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Apple Lays Off 200 Employees from Autonomous Car Unit (cnbc.com)
363 points by tmp092 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 379 comments



Maybe Apple doesn't want to pursue a dream which, as far as we know, can only have a limited outcome? They don't really like such compromises in products. Check this:

https://medium.com/s/story/self-driving-cars-will-always-be-...

> Waymo’s CEO, John Krafcik, has admitted that a self-driving car that can drive in any condition, on any road, without ever needing a human to take control—usually called a “level five” autonomous vehicle—will basically never exist. At the Wall Street Journal’s D.Live conference, Krafcik said that “autonomy will always have constraints.” It will take decades for self-driving cars to become common on roads. Even then, they will not be able to drive at certain times of the year or in all weather conditions. In short, sensors on autonomous vehicles don’t work well in snow or rain—and that may never change.

Or read https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/07/the-dream-of-driverless-... or any number of "sobering up" articles from last year.


I'd like to point out that what he says here about autonomous vehicles and the limits of their sensors applies to humans too. It is just socially acceptable to drive in averse conditions with limited visibility, and if you hit another car, person or something else, you just blame it on the weather. It's not socially acceptable for an autonomous vehicle to just wing it in bad conditions.

I find it curious that we are going to hold autonomous vehicles to a perhaps impossibly high standard while we also hold people to barely any standards at all.

Think about this: If you are in an advanced autonomous vehicle and you get a warning that conditions are so bad that the sensors can no longer see well enough to drive and that you should take over, should you really take over or should you stop driving?


One of the biggest advantages humans have is that humans can take risks. We have agency. Computers cannot take risks; not because they cannot be programmed to take risks, but because they are programmed by huge corporations with massive, centralized liability.

This is why level five autonomous cars will never exist. It's not a technical problem; it's a political one.

Its easy for someone on hackernews to say "maybe you shouldn't be driving if the car can't"; try saying that to a single mother working as a third-shift nurse, just trying to make ends meet, who's patients will suffer if she doesn't get to work. Try saying that to a technician who needs to get to a downed electric line in the middle of a torrential downpour to restore power to 20,000 people sitting comfortably in their homes. Try saying that to a Marine deployed in Nangarhar, under fire from enemy combatants.

Level Five autonomy could exist, but what we'd end up discovering is that humans let Jesus take the wheel far more often than the engineers in sunny Silicon Valley think. Level Five might mean seeing five feet in front of you and horrible traction, operating on your knowledge of the road, and just driving forward. Until an organization is willing to program a car to still drive forward in those conditions, level five won't happen. Uber practically shut down their entire program after one person died; over 100 people die every day in traditional vehicle accidents.


> over 100 people die every day in traditional vehicle accidents.

Which isn't acceptable either. To some degree, people look towards autonomous vehicles as a way of reducing the number of fatalities/injuries on the road. If they're not better than humans & the other benefits don't add up, they won't be accepted.


>Which isn't acceptable either.

Based purely on the evidence at hand, our society deems it not only acceptable but not even noteworthy.


> over 100 people die every day in traditional vehicle accidents.

The real figure is around 3.2k [1]

[1]https://www.asirt.org/safe-travel/road-safety-facts/


This comment is way better than the article it comments.


> I find it curious that we are going to hold autonomous vehicles to a perhaps impossibly high standard while we also hold people to barely any standards at all.

This is all US-centric obviously, but my 2c: We can blame individuals for bad behavior, it's harder for us to reason about complex systems breaking and that scares us.

When an accident happens currently, we immediately rush to judgement: You're a bad driver, you were going too fast, there's order in the universe and you made a conscious choice to disrupt that. We'll really reach sometimes too (I've heard this in real life): You had a stroke and lost control of your car? The crash is still your fault, you should've lived a healthier lifestyle. Or it's your spouse's fault, they should've noticed you were acting funny and not let you drive the car.

When people screw up, it's almost always someone's fault even if we have to really reach for it. We rarely consider the system that led to the failure and absolve the individual. When computers screw up, it's unclear who to blame and it's much scarier as a result, so we hold computers to a much higher standard.


This may be true socially, at least in some situations, but not legally or morally; most car wrecks, except those with obvious negligence or worse, are "accidents."


> This may be true socially, at least in some situations, but not legally or morally

Is that true? I just did some very cursory research, but: https://blog.lawinfo.com/2017/09/06/human-error-causes-94-pe...


> It is just socially acceptable to drive in averse conditions with limited visibility, and if you hit another car, person or something else, you just blame it on the weather.

Where do you live where this is socially acceptable (the blame the weather part, not the drive in adverse conditions part)?


