It is an open secret according to the South African born entrepreneur Elon Musk that Apple is working on its own car. According to Musk, the boss of Tesla, Apple has hired over 1000 engineers to work on what is presumably an all electric autonomous vehicle. Separately the iPhone manufacturer has also registered several car related domain names, including apple.car and apple.auto.
Not that any of this is putting Elon Musk of his latest venture – a self-driving Tesla. In many ways the only real global tech entrepreneur we have since Apple’s Steve Jobs departed this earth, Musk is nothing if not ambitious. As well as his loss making electric car business, there’s also his rocket company Space X and energy supplier SolarCity, both of which he has sunk millions of dollars into.
And at a time when most of us are still trying to get our heads around the benefits of owning an electric car over a traditional petrol driven motor, Musk is the man pushing forward with greater in car autonomy. “The two biggest revolutions are in electrification and autonomy,” Musk told the BBC’s Rory Cellan Jones on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
“In the long term no one will buy a car unless it is autonomous,” he boldy claimed. Controversially for many petrol heads he believes that owning a non-autonomous car will be much like owning a horse – something you have for ‘sentimental reasons’ rather than for practicality.
Tesla is going some way towards autonomy with its Autopilot features which provide a degree of automation in its electric vehicles – though frankly not really that much more than other manufacturers are already offering on their petrol cars. Included are the ability to keep the car in lane, adjust speed as other cars cut in as well as change lane without the driver needing to intervene.
However the latest ‘beta’ feature to be tested is a ‘Summon’ facility which will – if you are on private property – also allow the car to come and find you even from within a locked garage!
Nor will autonomous technology end there, adds Musk. He believes that within two years cars could be driving from one side of the US to the other without any kind of human intervention whatsoever. “This is the first baby step – ultimately you’ll be able to summon the car from New York if you’re living in LA, and it will drive across the country, charge itself at the various locations and come to you,” he told the BBC.
It may take the fun out of driving, but for many people it will take the headache out too.
You can see the BBC’s interview with Elon Musk here.