Changing the world by changing the car

Could Apple be getting into the car business? The rumours say "yes" - but you only have to look at the two most powerful men in the company to see how likely it is…

We’re less than two weeks away from another Apple event, and the rumours are building as they always do. What will be, will be. Nothing suggests we’ll see any more than incremental improvements in the product line, and that’s fine. That’s how Apple stays great.

Right now, though, I’m more interested in the growing evidence that Apple is seriously considering bringing a car to the market.

If they do, it will be a huge risk. It would mark a gamble on entering a new market on a scale we’ve never seen from Apple. It would push that company far beyond its comfort zone in the kind of products it builds. And yet, I could absolutely see it happening: because of two people at Apple.

The interesting thing about the car idea is that it sits at the intersection of the passions of two of the most powerful people in the company: Tim Cook and Jony Ive.

The Driving Designer

Ive’s passion for cars is no secret. And neither is his dissatisfaction with modern car design:

[Ive] and Newson are car guys, and they feel disappointed with most modern cars; each summer, they attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where vintage sports cars are exhibited and raced in the South of England. “There are some shocking cars on the road,” Ive said. “One person’s car is another person’s scenery.” To his right was a silver sedan with a jutting lower lip. Ive said, quietly, “For example.” As the disgraced car fell behind, I asked Ive to critique its design: “It is baffling, isn’t it? It’s just nothing, isn’t it? It’s just insipid.” He declined to name the model, muttering, “I don’t know, I don’t want to offend.”

You can see why Ive might want a punt at an Apple Car.

The Sustainable Cook

But what of Cook? Well, it’s interesting to note that he’s the narrator of this video:

It’s been noticeable that since he took the reins at Apple, the behemoth has become more socially responsible. That’s clearly a mark Cook’s Apple, something we genuinely wouldn’t have seen in the same way during the Steve Jobs era.

The road to a better planet

If there’s one technology that could fundamentally shift the environmental impact of travel it’s… the aeroplane. But that would be a reach, even for Apple. The car is just one step down the tree in terms of impact. A greener, more sustainable form of personal transport would be completely within Cook’s view of the world. Using Apple’s skills – and vast pile of cash – to challenge the existing thinking on cars in the same way the iPhone did for phones has the potential to completely shift the needle on the use of sustainable fuels and technologies in driving.

And a shift in technology lends itself to a fundamental shift in car design, too. Different technology opens up the opportunity to reconceive the car, without the design constraints of the internal combustion engine. You can fundamentally rethink what a car *is*.  You can push that even further is your expect that the car will drive itself. And that’s the sort of challenge that seems to get Jony Ive excited right now. He’s stepped away from the day-to-day design business of making ever slimmer and lighter computers, to explore new things. I could absolutely see a car – his car – being one of those.

Like a said, this would be a massive risk. A car is a big, expensive purchase. It would take decades for an Apple car to become a common sight on the roads – but if it changes and reframes the idea of what a car is, it could have an impact much more quickly than that.

And what’s the point in being the biggest company in the world, if you can’t take those sorts of world-changing risks?