Cars of the future have been speculated by The Jetsons' animators and erudite academics alike, and innovative engineers debate whether those sketches may come to fruition. While hovercrafts may not be a mode of transportation anytime soon, the prospect fascinates technology and automotive enthusiasts, so the possibility of an Apple Car is sure to be a hot talking point at the upcoming Geneva car show.
As automobile companies from all over the world flock to the Swiss city to flaunt their newest models and designs, they understand that the global marketplace for automobiles isn't thriving. As such, innovative and forward-thinking technologies that pique the interest of consumers are ones that excite industry executives. The whisperings that the technology giant Apple may increase the ubiquitous presence of its products to the road is a rumor that has everyone from customers to CEOs intrigued.
For some of these automakers however, this news isn't exciting in a good way. As companies within the automotive industry struggle to compete, financial constraints may limit the ability of these manufacturers to implement innovative technologies like those being developed by Apple. Computers have become a mainstay of all contemporary vehicles. Technology in vehicles provides entertainment, important information and navigation services that allow drivers to get the most out of their vehicles. By failing to reach consumers who are technologically savvy, an automobile manufacturer risks making its vehicles virtually antiquated.
The technology market research firm Gartner has an automotive division within its enterprise. Thilo Koslowski is the vice president of that department. It is his belief that automobile manufacturers and technology giants like Apple are in direct competition with one another to implement cutting-edge technologies that will shape the automobile industry moving forward.
"Among the automakers there will be two camps: those who understand this space, and those who give outside technology companies access to the center stack of the vehicle. Those companies will emerge in the next five years," he said.
The duality of that dynamic creates two possibilities. One of those is that the automotive manufacturers and technology companies create their own respective cars, armed with innovative technologies. This would mean that automobile companies would have to venture into uncharted territory by developing new software to improve their vehicles. Consequently, this would mean that software engineers would test the masters of mechanical engineering to build engines instead of power hard drives. The other possibility is a more collaborative approach to the pursuit of the car of the future. If that is to become a reality then it would mean the synthesis of experts from these very different fields. By uniting toward the goal of optimizing vehicle-based technology, each industry could serve a greater, product-minded purpose instead of pursuing the singular value of its brand's profitability.
The usual suspects — that is to say Google and Apple — within the technology industry are poised to put pressure on automakers to extend an olive branch if any collaboration is to be undertaken. That may have been the motive behind Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn making a surprise appearance at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in the days preceding the automaker's summit in Geneva. Google has tested its vehicles on the roads over the last few years. The results of those tests have suggested that automated cars may provide a safer environment. The increased interest of safety, coupled with improved traffic efficiency places automakers in a difficult position. How do they achieve those same goals with the system of driver-based vehicles? Needless to say, the strides Google has made on this project have put pressure on Apple to match its rival.
Apple shares an advantage over many automobile makers: accessible capital. The company's market capitalization has been set at $750 billion by expert financial analysts. That worth exceeds automobile manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. In fact, it even exceeds the combination of those businesses' respective worths.
Apple CEO Tim Cook did not offer much insight into his company's aims at developing a vehicle. When asked on the subject, Cook deferred to a vague remark about Apple's focus to continue to offer its customers the best quality products it can. That would leave some to speculate that Apple may not be ready to offer its consumers a vehicle that would meet their taste.
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