Is Apple Inching Towards Its Dream Car?

Rajesh is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Before the intellectual giant Steve Jobs passed away, he disclosed his dream to reform the automotive space and ‘challenge Detroit’ by making an Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iCar. The tech company is taking steps to inch closer to the founder’s vision. The Cupertino company is not making an iCar, at least at the moment, but it is surely increasing its presence in the automotive space as it plans to add iOS functional features for cars. In addition, Apple’s website shows automotive job vacancies, which suggests its rising interest in the telematics arena.

Edging closer to the auto world
A number of events indicate Apple’s endeavor to occupy a significant position in the automobile sector. The new job postings, the invention of auto oriented products, and partnerships with auto giants are some of the progress that the company is undertaking to achieve Jobs' vision.

The company is hiring for the position of a Manager of in-car services and a Specialist for iOS car services to test the integration of its iPads, iPhones and iPod with a vehicle. This is basically to increase telematics expertise and improve infotainment systems for cars.

Other than this, in the past year one of the company executives, Eddy Cu, joined the board of Ferrari. Since then there are rumors that the tech giant is collaborating with the car maker to make a dashboard system for vehicles. In fact, the Italian auto manufacturer recently confirmed its partnership with Apple to re-invent its in-car entertainment system. Its latest four seater hybrid LaFerrari will not only be able to support the Eye Free Siri, but will also possess iPad Minis in the back seat. The company partnered with several automakers, including Toyota, General Motors (NYSE: GM), Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, Land Rover, Jaguar, BMW, and Mercedes Benz to check the integration of its services in cars.

Archrival Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has also entered into the car innovation segment and has been developing its technology to make a driverless car. Since the late 2000s many experiments have been performed to test the safety of a driver-free car, but legal issues stand as one of the biggest bumps in Google’s way. The company’s driverless car has been experimented to run safely for thousands of miles without crashing. But the main legal concern is that if such a car meets with an accident, who is to be blamed?

Such an interesting invention from Google makes it very crucial for Apple to develop some spectacular automotive technology to live up to its reputation of being an innovator. It could either make a car itself, integrate its devices and new products with one, or it could even manufacture cars in collaboration with GM or Ford. In fact, quite a few years back word had spread that the Cupertino company was working with Volkswagen to build cars.

A tough road
The race to enter the automobile industry is getting tougher, as not only tech players like Apple and Google trying to work on it, but telecom biggies including Verizon, AT&T (NYSE: T) and Sprint have also expressed their interests in diversifying into the automotive business. In fact, AT&T recently replaced Verizon to become GM’s partner in offering OnStar services. Both GM and AT&T were in talks in the past few months where the car maker got pretty impressed with the carrier’s idea of offering 4G LTE services in manufacturing connected cars. That said, Verizon is working very hard to diversify in the automobile space given the US’ soft corner for the car industry. National telecom providers are extremely keen to become an essential part of the auto industry before the mobile market attains saturation.

Connectivity with a car is increasingly becoming an essential feature when consumers are making a purchase decision. GM is not only collaborating with telecom players to add 4G services to its wehices, but it is also working with Apple to link Siri to its Chevy Spark and Chevy Sonic. Moreover, in collaboration with other automakers Apple can also integrate it iOS ecosystem to the car’s dashboard, provide web access, streaming videos, and work on providing car safety information to the vehicles.

The bottom line
Presently Apple is not working to make an iCar, but is partnering with automakers to integrate its services in an attempt to reform the auto world. However, there are several other players carrying a similar vision of making cars more connected. So it is critical for Apple to come up with an interesting and different invention.

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