Denver for instance goes on accident alert during snow because there are so many minor, non-injury accidents. This means that police will not respond to your accident because there are so many and you self-report. There is obviously an error in the part of drivers given the conditions, but most of these would not have happened on dry pavement.

People on the internet love to say you shouldn't drive in inclement conditions, but this ignores reality. Not everyone is lucky enough to work from home. It has snowed 3 times in the last week in Denver. My wife works in healthcare. She has to show up for work unless it is a blizzard.

What are you going to if it is snowing hard with limited visibility when it's time to leave work? Sleep under your desk or deal with a miserable commute that takes 2-3x as long to get home?


A self driving car won't have a steering wheel, break and accelerator. Because it really doesn't make sense to expect user take control instantly while the algorithm panics.

Basically when people say the term self-driving car, they mean a human brain like entity driving the car. Humans don't exactly panic and expect a person sitting next to them control a car in case they can't handle it. Sure in those situation a human would get into accidents too. But in case of a machine, such an accident is already programmed to happen. Its like fixed. Which is a very different thing. In fact its even wrong to call it an accident if you know a panic will happen. Its more like programmed manslaughter.


If the car still has times that a human needs to take over, they'll continue to have controls for humans.


I've been driving in intense blizzards and ice and steep bad roads of Colorado for 20 years now. Still never had an accident or even gone off the road. That's the standard. Anything less and I'm completely uninterested, because it's just bad tech.

When your engineers say the problem is "too hard to solve" you need to hire better engineers, because those engineers are lying to you. Just because everyone is racing towards a technology and some teams are doing it poorly doesn't mean the problems are insurmountable.


Don't you think part of that experience is luck? What can you do if you are stopped at a red light on an icy road, someone comes in hot and rear ends you, causing you to collide with the vehicle in front of you? You will be at fault for the vehicle you hit. Such accidents are common when it's icy. I have never been in one personally, but lots of friends and co-workers have.


Yeah, that exact scenario has happened to me twice. I like to glance at the rearview if I'm the last car in line to avoid some drunk ramming me, and it definitely saved my life once.

Once I just saw someone coming in a little too hot and was able to pull forward a bit to make room as they were standing on the brakes. Not a big deal.

The lifesaving situation was different though, I was the only car in the right lane and one of those massive F250 trucks was barreling up behind me, not appearing to slow down at all. I was kind of boxed in because the cross street had heavy, fast traffic, and I couldn't pull forward or to the left since there was another car stopped next to me there. So I just quickly scanned the sidewalk to my right to make sure there were no pedestrians, and hopped up the curb to drive on the sidewalk/grass. I wasn't sure if this would work in my tiny car with small wheels, but I figured it would be better than dying.

Worked great. The truck blew through the light and T-boned a Tesla. The guy had 37 empty Coors Light cans scattered around the floor of his truck.

Have any of the self driving car companies even gotten started on the "when should I drive on the sidewalk" subroutine? No, of course not, they are still mired in the bad, early days of the tech where they can't deal with a missing double yellow. It's laughable, the engineers can do much better instead of just repeatedly lowering the bar.


We already have extremely effective and safe mostly autonomous vehicles. They're called "railcars." Conditions in which they break down are well known and obvious.

The goofy robot things Waymo is larping at building do not have obvious or well known break down conditions.


This article is a bit sketchy, but serves my point-ish. They say Volvo is going to release a true self-driving car by 2021. But then it goes on to mention level 4.

Let's pull it back a little and say by 2021, they release level 4.

If any automaker is going to do Level 5 in the snow. It's going to be Volvo. Being a Swedish company (albeit owned by a Chinese firm now), they have a particular track record when it comes to prioritising safety in terrible driving conditions.

I'm pretty sure that they are going to work it out.

[0]: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/26/volvo-self-driving-car-sleep...


Current breed of Volvos are already amazing at assisting drivers. Lane control + speed control + steering control is already as close to autonomous driving as anything out there on the market.

But they are doing the smart thing:

- they keep these things separate and always under driver's control

- they downplay the significance of these systems and don't market as THE BEST EVER THING ULTRA POWERFUL UNBELIEVABLE BREAKTHTROUGH UNRIVALLED BY COMPETITION ©™ They are simply adding these features one by one to all their line-up

- they have a specific goal called Vision 2020 [1]: "Vision 2020 is about reducing the number of people that die or are seriously injured in road traffic accidents to zero." This is a way more powerful and important goal than the self-serving goal of creating autonomous cars.

- oh. And yes, they work in conditions that are way more different than California. Sweden has such things as constant low sun, snow, rain, sleet, active wildlife etc. etc.

