How Apple Car could shake up the automotive world

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What will the Apple Car look like? And, more importantly, what will it do?
What will the Apple Car look like? And, more importantly, what will it do?
Image: Motor Trend

Even if Apple is not furiously trying to figure out how to make an Apple Car, the rest of the world is furiously trying to figure out what the Apple Car would look like.

And, perhaps more importantly, what the Apple Car would do.

The latest salvo of speculation comes from Motor Trend magazine, whose editorial team hooked up with automotive industry veterans and concept artists to peek into the crystal ball when it comes to Apple Car.

A splash piece published today runs down all the Apple Car rumors, then peels off into the future, offering sleek concept art and some interesting ideas about what kind of car Cupertino might unveil by the end of the decade.

Cult of Mac was given an advance look at the Motor Trend Apple Car package. Here are a few of the most interesting concepts they tossed around to nudge the Apple Car conversation into second gear.

Don’t expect just a ‘better Tesla’

Much has been made of Apple’s competition with electric car pioneer Tesla Motors. But Larry Burns, GM’s former VP of R&D, expects Cupertino to radically reimagine the automobile rather than just delivering incremental change.

“Over the years I’ve seen Apple’s strong tendency to change the design language of the incumbent solutions,” said Burns. “For example, the iPhone dramatically changed the design language of the BlackBerry. I am speculating that Apple is not just seeking to make a better Tesla, but aiming to change the design language of automobiles based on what is now technically possible.”

You might not own the Apple Car, but you’ll have apps

The Apple Car could benefit from the rise of ride-sharing, which eliminates the hassle of ownership (especially in urban areas). Imagine a fleet of driverless Apple vehicles that arrive when beckoned using an app.

Speaking of apps, they might be the key to successful sharing of Apple Cars. But how do you share a premium product? That’s a question Stewart Reed — chair of transportation design at ArtCenter College of Design, which Motor Trend calls “the international epicenter of automotive design” — says his team has been discussing for months.

Apps, and connections via the iPhone and Apple Watch, could yield a car that can be customized on the fly to accommodate the needs and desires of any and all passengers. Seat height could be adjusted to suit your body size, temperature could be tweaked to make you comfortable, and your favorite Apple Music playlists could be cued up as you approach an Apple Car with your iPhone in your pocket. Even license plates could be digitally rendered for each driver.

Communication could be a two-way street

The Apple Car could take advantage of the millions of iPhones on city streets to make urban transportation simpler and safer, said Tim Huntzinger, ArtCenter professor of transportation design. “With iPhones in the pockets of many non-Apple Car drivers (and pedestrians), the whole urban system could be communicating with itself,” he said.

Sorry, but those look an awful lot like the iPhone 6's hated antenna lines.
Sorry, but those look an awful lot like the iPhone 6’s hated antenna lines.
Image: Motor Trend

Crystal ball says: magic glass!

There’s a lot of glass in the Apple Car concept art, which was produced by industrial designer Garrett DeBry to illustrate the dreams of the Motor Trend team.

From a glass ceiling to wraparound glass overlaid with projections to aid or entertain you during your commute, it’s perhaps the most dominant part of the design. And it’s not just any glass — it’s futuristic glass!

“The future of automotive glass isn’t laminated safety glass,” said ArtCenter’s Reed. “It’ll be in the realm of hard-coated polycarbonates that allow expansive glass surfaces for augmented or, as I prefer to call them, ‘merged-reality’ projections.”

A time machine that’s all about the experience

Perhaps Motor Trend’s heavy emphasis on the Apple Car “experience” is a no-brainer. That’s what Apple is known for, after all: Creating a premium experience that helps take the pain out of technology, leaving nothing but joy for the user.

Apple Car would be no exception, according to the Motor Trend team. “The core experience of an Apple vehicle is that it’s as easy to use as possible,” said DeBry.

With a heavy emphasis on autonomous driving, the Apple Car would become a literal time machine capable of reclaiming hours lost during your daily commute. “Apple could sell this as giving you a half-hour of your life back,” DeBry said.

“The new premium is ‘convenience,'” said Akash Chudasama, a freelance designer and recent ArtCenter grad student. “We want our time back. That’s the most valuable thing we have.”

Bumpy rides could go bye-bye

What good is an autonomous car if you can’t read or watch TV while riding without tossing your cookies?

“The ability to provide an extremely comfortable ride and avoid bumps so people can read without getting motion sickeness is going to become more useful,” said Chris Borroni-Bird, Qualcomm’s VP of strategic development and a former GM head of high-tech vehicle concepts.