Apple Revolutionized the Auto Industry Without Selling a Single Car

Author: Editors Desk, Matteo Wong Source: The Atlantic
February 28, 2024 at 06:05
Illustration by The Atlantic
Illustration by The Atlantic
The tech giant is reportedly scratching its decade-long plan to build an EV. But every car is now an Apple car.

Apple has long been a company shrouded in mystery—and perhaps its most mysterious recent project of all has been the Apple Car. For a decade, reports have continually emerged about the company building an electric, autonomous car as smart and beautiful as an iPhone. The company neverconfirmed the project’s existence, even as it hired executives from Lamborghini and BMWMotorTrend created a speculative Apple Car in 2016, treating it like an object of science fiction, then another in 2022.

But as of this afternoon, that dream appears dead. Apple is scrapping its electric-car effort and pivoting to generative AI, according to a new report from Bloomberg, in one of the biggest failed endeavors in the tech titan’s history. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the abandonment, if confirmed, will breed plenty of schadenfreude: billions spent with little to show, all the while pivoting to a different breed of Silicon Valley hype. Elon Musk claimed to have once offered to sell his car company to Apple; today, he saluted the news of a potentially powerful Tesla competitor giving up.

But Apple is so big, and its devices so pervasive, that it didn’t need to sell a single vehicle in order to transform the automobile industry—not through batteries and engines, but through software. The ability to link your smartphone to your car’s touch screen, which Apple pioneered 10 years ago, is now standard. Virtually every leading car company has taken an Apple-inspired approach to technology, to such a degree that “smartphone on wheels” has become an industry cliché. The Apple Car already exists, and you’ve almost certainly ridden in one.

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