So yes, all things considered I'd root for Volvo, not for Tesla or any other American company.

[1] https://group.volvocars.com/company/vision


I have a 2018 XC60 and it's been really great on the whole, but very clearly Not There Yet™:

+ During a dark and wet night a few weeks ago, I used Pilot Assist (lane/speed/steering control) and it genuinely saw the lane lines better than I was able to during major unexpected downpours. I was in control the whole time, but it was a great help along the way and made the drive a lot more comfortable.

- Some of these systems work together rather poorly. For instance, the Pilot Assist system seems to identify white lane lines better than yellow ones, and on US highways (where the left-most edge is often yellow) it will drift left. However, the lane keeping system seems to see the yellow line just fine, so it will vibrate the steering wheel to warn that I'm getting too close, while Pilot Assist continues to insist on moving left. The solution is to get out of the left lane.

But I'm very optimistic and supportive about Volvo's trajectory in this area, to all of your points above.


Oversharing: I've been driving a Volvo XC90 with Pilot Assist and a Tesla Model 3 with autopilot. Of the two systems, I really preferred the Volvo -- but not, ironically, because it was better, but rather because it's worse.

The Volvo's system is very clearly about 70% there. Sometimes on sharp curves it just misses the lines and drifts into another lane. Sometimes it seems to basically just follow the car in front, which means that it will blindly follow a bad driver in doing stupid things. However, the upside of this is that its weak behavior (and willingness to yield to driver input) makes it so obviously an "assist" system that I would never really put a lot of faith in it, or trust it entirely. Thus to me it's just sort of a better version of the lanekeeping system.

The Tesla, on the other hand, really wants to drive the car. It hates taking feedback from me, and will often boot me out of autopilot mode if I disagree over, say, my position within a lane. It does a much better job seeing lanes and handles lane changes automatically. But: because it's so forceful and doesn't like my input, I find it much more stressful to drive. I don't trust it enough to let it have the absolute control it wants, and find myself missing Volvo's pretty-dumb-but-not-demanding system.


  Sweden has such things as constant low sun, snow, rain, sleet, active wildlife etc. etc.
California has those things too depending on geographic area of the state.


They've also set trucks that can reliably drive around private roads, mines and loading zones without having to handle much in the way of novelty or people as a practical near term goal they'll probably make a commercial success of even if fully autonomous cars are decades away or incapable of ever being viable for regular unsupervised road use.

Obviously it helps that they're already a leading truck manufacturer, but it's interesting to note how many other ventures have gone for the "eliminate the taxi sector and reinvent car ownership" over the low hanging fruit for [semi]-autonomous vehicle markets.


How in the world a car company can attract ( let alone provide environment or infrastructure etc ) sufficient software talent to achieve this ?


How does NASA attract software talent? Not all smart people are in silicon valley selling ads or spying on people.


Plenty of smart people are staying away thanks to the increasing costs to live in the Bay Area.


Also, not all engineers have a risk-taking mentality. The Bay Area attracts mostly the "hacker" types, but there are plenty of more conservative – yet equally technically capable – individuals who prefer working for the government or a Fortune 500 company, where IT is just one of the many departments. Essentially, these are the people who might as well have chosen a career in banking or any other well-paying science-based field. To them, having a stable job is the highest priority.


Against which you have to balance the risk of taking the NASA job, but not getting paid for a few weeks or months every year.


If you really want a 'NASA' job, your best bet is one of their subcontractors that do most of the actual engineering.


JPL is still at work during the current shutdown...


They also get backpay so they are not really losing money.


In a world where "software talent" can be attracted to work on "boring" subjects such as advertising, do you have to ask this question? The same incentives apply.


In most of Europe, software engineers are paid the same as other highly skilled engineers. And Europe has plenty of engineering talent. What it doesn't have, though, is people willing to take and fund bold projects. But building the safest cars in the world[1] is not considered bold at Volvo. That's how they differentiate themselves in the crowded premium car market from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW.

[1] http://www.thedrive.com/sheetmetal/17546/euro-ncap-volvo-xc6...


Aren’t the Tesla Model S/X the safest cars in the world, though?



An aside:

"While IIHS and dozens of other private industry groups around the world have methods and motivations that suit their own subjective purposes, the most objective and accurate independent testing of vehicle safety is currently done by the U.S. government, which found Model S and Model X to be the two cars with the lowest probability of injury of any cars that it has ever tested, making them the safest cars in history.""

Oy. "that suit their own subjective purposes"? Really?

"So, why the difference between the two crash tests? NHTSA's evaluation does not include small overlap front-end collisions, which the IIHS blames for about a quarter of the injuries and fatalities in front-end crashes."


