Rumors are running rampant with regard to Apple building a car, the main issue is the tech press seem to behave as if the car is coming within the next few months rather than a couple of years. It's no secret many writers for Mashable and several other sites lack the fortitude to take a step back and use logic when it comes to several rumors many unsubstantiated and others bearing some truth. Now that the insanity has died down just a little it's best to put a few things in perspective and consider a few things that many gloss over.
Several publications have come out with the news of Apple building an electric car that may or may not have some type of autopilot and drive itself. Simultaneously the immediate response has been met with jeers, doubt, and condescension (which if people weren't condescending of Apple doing anything peace would be around the corner...and that's not reality). Conceivably the likelihood Apple is working on a car is strong, considering that it's been reported in the court proceedings against Samsung, Apple SVP Phil Schiller stated that the company considered making a car prior to the iPhone, throw in that the founder and former CEO the late Steve Jobs had a desire of making a car as well. This alone should offer some insight into the idea that Apple researching the development of a car isn't too far fetched.
Now add in a recent report from Jordan Khan of 9to5Mac with a detailed listing of all of the employees currently working on an unknown project within Apple including their work history and experience in additional to the numerous reports from WSJ, Reuters, and Bloomberg corroborating reports of the car project with the only disagreement of whether or not the car will be driverless. And the vans currently leased by Apple that have been seen on the road more than likely aren't related to the project rather moreso to Apple's Maps application and database, which in hindsight could assist the company with mapping significant details of city streets and highways for that potential functionality. Even with all of this information there are a few key things many people those for and against the idea of the company developing a car keep missing.
The political climate will shape the advancements or complacency related to technologies introduced to the populace. This is something many have somehow overlooked, California and Nevada have laws for self driving cars, and UK is working on introducing new laws for these autonomous vehicles as well. How will such legislation form over the next five to seven years? What will the charging landscape look like over this time as well? One has to consider that if the car Apple is working on will be electric (in all likelihood it is) will the swell and placement of charging stations equal or surpass that of the multitude of gas stations? With Tesla steadily growing charging stations around the country and elsewhere there's a strong chance the charging connector would be compatible along with other small businesses sprouting up to develop their own charging stations for the coming onslaught of electric vehicles.
Then there's selling directly to the consumer, something Tesla was fighting as it entered several new markets where once again the political climate was against such a change that "cheated" the non-essential third party (dealerships) out of funds they have no chance of seeing. There would likely be stores similar to that of Tesla dedicated to the vehicles where the customer would go in view a model, design in house, take a test drive in the parking lot, and await the order to be complete, just like the process with Tesla. Obviously Apple is stepping up it's efforts in lobbying and this is something that's expected but there's always the question of what will the political climate allow when it comes to likely disruption of what's been the status quo for a little over a hundred years.
It's important to take all aspects of who the company is employing, the technological advancements that have yet to take place, and the political climate that would allow or delay the coming age of autonomous electric vehicles. perspective is a necessity, especially considering the new hire of someone who was Tesla's lead recruiter this most certainly wasn't simply related to an advanced version of CarPlay.
How will the motor vehicle space look in the next five years? The company likely isn't resting on it's laurels with the success of the iPhone and as most companies should do is looking for other avenues of innovation and development. Just because the news has been rampant that Apple may be researching the makings of an electric vehicle doesn't unequivocally mean they are in fact releasing one. The whole idea behind Research & Development, is to research the cost, materials, practicality, safety, and technological advancements behind making such products. The development comes as a component to researching these things as in developing a few test models to answer any hypothetical assessments that were placed.
There's no reason why they can't move forward with investigating such a possibility, what seems interesting is that there wasn't much contention or hilarity surrounding Google developing and building out their own electric vehicle (that bears a striking resemblance to that of a fisher price toy) that just so happened to be self driving mainly in ideal controlled conditions, conditions which contradict real world normalities. There may be technological advancements that could change the prospect of self driving vehicles making them safer but full autonomy seems a little further away slightly passing 2020.
When you're a company selling consumer electronics with over $175 billion in cash on hand what would be the next business goal if you've moved into personalized wearables (Watch and healthkit), the home (the inevitable revamped TV? and homekit), mobile suite of products (iPhone, iPad, MacBook(s)), it's likely personal transportation would be that next venture. So when many ask "why would they do this?" why not? "who is the addressable market?" no clue only they can answer that but seeing how it's five or more years away it's not something that can be easily addressed now. "Why would you go into making a car?" Why would an advertising company make a self driving car? While there will always be a double standard with regard to Apple and Google it's safe to say tech companies are looking forward and that's a good thing, it's something that's appreciative to an extent but it's also natural.
A social network bought a VR company for a little over a $2 billion, an advertising company is looking to launch balloons offering free WiFi around the globe, a consumer electronics company investigating the potential of making an electric car shouldn't be too hard to conceive. One thing people continually fail to realize, there are some pretty smart people working at these companies and in terms of potential repairs, fixes, etc if such a car comes to fruition this has in all likelihood been discussed and evaluated at length. Though skepticism is inherent in many who can't think in a broader scope, for example:
We take steel, raw steel, and turn it into a car. They have no idea what they're getting into if they get into that.
That was from the former GM CEO, and it sounds so much like something many have heard before regarding smartphones when there were rumors that Apple would be getting into that field, something along the lines of:
PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.
Ah, yes that was from Palm CEO Ed Collegan, a few people may remember Palm, they used to make smartphones less than six years ago...well, it's best to move on and get back to the subject at hand. The truth of it all is even if we were to look at Apple's revenue then the company's peers are no longer Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, or Google, with regard to yearly revenue Apple's peers as MG Siegler points out consist of Ford and GM (both of which are behind Apple in yearly revenue but only by a few billion) and Volkswagen (at $225 billion for the year compared to Apple's $182 billion).
Those in the tech press (strangely) and the mainstream press (not so strange) misunderstand how to look at things with regard to a tech company's investigation of a new product or service that won't launch for years down the road. It's not logical to look at things the way they are today and make an immediate assumption, baseless in every way imaginable, one would have to consider the advancements being made in technology as well as the acceptance the populace has toward these advancements, and how those changes will likely develop over the years to come. We can expect very little innovation from the current car makers outside of Tesla, there are a lot of industries in need of significant technologically innovative rethinking, this is one of the many.
It's still pretty crazy though.