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Valley Voice

Self-driving Selfies

VonBritta Weddeling

Rumor has it that Apple is working on a secret project, which might be a self-driving car or an advanced software system – or something completly different. The only things self-driving so far are the speculations.

Britta Weddeling, Korrespondentin des Handelsblatts im Silicon Valley, berichtet über neue Trends und den digitalen Zeitgeist im Tal der Nerds.

Die Stimme aus dem Valley

Britta Weddeling, Korrespondentin des Handelsblatts im Silicon Valley, berichtet über neue Trends und den digitalen Zeitgeist im Tal der Nerds.

Word on the streets is that Apple is working on a secret project and that it might be a car. According to the „Wall Street Journal“ hundreds of employees in California are building an electric vehicle. Every blog or newspaper in tech revs with superlatives about the legendary team the company has assembled with the codeword „Titan“. News agency Reuters even claims to have found out that „Titan“ is about a self-driving car.

Speculation doesn’t stop. The whole situation is hilarious, because nobody really knows anything. I don’t have a car, I've never had one and never wanted one. For me and a lot of my friends an automobile is not a status symbol any more. When I need a ride in Silicon Valley I use Uber or Lyft.

But Apple is worth 700 billion dollars and its share holders want it to keep growing. So why shouldn’t Apple put John Ive’s design team to work building a car? The software-maker and inventor of iPhones and iPads tests a lot of ideas all the time without ever releasing them. And when a former startup like Tesla is able to disrupt the automobile industry why shouldn’t Apple? Rival Google has worked on a self-driving car for years, as has the App-service Uber, although nobody really knows whenever those ideas will fly. We’ll likely have to deal with drone jams first. On closer inspection the automobile sector is a costly and time consuming business.

Like the ex-Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée says in his blog, Apple wouldn’t be interested in the low profit margins of the automobile sector. In contrast to PCs or phones, cars don’t improve performance and decrease at a slower pace than IT in price in the future. So if Apple really wants to get into the automobile business, it would quite likely work on an operating system or on infotainment software.

Right now speculation is the only thing self-driving. Apple’s new car so far runs either on petrol nor on gas, but is just blog-powered. And is anyone thinking about what we should do while we ride our new Apple-, Google -, Microsoft-, Amazon-cars? Are we spending our time in self-driving drive-throughs? I have one idea, since we won’t need our hands for driving any more the time will come for a new phenomenon – the self-driving selfie.

This column is also published in German.

Britta Weddeling is Handelsblatt's correspondent in Silicon Valley covering the internet economy, latest trends and small curiosities in the valley of the nerds.

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