Seems like it’s disputed. Still, of the safest cars mentioned at the end of the article, none are made by Volvo.


EuroNCAP tests are a way more advanced than those done in North America[1]:

"Ford Mustang hits the wall with 2-star Euro NCAP score [...] Lack of modern safety technology and other flaws mark Ford's sports car down in the latest round of tests. That's the lowest score a brand new vehicle has achieved in quite some time. [...] In NHTSA tests the Mustang scored five starts in every metric."

[1] https://www.evo.co.uk/ford/mustang/18757/ford-mustang-hits-t...


Good info, thanks!


He ment crash saftey :) If you are in a collition, Volvo is world leading. Tesla is only safer because is can break in advance.


Unintentionally hilarious use of homonym, thanks! (Cars that can't be driven can't get into many accidents...)


No

Volvo XC90 is

Teslas are safest for the NHTSA tests, but not the European tests, which, IIRC are better measures of safety


$$$, just like every other company.


How did they attract sufficient software talent for their other advanced active safety systems?


From the Medium-article you posted:

> In short, sensors on autonomous vehicles don’t work well in snow or rain—and that may never change.

With that attitude, you are stuck in the past and don't want to make progress with technology.


> With that attitude, you are stuck in the past and don't want to make progress with technology.

The statement you quoted is qualified, not an assertion of impossibility.

Your claim is silly; the alternative to breathless hype isn't Luddism, it's getting educated about a field and proceeding, if possible, in an informed way. Claiming delusional enthusiasm (with a side of hucksterism and a strong odor of financial incentives) is the only way to advance the state of the art encourages the very worst kinds of pseudo-innovation and chicanery.

If acknowledging the difficulty (or impossibility) of something means someone is stuck in the past and is anti-progress, well, then I guess every safety board in existence is anti-progress.


Even if the cars of the future won't be able to drive on all roads at all time, I don't see how it would matter all that much. Of course there will always be forms of rural driving where the terrain is unknown and there are limited options for sensor fusion available.

But that's not what's important. What's import is DC, LA, and many other metro cities that can't build more roads, but still need population and economic growth. For these cases, we're looking at something entirely different. If self-driving cars ever come to be a large share of the cars on the road, they become and unignorable option to lift the congestion ceiling on growth.

For major thoroughfares, you're looking at something close to a controlled environment. Even if there's rain or snow, you could have precision car location, relative to static beacons, and relative to other cars. There's no question where the lanes are, because all of these extremely major routes have detailed 3D models that all the algorithms have access to. I'm not saying we have that now, but compared to the other resource expenditures in self-driving technology, it's practically a trivial thing to do.

People don't need a car to drive them anywhere at any time. They need a reasonable option to get to work in the places where the jobs are. I would say that we're losing that right now, and self-driving cars are a solution, rain or no rain.


> What's import is DC, LA, and many other metro cities that can't build more roads, but still need population and economic growth.

> People don't need a car to drive them anywhere at any time. They need a reasonable option to get to work in the places where the jobs are.

Mass transit. We know it works, and works well in circumstances you described. We know it increases in effectiveness in response to investment and added resources. Why bet on a long shot, if we know what works?


It works well in some circumstances, but not in those circumstances. In places where it does work, urban development had to change to accommodate transit. All of the existing development and infrastructure is so inflexible that these particular metro areas have no choice but to have the transit system change to accommodate.

The requirements seem pretty clear to me. The system has to be on-demand, able to accommodate sprawl, and lose little in terms of average speed compared to old expectations of personal car transit, and most importantly, it can't demand new physical roadway infrastructure.

I see how it's dubious that autonomous vehicles will fit this bill. Or it may be very challenging and take many decades. But let's be honest about the situation - it's the only option on the table.


> What's import is DC, LA, and many other metro cities that can't build more roads, but still need population and economic growth.

Mass. Transport.


I see it as indicating a need to revise definitions. Ultimately what we want is a car that is at least as good as driving itself as we are at driving it. But even the Eyeball Mk. I is unreliable if the rain or snow is heavy enough. I've often had to simply pull off the road in a torrential downpour and wait it out. Why isn't this be the watermark for full autonomy- a system that recognizes when the SNR is too low to proceed, and suspends itself safely?

There will always be a set of conditions that overwhelm your sensors. It sounds like the definition is bad. but we can probably develop an autonomous car that is satisfactory nevertheless.


I think there's a world of difference between difficulty and impossibility. I can see your point when someone speaks of the former, but I don't think anyone should nor can state that something's impossible.


That completely removes all meaning from the term, then.


