Elon Musk has called the Apple Car an “open secret” and now, in a new interview, Ford CEO Mark Fields say that the automaker is acting on a “working assumption” that an Apple Car is not too far away.
Ford wouldn’t be willing to take on a contract manufacturing job, however — since it’s not into the “handset, commodity base business” as Fields puts it.
Instead, he says that the probable existence of an Apple Car “provides us with the right motivation to make sure we stay very focused not only on the product but overall on the experience that the customer has interacting with the product and the services that we have.”
Fields also shared some of his thoughts on the future on Ford-branded driverless cars with the BBC. He says that “Level 4” driverless cars will be available by the end of the decade, with the ability to drive autonomously in a pre-defined area fully mapped by computers. “Level 5” cars, however, which can take over from a driver completely are much further away.
Last time Ford shared its views on an Apple Car, Don Butler, the company’s executive director for connected vehicles and services, said that: “We welcome the activity that’s in the space [thanks to Apple].”
Interestingly, Butler offered a slightly different take on where Ford will sit in the ensuing automotive revolution, saying that: “I think that what you will most likely see is a number of partnerships with companies that bring different skill-sets to the table working together to deliver solutions that neither of them could have done possibly on their own.”
At a 2015 tech conference in Ireland, company chairman Bill Ford Jr. meanwhile said that Ford is “going to have to migrate to new business models, which will be much more like transportation as a service.”
Last week it was reported that Apple Car parts may have already entered the prototyping phase at the company’s Product Realization Lab, where machinists and engineers are busy testing out product designs. Apple also recently hired former Tesla VP Chris Porritt as a product design administrator for the special project.
According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, an Apple Car is likely to ship in 2021, with a projected price tag of “around $75,000.”