Driving at night, in a Robot.
One aspect of driving in Apple Car we did not cover so far, is night driving. The experience of driving in a car by night is special, and has inspired humanity and especially pop culture for decades. It’s more dangerous, it’s mysterious and somewhat an even more direct experience of feeling like a prehistoric cave man sitting in a shelter staring out in the dark. I think the memories we have to that driving mode are even more engrained, since they start at an early age when we used to sit in the back of our parents’ car, going home, half sleeping, feeling cozy and warm, looking out of the window for hours and lights zipping by. This passive experience of driving is then replaced by the much more demanding job at the steering wheel when we’re parents ourselves.
Sitting in a selfdriving car, however, we can be kids again. Doing whatever we want, enjoying the ride through the dark. What we envision Apple Car to be, again comes down to a very primal feel of sitting around a fire in the dark, feeling safe:
Notice the discrete headlights in the render above. They are on top and on the very bottom of Apple Car’s body. Different to today’s cars but similar to heavy trucks or trains and airplanes, the cover the whole height of the vehicle making it easy to identify in the dark.
The headlights also aren’t beams like in regular cars. They don’t need to light the road ahead for the driver – the car drives itself. Their only audience is other people outside of the car, walking, cycling or driving alongside Apple Car. So they can be simple lines of light and not the hyped beams of today’s premium cars.
These lights are consequently not spectacular in terms of hardware. See them more as a software feature, very much like on iPhones you have a simple flash in hardware, that can be software-controlled to become a flash light, a night monitor, a signal that you have a call, and much more. The software thinking also inspired Apple to use the front display as a photo flash for selfies. This separate look at hardware and software is key to innovation with existing components.
As a result, Apple Car’s lights turn to red when they face to the back of the driving direction. Remember how we shifted our perspective of what the front and the back of a Car look like – Apple car looks the same in any direction. That’s also why the outside lights are available on each side, and software determines which side is currently the front and which side needs to show red back lights:
Notice that the main light source is the flat white ceiling, very much like in Apple retail stores. During the day this responsive light only complements daylight coming in through the large windows, but during sunrise, sunset and at night it behaves much more like a TrueTone display – setting the right temperature for the drive.
All of this will be handled by software and artificial intelligence, as part of the autonomous system in Apple Car. As we know, the project is now under helm of John Giannandrea.
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»Hey Siri, turn the lights on!« might soon be a control for much more than the home. I have long put forward the theory that HomeKit and HomePod are product and service innovations developed with Apple Car in mind. Autonomous and the acceptance for it is very much a user experience problem. And UX for the most part is a software skill.
Software is already the key differentiator in the auto business, as Frederic ably described in Monday Note:
Code, on wheels
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And when Tim Cook says that an autonomous car is a robot, he’s making the pitch for what we should think of when discussing the future:
“The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view. If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does.”
We’ll see what Apple does.