The term definitely means something. But it’s only useful when axioms and constrains have been established and verified.

To be honest, my biggest issue with it is that often those who use it don’t realize that the burden of proof falls on their shoulder. And it just happens that it’s much harder to proof that something is impossible than the opposite. In one case you to prove you’re right once. In the other, you have to exhaust all possibilities.


How many times have we heard from “experts in the field” say it can’t be done, and then new advances solve the problem?

When I hear an expert say, “...and that may never change,” I interpret it to mean, “I don’t know how to solve it.”


Bundled in that statement is an assertion that there is something about the human visual system that is magic, I think that is frankly ridiculous.

Our eyes are pretty terrible cameras, it's our post processing that makes us able to drive and unless I'm mistaken I'm making relatively straightforward judgements when I'm driving. That processing and logic is really hard right now but I don't see any reason to believe it is impossible.


I have always wondered about this sensor thing. We drive and our only sensors are a pair of cameras on a mobile swivel and two microphones.

I feel like at Some point we have to have enough computing power to just stick Multiple Cameras behind glass with wipers and dehumidifiers and alarms if they are obstructed. Basically just humans but better?


We have additional sensors useful for driving: force sensors on the steering wheel (works better with lower levels of power steering) as well as our accelerometers in our inner ear. The latter has redundancies in pressure sensors located around the body, though to be fair I only used those back in my car racing days.


I never realized how oblivious people are force feedback from the steering wheel until I was passenger in a car on a windy day. We got out onto an open space and I could see him really correcting. I remarked about how much wind there was and he asked what I meant.

My point is I have never heard about self-driving cars having an understanding of crosswinds. I just hope they aren't as oblivious as my friend.


you forgot our brain...


I agree you need to keep expectations realistic, but ... it's not like humans have access to some special snow oracle or rain oracle that we use to drive, and it seems unnecessarily pessimistic to bet on "we can never get a machine to recognize a rainy environment like humans can".


I like your words.


I don't see how you get to accuse one of the most knowledgeable experts in the field, who's dedicated a career to building autonomous vehicles, of... not wanting fully autonomous vehicles. Wanting things isn't always a good measure of our ability to actually obtain them.


He (pkhamre) didn't say that John Krafcik (Waymo CEO) "not wanting fully autonomous vehicles" at all. He is criticizing the practice of confidently predicting the forever (im)possibility of something based on a projection of current technologies decades into the future.

Krafcik's a world leader in the field of autonomous cars, so we have good reason to weight his opinions more heavily than those of random HN users. On the other hand, his "may never change" verdict on sensor tech is vague to the point of uselessness. Whatever happens, he will have had a point.


At the same time Waymo put a lot of money into working with lidars, which helps Waymo to get to Level 4 faster, which is great, but it seems like on long term Elon is right that to get to L5 autonomous cars have to improve enough to be able to work only with cameras and microphone. John may not want to say this.


Any estimation based on probability can always claim to be right, after all a 1% chance can still happen, but sometimes all we can truthfully do is give an estimated likelihood. Maybe that's genuinely the best he can say, in which case I'd rather hear that than a definite pronouncement.


Sensors on humans don't work well in snow or rain either. That doesn't stop us from driving.


Humans can make risk/reward calculations that computers can't. Top take an extreme example, a given set of snow and ice conditions might be bad enough that any reasonable person would not want to drive in them. In such a situation, any well designed self-driving car would refuse to drive. BUT my wife is pregnant, it's a difficult pregnancy with a high risk of death for her and the infant, and she's suddenly gone into labour weeks early in a freak snow storm.

A contrived example, yes, but the point is there may well be conditions in which, given a wider context, a human would do things a computer can't because it doesn't have the wider context. The thing is these contexts come up all the time in real life. A human can take responsibility, but a computer can't and a human that doesn't in detail know exactly how the computer is designed and will deal with different situations can't make a reasonable judgement about how far to trust the computer in such situations anyway.


Oh computers can make the risk/reward calculations, their criteria for risk and reward is wholly in the hands of who develops the logic.

and there in lies the problems for companies developing these systems. with current law they would be liable for any negative outcome. logs would be required to be kept and every decision would surely be pulled apart by whatever paid experts each side can find.

so without legislation, legislation the consumer must be very wary about, comes about limiting liability to such systems they will have to side with caution and even then every event is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

finally, would you or anyone you know trust a system which states it can do something you find adversely risky to actually do with you or your loved ones at risk? what would that take? it might simply be a decision of local values


I don't know; in many fields you're certainly right, but most of the autonomous vehicle field is software companies and I can't recall any instance of them facing a major liability.


