand name), people commonly refer to the categories of smart phones and tablets by their Apple i-name instead. Apple has become a hugely influencing company with many companies copying their clean and chic ethos and designs. Their operating systems, both tablet, phone and computer have gained a reputation for ease of use, stability and speed. Not only that, but their foothold on the apps market and media implementation mean that their software has a controlling empire pre-built into any of their device offerings.

It is therefore no surprise that an automotive maker would be interested in having an Apple operating system driven computer on-board their vehicles. With little effort, a stable well understood interface could be implemented into a car giving occupants media at their fingertips and a stable system which is absolutely essential in any automotive situation. Many are interested in Apple’s offerings and it is no surprise that Tesla Motors are too.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Apple’s chief of mergers and acquisitions, Adrian Perica, met with Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. Neither company commented on the reason why when probed by the newspaper. The rumour mill got into gear as Perica had been on a bit of a buying spree at the time, purchasing many different companies and technologies that might be useful to Apple in the future. The reason for their expansion is simple; survival. Smart phone and tablet sales have been slowing down in recent months, although that’s not to suggest they’re not selling well – they are, and in their millions too.

However, for Apple to stay at the top, they need to be looking at the next big thing, the next technology superstar and the next major world technology trend. Electric and hybrid vehicles are just one of the potential areas which computing has a chance to excel in and Apple knows it. With almost every major manufacturer now either developing or producing an electric of hybrid vehicle, the technology minded customer is demanding equal levels of technology in the interior too.

For Apple, buying an electric car company such as Tesla might be a possibility – but it is just that – a possibility. However, it is much more likely that Tesla met with Apple to discuss software for implementation into their vehicle. That said, it is well known that Tesla and Google have some neat associations, with many of Tesla’s shares being held by Google big wigs. Furthermore, it is plain to see in any Tesla Model S that the system has Google well integrated, providing maps and navigation software.

So where does Apple fit in if Google is already in bed with Tesla? Well speculation is best left to those in that business, but the implications could be as small as Adrian Perica wanted to purchase a Model S, to Apple wanted to purchase the company outright. Anything inbetween is equal speculation founded on nothing more than supposition. However, as it is true that Apple are looking at implementing their iOS system into vehicles, it seems fair to assume that some level of Apple input into electric cars is inevitable – whether it’s in a Tesla or not.

Apple iCar

Photo: Tesla Model S steering wheel, showing Apple logo.