Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and former Chief Executive of Apple was an iconic and fascinating figure known for conceiving and creating revolutionary gadgets that redefined technology and the way in which we use and even think of it.
Jobs, along with fellow eccentric genius Steve Wozniak, was undeterred by scepticism and adversity and his vision and dedication towards crafting innovative devices never ceased to be one of his defining characteristics, even if some gadgets were less popular than the others.
His unfortunate death, in October as a result of pancreatic cancer, had the potential to disrupt, if not destroy, the company he so carefully created but it weathered the storm thanks to a number of pre-planned strategies and ideas.
However, in the months that followed his death, the Cupertino-based company has had its share of controversies and revelations, some of which were published in and came about because of a biography by Walter Isaacson and some others from interviews with high-profile industry persons like Microsoft Chief Executive Bill Gates.
According to Redmond Pie, Apple board member Mickey Drexler knew that Jobs harboured one other dream - apart from the iPhones, the iPads and the Apple TV - a full-fledged automobile - the iCar. The expectation for the product, as with all other Apple goods, is that it could corner 50 percent of the market. However, we still do not know much about the details of Jobs' ideas or how, if at all, Apple will go about making this a reality.
"Look at the car industry; it's a tragedy in America. Who is designing the cars?" Drexler was quoted as saying in that interview, which was reported on CNet, "Steve's dream before he died was to design an iCar."
It makes sense at this time to draw parallels to Google's driverless car, as the two tech giants fight for supremacy on various fronts. Google's by now well-advertised project involves developing technology for cars that can drive themselves and is led by engineer Sebastian Thrun, the Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View. Thrun's team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle - Stanley - which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and the attendant US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense.
Since neither Apple nor Google have any particular expertise with automobiles, we feel it will all boil down to the technology and software that powers (or could power) each car. The typical system includes Google Street View with artificial intelligence software that combines input from video cameras inside the car, a LIDAR sensor on top of the vehicle, radar sensors on the front of the vehicle and a position sensor attached to one of the rear wheels that helps locate the car's position on the map.
Google's driverless cars could soon become a reality on the roads of Nevada after the state approved America's first self-driven vehicle licence, reports BBC. The Toyota Prius is the first of the few lucky cars modded by Google with driverless car technology that was successfully test driven across Las Vegas's famous strip.
The car employs video cameras mounted on the roof, radar sensors and a laser range finder to monitor other traffic. Engineers at Google have previously tested the car on the streets of California, including crossing San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge. While running the tests, the car was manned at all times by a trained driver ready to take over if the software failed. According to software engineer Sebastian Thrun, the car has covered 140,000m with no accidents, other than a bump at traffic lights from a car behind.
New Licensing for Driverless Car Technology
Nevada changed its laws to enable self-driven cars in March with the long-term plan to license members of the public to drive such cars. Google's car has been issued with a red licence plate to make it recognisable. The plate features an infinity sign next to the number 001. Meanwhile, other states, including California, are planning similar changes.
Watch Google's Driverless Car in action in the video below:
We imagine Apple's proposed iCar will harbour similar features and functionalities, including seamless integration of music, streaming apps and multimedia content besides porting Siri for voice-activated commands to aid drivers perform basic functions such as making calls and automated controls to built-in hardware functions. Although Apple's thin and light portfolio may not stand a chance in the automobile industry, it could still give the company something to boast about in its hallmark of achievements.