By Shaan Khan
Apple. The company that gave us the revolutionary iPhone back in 2007. That offer unmatched standards of build quality and user experience with all their products. Apple are the trendsetters of the industry, who continuously make tech less complex and nerdy, but a smooth, accessible tool for almost everybody.
It’s hard to see Apple reaching the level of innovation as they did with the iPhone. It’s as though their success has turned them complacent. Simply improving their pre-existing products to near-perfection with routine updates.
The younger ‘naïve’ me had high expectations for Apple to revolutionise the entire tech landscape. I would sit in class with my friends on our iPhones, searching up futuristic concepts of Apple Televisions, Toasters and Toothbrushes.
But nothing quite quenched our excitement as much as the concept of the ‘Apple Car’…
All the images we came across were that of science fiction. People would say that ‘Apple will never make a car’ and that these types of concept cars ‘were never going to exist in our lifetime’.
Over time, I began to believe them, until the rise of Electric vehicles (EVs) came onto the scene. Then witnessing TESLA making big money moves to become the Apple of the EV industry. Now finally, those concept cars I browsed when I was younger are closer than ever to becoming a reality, after the rumour of Apple developing a car has confirmed to be true with many leaks surfacing the web—the most recent being a patent leak that Apple registered in 2021.
But before I get into the latest juicy news of the patent that will blow you away with what Apple has in store for their EV, let’s give some background on this rumoured Apple car first.
Apple’s Interest in the Automotive Industry
Concept Image of the Apple Car courtesy of festival.automovile on Instagram
Cars are no longer just heaps of metal with hearts of mechanic engines pumped with oil; they’ve now been sophisticated with electricity and computers. In fact, oil fuel and engines are becoming a thing of the past, thanks to all-electrically powered vehicles that don’t require non-renewable resources to power them, nor do they release carbon emissions when used.
All-electric cars have fewer moving parts than traditional vehicles, so there’s less need for repairs and maintenance, too. But arguably, the most important aspect to an EV that Apple have taken an interest in is that computer technology has replaced engines as the heart of these new-age machines.
Apple is a company centred around computer technology. It’s their area of expertise. You can name 101 ways to use an iPhone now, from AI voice assistants such as Siri, to using the Lidar camera to scan a real-world object and search for it on Google.
The skies the limit when it comes to what can be achieved with the power of computers, making mechanical engines look obsolete in comparison since you could even mimic the sounds of a motorised engine with computer technology! Let’s not forget the most unique aspect of them all—the internet.
Apple saw the vision of combining electric computers and motor vehicles way back in 2008, where Steve Jobs had numerous talks with his team on pitching an Apple car, with this predisposition of ‘cars making sense for Apple to venture into’, with such sentiment highlighted in a quote by the former vice president of the company, Tony Fadell, where in response to a question about what was discussed in the first talks of the Apple car, he mentions,
‘A car has batteries; it has a computer…If you look at an iPhone, it has all the same thing…’
Despite Apple’s confidence, the sad state of affairs with the pre-EV motor industry at the time, bundled with the limiting infancy of AI back then—Apple were not ready to be the first to embark on this complex yet revolutionary venture.
Instead, the smaller yet hungrier fish would bite first, with one particular fish becoming the biggest of them all in the sea of entrepreneurs—Elon *fricken* Musk.
The Times 2021 Person of The Year, Mr’ Megalodon’ Musk, founded the company TESLA and embarked on the risky venture that all mad scientists would adore, which was to push the limits of combing computers with motors.
Through trial and error in the public spotlight, the company has managed to achieve:
- Fully autonomous driving cars
- Touchscreens that eliminate traditional dashboard buttons and nozzles
- Supercharging network all over the world to charge TESLA EVs
- A dedicated app that allows you to lock/unlock your TESLA, access the vehicle’s cameras and even hail the TESLA to your location
- In-built, high-end computers that can play Triple-A video games like the Witcher series. Access streaming services such as Netflix & Disney+. Fully customise every aspect of the driving and passenger experience, including other general functions such as satellite navigation.
TESLA still have a long way to go at perfecting the advanced features they’ve brought to the public. Still, you wouldn’t be wrong in saying, ‘The Tesla just sounds like an iPhone on wheels!’, considering the fact, TESLAs use a lot of the same technology that iPhones use, such as AI, Lidar, megapixel cameras, touchscreens, user software and wireless internet.
The icing on the cake for Apple to really say ‘Hey, I think we’ve got what it takes to make a car!’ was back in 2020, when they began producing their very own silicon computer chips, with the first iteration being ‘the M1 chip’, glorified for being more power-efficient, cost-effective and user-friendly than any other chips on the market.
This development has broken a necessary boundary to advance AI since Apple now has full control over manufacturing best-in-class chips. Allowing both hardware and software divisions under their umbrella to work closely and optimise the technology completely to their standards with no third-party setbacks.
So while Apple has been secretly developing an electric car from early as 2014, with the project rumoured to have had 5,000 employees working on it in 2018—2020 was the year that rapidly sped up the development process. Since in 2021, a now-leaked patent created by Apple has revealed some of the advanced technological features they aim to include in their future Apple car that will raise many eyebrows of pre-existing TESLA owners.
The Apple Car Patent
Concept Image of the Apple Car & Charging Station courtesy of mrtechsaif on Instagram
The first feature listed on the patent has to be the most ingenious for its large-standing implications on society. The initiative is to use OLED screens for the vehicle in ways the technology has never been used before. How you say? Well, one way Apple intends to implement OLED screens is by wrapping them around the exterior body of the vehicle. The premise to such an idea is for an assortment of nuanced reasons.
For one, physical body modifications such as paint jobs, decals and designs, no longer are necessary thanks to the OLED screen showcasing any design or colour the car owner wants, at likely zero cost or at a much lower price than car modding services. This is due to the lack of physical labour and materials required for digital designs that can simply be sourced online. The added benefit is that you can source live animated graphic designs that will play on your car as you drive!
Another use-case scenario for the exterior OLED screens is to display messages that can clearly warn other drivers of an emergency. You could even showcase an advertisement for a product or service, which is massive for the marketing industry.
This level of cheap & convenient customisation with OLEDs is also gifted to the vehicle’s interior, including the seating! Since OLED screens are cleverly crafted into the fabric of the seats, allowing car users to digitally customise the appearance of all the interior, from texture to colour, at the touch of your fingertips, instead of an expensive trip to a car garage.
If this feature doesn’t shout ‘sci-fi’ car to you, then maybe the ideas in the patent around using a super-intelligent AI to control the car will. While Apple does highlight technology many of us would come to expect from them, such as facial recognition and an exclusive app to access and control the car; they’re also putting AI to the test by:
- Reading your body temperature and targeting the climate control to certain parts of your body that are not at an optimal temperature
- Auto-adjusting windscreens to block out harsh light that can distract you while you drive
- Gesture controls where subtle hand movements in the air can control many aspects of a car, maybe including the ability to turn left or right!
- Seatbelts that adjust to your body size
These subtleties in the driving & passenger experience will change what it means to be ‘comfortable in a car’. Apple even intends to include swivel seats that turn the inside of your vehicle into a living space while the car drives autonomously with its Lidar sensors and advanced AI.
Everything you love about smartphones will now be attributed to vehicles, from convenience, cheap customisation, intuitive controls and an abundance of features. It’s the car of many peoples dreams. But when might we see this Apple Car released? Well, the majority of rumours indicate that 2025 will be the launch date with a so-called ‘premium price’ similar to TESLA cars or even more.
So my dream of an Apple Car has been reignited. If you had to consider a live graphic or image you would display on the Apple Car OLED screens—what would it be?