So would we call it a loss of autonomy if a human occupant would only grant an override saying "Standing still is not an option!"? I guess you would want such a feature when there is no steering wheel, e.g. if there is a forest fire close behind you.

While a computer can't judge that situation and doesn't "care" if it is destroyed it very well can keep driving no matter what.


A forest fire is a really good challenge scenario. The threat isn't really anything to do with driving or road hazards as such, it's an out of context threat.

It's these out of context situations that are my long term issue with losing the steering wheel. A typical example would be arriving at a country fair and parking in a field. I want to park on the side of the field that's currently in sunlight, but over the next hour will be shaded by those trees, near the gate but not too near the toilets, but not next to that patch of wet ground.

What kind of UI does the car need to have for me to specify exactly how and where I want it to park, without me actually driving it? Frankly I think this is level 6+. Level 5 is usually described as a self driving taxi, but family vehicles are used for things no taxi would ever have to deal with.


As for parking in a field, I'd want it to drop me off closest to the entry and then head to wherever the site wanted it to park.


They work amazing when properly developed.

Growing up in a land with 4-5 months of winter, I was very comfortable in the snow and ice. Still scary as hell at times but the human body is remarkably adaptable to the environment. 30 feet visibility with snow and ice on the roads engages all the senses (except smell). Listening to the sound the tires are making helps know what they’re encountering. Inner ears helping know if a slide is starting. Sight constantly doubting itself and peering into the barely distinguishable road. All the nervous system helping with steering and the pedals. The road has a feel to it in such conditions that any man made system has quite a ways to go before engaging in it.

I do think it can get there. But it may need something better than our current AI tech, as well as some more sensors than lidar.


I also live in a US state where snow is the norm for that amount of time. I would argue "comfortable" is not safe and also, ultimately, not Level 5. There are some situations that are just not passable while maintaining safety. That's the reality and you are making risk choices that are subjective which cannot be understood by the AV. But we shouldn't assume because there will always be situations where a car will refuse to drive because of conditions that it's all for nothing.

I agree that I think it'll get there. But, like air travel there are limits and limits ground flights. When we drive a car we don't have a rigid pre-drive checklist, people in ATC watching out for weather and other aircraft, and then a company behind the scenes making the call on risk of life, money and brand reputation. Sure, weather is probably the hardest to deal with in knowing ahead of time if the trip can be completed with 100% success rate. I think the bigger problem is that as cars start to drive themselves, for people with little drive time throwing those people in the mix to take over will result in a very bad outcome. I have over 20 years of driving in ice and snow and still run across situations that are challenging or catch me off guard. But... What about that 17 year old who's car just told them to take over and they've never had to deal with driving in a storm ever? As we stop the task we lose the skill. Ultimately I feel that's the bigger issue holding things back until the manufacturers can get to Level 5.


> I agree that I think it'll get there. But, like air travel there are limits and limits ground flights.

+1 - And I feel like this is really what Waymo was saying.


> as well as some more sensors than lidar.

Like... cameras behind some kind of glass with special heaters and moving wipe thingies to keep the glass clean? I am sure I have seen something like this working somewhere.


Have some faith in your sensors. The point is they enable us to drive better than anything man made.

It's always a sad spectacle watching AI fans disparage humans when one looks at the miserable results of the various self-driving efforts. They should at least wait until they have something working decently.


Humans are so smart that they can't be modeled by AI. Humans are so dumb that they can't even design a system that does the same things that they do :)

I find it amusing that AI vs Human is actually 'A group of humans working on a technology' vs Humans. If we say AI sucks it actual that we probably aren't good at making certain type of software. Its funny when we talk about AI like it has some Sentience -- when all the onus on improving it and why it sucks is because of humans. Guess someone should start a 'AI shaming' hashtag! :D


> In short, sensors on autonomous vehicles don’t work well in snow or rain—and that may never change.

There are sensors that can see through snow. They are very expensive, and only in the lab right now, but in the very near future there will (not "may") be processing packages that can fuse optical, radar, and other data into a coherent picture that will allow a computer to see a snow-covered road, through falling snow, better than a human could ever hope to.

I have seen a synthetic aperture radar system that can see through several inches of snow with such a resolution that it can detect paint lines beneath the snow and create a real-time picture of what the road looks like (potholes and all) that a human could never see.

It is too expensive today, but tomorrow?

Not only that, but with gyroscopes, rotation sensors, and real-time communications between vehicles, an automobile that can see through the snow like it is not there that can also talk to other cars will (not can) be able to know ahead of time what road and grip conditions are like based on vehicles that have previously and recently gone through the area. It will be able to adjust its driving to match conditions that are impossible for even the best human driver who has ever existed to detect.

