For the past several years, Apple’s car team had explored two simultaneous paths: creating a model with limited self-driving capabilities focused on steering and acceleration — similar to many current cars — or a version with full self-driving ability that doesn’t require human intervention.
Under the effort’s new leader — Apple Watch software executive Kevin Lynch — engineers are now concentrating on the second option. Lynch is pushing for a car with a full self-driving system in the first version, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.
Apple is internally targeting a launch of its self-driving car in four years, faster than the five- to seven-year timeline that some engineers had been planning for earlier this year. But the timing is fluid, and hitting that 2025 target is dependent on the company’s ability to complete the self-driving system — an ambitious task on that schedule. If Apple is unable to reach its goal, it could either delay a release or initially sell a car with lesser technology.
While it doesn't offer fully autonomous driving yet, I own a car that offers a lot of driving assistance: a lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist with automatic braking, reverse braking assist, and so on.
In most cases, these features are nice to have. Especially the lane-keeping system and the adaptive cruise-control while driving on highways makes it worth its extra cost.
In some cases, however, these features are either annoying as hell or full-on dangerous. I don't know how many times, while steering through a turn, the car started to panic and warn me of a collision because vehicles were parked on the side.
Or how often this car couldn't keep the lanes because the lines on the side of the road weren't in the best condition. Most times, it turns the lane-keeping system off. Sometimes it starts to freak out and wiggle-waggle the steering wheel before turning it off, and I have to fight against it not to crash into something.
The most annoying thing is when reversing, and it sees a car coming that I have also seen. But the Mach-E probably thinks I am suicidal and decides hard breaking is a good choice.
In all these three examples, while no one is in danger, it freaks me out. It's a spike of adrenaline, my heart starts beating faster, and I nearly shit my pants. It always takes me a few minutes to calm down.
Don't get me wrong, all of these features are nice to have, mostly very helpful, probably sometimes life-saving. But whenever it gets it wrong, it gets it wrong by a lot.
I want to be bullish for these things, but I don't believe fully automatic driving will be a thing for at least ten years. The only way this can work out is if cars start communicating and warning each other when they are braking, accelerating or parked.
And finally – and this is coming from a huge Apple fanboy – "from the company that brought you Siri" does not sound that nice, to be honest.