Hands Up Who Was Surprised When they Killed the Apple Car

In a move that shocked the world on Tuesday, Apple terminated their decade-long program to build a car. The shock was that it took so long to kill it off. The process had been so beset with issues that, internally, the so-called Titan Project was whisperingly referred to as the Titanic Project.

Various media reports suggest the central problem was the difference of opinion concerning what the vehicle should be; a Tesla-bashing EV, or an autonomous vehicle (that’s self-driving to those of you who’ve been off-planet for a while). Jonny Ive, the English genius who made the Mac look as much like an art piece as it did a P.C. from the future, wanted to focus on the latter. The other co-leader on the program, Steve Zadesky, had Elon Musk in his sights and wanted the Tesla to eat his dust.

This was not a difference of opinion. It was a deep rift right down the middle of the most high-profile tech company in the world. This was the commercial version of Winston vs. Adolf, Stalin vs. Truman, Ali vs. Foreman. You get the picture. And right in the middle of this ‘difference of opinion’ were 2000 new Apple staff members. They must have felt they were at a Nadal vs. Djokovic final, their heads were turning from Ive to Zadesky with such speed and regularity.

Two years on, the company decided to not follow Zadesky’s route and, well, to not follow Ive’s route either. Apple were going to build self-driving car software, not the car itself. So one could say it did fall in to Ive’s camp. So, well done him. But still, Apple was sending a mightily confusing signal to the world.

The company then signed a deal with VW so they could test the software around the Apple campus. But then, a new guy took over the project. He made a U-turn by insisting Apple go back to the plan of actually manufacturing their own vehicle.

Obviously, all of the above is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, ten years of non-stop French farce is difficult to compress into a two minute read.

However, given that Apple were searching for the next big thing in 2014 and some sort of vision was needed in the wake of Steve Job’s death, one can understand that the excitement around an EV must have been irresistible.

But greenlighting a $10bn project just because neighbours Google were testing an autonomous vehicle on their campus at the time?

Differences of opinion notwithstanding, perhaps this ‘keeping-up-with-the-Joneses’ decision was the fundamental reason why the Apple Car is now dead.

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