»No interface at all«

Thoughts on Apple Car, Part 56

Benedict Evans rightfully identified feature creap in today’s cars and asks where the challenges and opportunities for new interfaces lie:

The end-point is to have no interface at all. In a fully autonomous car, with no steering wheel or manual controls at all, the only human-computer interface is when you say „take me home now“. But most people in the autonomous driving field think that’s at least 5 years away. In the mean time we have a transitional phase, where you need to be in the driving seat, either steering but the car might stop you, or it drives itself and you need to be ready to steer. Something that drives itself until it doesn’t can easily become dangerous.

He says that transitional interfaces will need to solve much different interaction problems than fully autonomous cars. I agree.

Evans concludes:

This could be the best car opportunity for Apple.
A car that you just tell to go home and forget about is Google’s sweet spot, without much scope for Apple to add any unique insight as to how the experience should work.
Conversely, a car that you still need to drive, somehow, but in radically new ways, seems like a fruitful place for thinking about how interfaces work, and that’s Apple.

I don’t agree, on two levels:

A) Google isn’t great in experience, Apple is.

Google by definition is a gate keeper for information you look for. It’s a micro moment touch points product, very different to the companion experience Apple products sell.

A car isn’t a quick interaction but much more of a (travel) companion experience, that you want to trust and then forget about.

Google will prioritize car usage experience based on its business model (sell ads) rather than on creating satisfied customers (Apple).

B) Apple won’t settle for a transitional product.

As I argued before, Apple won’t successfully enter industries with a product that is just a little better. Apple TV is too little of an improvement compared to other set top boxes, it doesn’t move the needle much.

iPhone, iPod, iPad, Apple Watch are all products that created or entered their category with a leapfrog idea that changed the game – not just the interface.

We all agree that autonomous cars are not a product question only, but an ecosystem challenge. Apple is good at connecting building blocks in an ecosystem into a convincing experience.

That’s what Apple Car will need to be.

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