Having 360-degree multi-band RADAR coverage, fused with optical, LiDAR, ultrasonic, and other technologies will result in systems that can: see that it is snowing, see how much snow there is, see the road through the snow, see ice beneath the snow, predict what the road conditions will be in a certain amount of time based on current and forecasted conditions, inform other cars about current conditions, know what conditions are at points on its route in the future and plan accordingly, and ultimately not care that it is snowing so long as it can cope with the conditions.

Today, hooking up some cameras and LIDAR to an Nvidia Jetson doesn't result in a car that can drive in the snow better than a human.

Tomorrow isn't today.

A human driving in heavy rain at night, hunched over the steering wheel squinting out into the distance, radio silenced to minimize distractions, hazard lights on to warn other drivers, never sure of the depth of any puddle that may be on the road, maybe a little tipsy from dinner and tired from a long day's work, will one day be seen as a wildly dangerous and unreasonable risk compared to automated systems with sensor suites that don't care if it is dark and raining and which can map the depth of any standing water with millimeter precision.


SAR is probably going to be the killer sensor that makes all this happen.

Just a matter of time.


When Apple lays off, it's because their perfectionist culture doesn't tolerate compromises (as if their existing products are a beacon of idealism).

They knew EXACTLY what compromises needed to be made regarding self-driving cars all along. Any real product roll-out needs compromises, and this seemingly moralistic apology for layoffs doesn't cut it. They laid off because they wanted to, because their corporate aims didn't align, and that's that.


If I remember correctly, that statement, mirrors what was beeing said about human flight, right before the wright brothers?


It also mirrors what was said to people who expected us all to have sentient computers that never made an error and second homes orbiting Alpha Centauri by the beginning of this century.


Autonomous cars, as with any technology we develop, will likely find it's killer application where it makes the most economical sense. They might start out as busses or even truck, and rather than having a driver behind the wheel, you have control centers where one driver might be managing a whole fleet. Eventually, as we change our infrastructure to accommodate further, I wouldn't be surprised if we rely more and more on them (having a fully ordered traffic system). The key to this is time and patience. It might take 50 years before that occurs.


Why do people in these positions use words like 'never' when they are almost always wrong given enough time? Saying there will never be a fully autonomous vehicle is very shortsighted and arrogant.


If you frame a feature you are lacking as something that will never be possible, your own near term solution that solves lots of things but doesn't solve everything seems much more impressive.


Oh, John Krafcik 'admitted it.' As if the rest of us couldn't draw such an obvious conclusion.

Autonomous cars can only treat the symptom, not the disease. The real problem is traffic due to suburban sprawl. People need to quit commuting into cities every day, put $50 tolls on the streets during rush hour into major cities, make bus service free.


To be honest, that article and the articles like it bother me. Krafcik said there will always be constraints, without spelling out what those constraints will be or their severity.

Then the author wrote a line saying they won't work in the snow or rain (implying any snow or rain at all). To me, that assertion doesn't follow from the quote.

Where did Krafcik say that they won't be able to deal with light to medium rain? Where did he say that they won't be willing to deal with light to medium snow? There are a lot of other articles asserting these things, but few detailed quotes.


Makes me think that autonomous vehicles may run on specially designated roadways, like a highly flexible, adaptive version of railway.


> Of late, Apple CEO Tim Cook has touted his company's initiatives in health as the key to its future growth. "I believe, if you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, "What was Apple's greatest contribution to mankind?" it will be about health,"

Make sense, they'd rather concentrate on health. There's an obvious inroad there with wearables.


Plus AI is going to turn into a cash slugfest. Apple could afford it, but may be making the wiser move.


"An Apple a day keeps the doctor away."


I really doubt that Steve Jobs would have bet the company on that.


Maybe he would have.

If you visualize technology progressing through time, there is an obvious merging of human and machine. Computers were large, now they are so small, you leave your Air Pods in your ears for hours because you forget they are still in.

Imagine another 50 years. Computers will most certainly be seamlessly connected to us in some way.

Imagine a device that can read your mind and give you what you want before asking? What if you're more intelligent just because you buy a specific product? What about a device that is proven to lengthen your life just by using it?

Biological research and health are what's necessary to get there.

The interesting things happen at the intersections. Who could compete?

Steve seemed like a smart guy. Maybe if he saw things this way he would bet the company as you say.


I don't think Apple has advancements in machine learning tech as much as its competitors. For example, take a look at how primitive Siri is. It struggles a lot in comparison to its competitors even for some basic commands.

Or, take a look at Apple Music's recommendation system in comparison to Spotify's discover weekly.

