What Could The Apple Car Be?
It is common knowledge that Apple has been running Project Titan for an Apple-designed car. Allegedly, it was so outrageously expensive they totally gave up and started over from scratch. There’s endless speculation about when it may, if ever, see the light of day.
I would like to offer, among all the aimless speculation as to when it may be announced, some aimless speculation as to what it could be like. What could they have done to drive up the cost so embarrassingly high?
The Apple Car is certainly designed around a battery-electric drivetrain. Perhaps their original concept had a gas engine—after all, Jony Ive is a known car enthusiast—but today, it wouldn’t make sense. Would they buy engines from another company? So much for vertical integration. Would they design an engine from the ground up? Expensive, not to mention it’s yesterday’s technology—but worst of all, not headline-grabbing. Adding to this are rumors they once tried to buy Tesla, the definitive electric car company.
Apple wouldn’t settle for anything less than a ludicrous amount of range with the latest in battery technology. This is probably the biggest contributor to their alleged high price.
There’s no doubt the same company that designs an over-engineered smart speaker twice as expensive as the competition—with virtually no changes to its voice assistant (the sole method of direct interaction)—would also design an exquisite sound system for their car.
Speakers in every door? Check. Speakers that pop up out of the dashboard? Not quite—how about speakers built into the dashboard beneath precision laser-cut holes? Check. Speakers in the headrests? Check. Does the sound system dynamically cancel out the road noise based on speed and texture? Absolutely. Does it also incorporate the transparency mode from AirPods Pro and Max to boost the sound of surrounding pedestrians, sirens, trains and honking? Of course.
Does it have an aux jack? Obviously not. What are you trying to plug in, an Android phone? No, it’s only compatible with wireless CarPlay. You must be at least Bluetooth-rich to listen to music. Which, you probably are, if you’re sitting inside an Apple Car.
Apple has two approaches to coloring aluminum. It goes without saying the body of the car will be aluminum, their favorite metal. Consumer products get all six colors plus light and dark gray; ‘Pro’ products get unadorned anodized aluminum, and if they’re generous, the choice of slightly darker anodized aluminum. It would be awesome if the car came in bare bead-blasted aluminum. Car companies don’t generally do that, in part to hide the fact that bumpers are usually plastic—and I don’t think Apple would use plastic bumpers. Speaking of which…
I’m not here to speculate even as broadly as to the shape of the car. I don’t see Apple as the sort of company to make an electric car mimicking a gas car, a la the early Model S, nor something weird and stubby like the BMW i3. The strongest connection I can draw is that former Apple designer and close colleague of Jony Ive, Marc Newson, once designed the Ford 021C. While I don’t think the Apple Car would be a subcompact, it may give a few clues as to their starting point. After all, the Apple Watch Sport Band bears a striking resemblance to the Ikepod Horizon Watch’s band.
Whatever form it takes, I know this much: expect virtually no panel gaps, because it will not be built from separate body panels. If Volkswagen can do it in the 60s with the Karmann Ghia, Apple can do it too.
Apple has dabbled in leather before, but since the Apple Watch they’ve really grown to love it, for better or worse. Is it possible Apple would dare put cloth seats in their crown jewel? Of course not. It would have to be leather. Choices of saddle brown, midnight blue, storm gray, all the fan favorites. Personally, I think the best choice of material is wool, as used in the Toyota Century. It’s the softest, it doesn’t get hot or cold like leather and it’s more environmentally friendly.
The dashboard would also be aluminum. I imagine the liberal use of metal and leather as seen in the Spyker C8 crossed with the minimalism of a Tesla Model 3.
It’s hard to imagine Apple doing anything other than the Tesla approach: Big center display, not much else.
Unlike Tesla, Apple may be generous enough to give its users a physical volume dial. There’s some precedent—they put a physical volume dial on the AirPods Max, and as of 2020, they still have not removed the volume buttons from the iPhone where they totally could if they wanted to.
The user interface would have some family resemblance to CarPlay with a beefier, bigger, roomier user interface; this would be on at least a 12″ display, not the measly 6″ screens most CarPlay units have. Take what you get with CarPlay but add an app (and hopefully, a dashboard widget!) for climate control.
Quirks and features
The cool new thing to do is to have your phone be the car key. Using the U1 chip that is getting added to all their new mobile devices, a technology that can transmit highly precise location information to other devices within a small proximity, Apple will be able to implement this better than anyone else.
The roof is one fixed all-glass panel. People like having sunroofs, but no one really likes opening them. It’s loud and windy. Besides, a sunroof over the front seats means you have to have a metal roof over the rear seats. In modern luxury cars, you can even have a glass roof that tints itself to be opaque at the push of a button.
I seriously doubt Apple would go out of their way to make room for interior storage spaces. Door pockets? No way. A big, cavernous opening in the center console? I doubt there’ll even be a center console. Cup holders? Probably just the legal bare minimum of two in the front, and if we’re lucky, another two in the back.
Have you noticed that all the rumors suggest one model—‘The Apple Car’? If they don’t intend to make a whole lineup, does the singular Apple Car come in the form of a sedan, coupé, SUV, or even a minivan? I suspect somewhere in the middle. Imagine a four-door car low to the ground like a sedan yet almost tall enough to qualify as an SUV, like the Rolls Royce Phantom.
You buy it online. But where do you pick it up? You don’t. The car is fully autonomous, so it drives itself over to your house. Like a dog finding its way home.