The new car wars: Apple v Tesla
AMONG its legions of devotees, there is nothing quite as stylish as a consumer product with an i at the beginning of its name.
Apple broke the mould with the iPod, created a global phenomenon with the iPhone, perhaps paused to raise a few eyebrows with the iWatch, and now it appears the iCar could be just around the corner.
The giant tech corporation sparked fevered speculation among its fans by registering an enticing sounding domain names including apple.car, apple.cars and apple.auto. Numerous reports in recent months have suggested Apple is secretly developing an electric car, but the domain name registration suggests it could be about to go public with its plans.
The MacRumors website, which first reported the news, said: "Apple has aggressively recruited engineers and other talent from Tesla, Ford, GM, Samsung, A123 Systems, Nvidia and elsewhere to work on the rumoured 'Apple Car' project, which has allegedly been called 'Project Titan' internally.
"Electric motorcycle start-up, Mission Motors, even ceased operations after losing employees to Apple."
Such is the interest that designers have produced mock-ups of what an iCar might look like. Richard O'Brien, the head of communications at the Institute of the Motor Industry, and an Apple fan, said he was looking forward to the real thing and that he might become an early customer.
"I would have thought the design would be completely different to any normal car, a proper disruptive design," he said.
"I love Apple products and I'm quite excited about it. I'd quite like an electric car, given what I know about them now and how cheap they are to run."
One hurdle for any electric car is "range anxiety" - concern that the battery will run out without easy access to a charger.
And Mr O'Brien said experiences with early iPhones might put some people off.
"There are constant complaints that iPhone batteries don't last very long and you have to have them attached to the mains so much they might as well be a landline," he said.
"But they have addressed that in the iPhone 6."
Tesla update allows cars to park themselves
SOME Tesla vehicles will be able to park themselves without a driver inside with a software update beamed to customers this weekend.
Owners must line up their Model S sedan or Model X SUV within 33 feet of the space they want it to drive or back into. The owner can then stand within 10 feet and park the car automatically using the key fob.
The car can also exit the spot when the driver summons it with the fob.
Tesla says the system should only be used on private property.
The software update also puts new speed limits on Tesla's semi-autonomous mode. The car will now only drive at the speed limit when automatic steering is being used on residential roads and on roads without a centre divider.
Driverless cars were top of mind at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, where more than 100 tech companies showcase their latest developments.
Kia, Ford and Google all promoted their latest advances towards the goal of an autonomous car, after showing partially autonomous models and ideas for more development at last year's event - although a truly driverless car still looks at least five to 10 years away.
General Motors said last week it will invest $500 million in Lyft Inc. and work with the ride-sharing company to develop a network of self-driving cars.
- NZ Herald