Now, take a look at Amazon and Google. They both have their own cloud infrastructure (which ironically Apple uses) with machine learning built right into it. Both have state of the art image recognition systems (proprietary) for various applications (Eg. Google Image search, Amazon shopping, etc.)

I am not saying Apple can't do it, I just think they're lagging behind and this move totally makes sense.


From what I read Apple are taking a different approach? Google/Amazon are harvesting massive amounts of data and training against it and Apple are taking a privacy first approach saying you shouldn’t have to harvest lots of data for intelligent AI.

Currently the harvesting data for models look to be working better for Google / Amazon with current technology. The question is how will Apple progress long term and given time can they achieve AI with some level of privacy. I don’t know enough to have any comments but like Apple’s public stance on this.


Are you suggesting Apple plans to do AI without harvesting data, or with transparent privacy controls on data? There's literally nothing for machine learning to learn besides harvested data. It's like suggesting that a power company is trying the strategy of using no wires for delivering electricity to houses..

I'd be excited if Apple found a way to trustlessly aggregate data and perform homomorphic training of their ML models, but they seem to be laying off that flavor of talent..


It's actually not that Apple isn't collecting data sets, but they're doing so at a more measured pace by thoroughly anonymising it using differential privacy. If the AI needs to use raw personal data in it's calculations, that is done on the user's device to keep that information private.

This appears to be slowing them down compared to their competitors, but it's not clear how much as against them being a bit behind for other reasons.


Others also anonimyzes data using differential privacy, k anonymity etc. It is a common practice and enforced when working with private / PII data.


Is this what their differential privacy stuff is about? It's not trustless (not least because 100% of the data comes from a closed source OS they control) but they do seem to be trying to figure out a privacy-friendly way to harvest data to train ML models.


You seem to be equating AI and statistics-based ML. Statistics-based ML is certainly producing the most results of any AI technique right now, but it is not necessarily the only one that ever will.


> There's literally nothing for machine learning to learn besides harvested data.

You can obtain training data from sources other than your customers. Apple have employees driving vans around with cameras and LIDAR.


> you shouldn’t have to harvest lots of data for intelligent AI.

Er.... that's not how it works. As a Valve employee put it (a talk about ML recognising cheaters), machine learning is just an equation:

y = f(x)

where you can actually derive the FUNCTION f if you have enough x/y pairs. Without those pairs then most of the successful techniques in machine learning fail to function.

Yes you can generate your own data but generating realistic stuff is a huge can of worms.


Not true. You can code your prior knowledge into the model, and make do with way less x/y pairs.

Data is a substitute for doing engineering by hand. If you do the latter, you require less data.


I don't see how it makes my statement untrue. The most effective ML techniques are more effective the more x/y pairs you have. Sure, you can get a leg up if you partially define F yourself but then you're no longer being as hands off as before. In practice the WHOLE of F() will likely be a blend of machine learning as well as heuristics as a product of various layers that are one or the other.


Not the poster you're replying to, but it's just that you said "that's not how it works", and then suggested that the only way to get F is through data, even if it means generating synthetic data.

So that's wrong and untrue, as you recognize in this latest comment by saying you can partially define F. To make a concrete example, the convolution operator, the number of layers, their connectivity--all of that partially defines F. Finding a structure is what allows you to learn from the x/y pairs instead of just storing them in a look-up table.

It makes sense, then, that finding a better structure may allow you to learn from fewer x/y pairs. This is Apple's purported approach.

It also means that if you have a huge number of x/y pairs, you might benefit from (or get away with) using a simpler structure. This is Google's approach in the domains where they have a lot of data.

It is true that an important lesson has been "when designers build structure into machine learning systems, they often build in the wrong things, and they end up making commitments that the data cannot undo". But there's still a lot of structure that we put into machine learning system, and we're still learning about what good structures are for different applications, and different regimes of data.


Traffic is a chaos system, you can't engineer the edge cases. At best you have heuristics.


I don't think "traffic is chaotic" is the issue with driverless cars. We'd be satisfied with a car that solved everything except for global (i.e. non-local) traffic flow issues.

That said, a dynamical system may exhibit chaos for one setting of the parameters, and may not exhibit chaos for other settings of the parameters. It may be true that the equations governing traffic flow have the potential to exhibit chaos, and do exhibit chaos when 1. humans drive, or 2. the drivers have only local sensing. But that doesn't mean it would still be true for driverless cars.

But again, that's not the issue at play. We wouldn't fault an driverless car for getting stuck in traffic. It's more like it has to work when it's snowing, when you can't see the lane markers, when a kid in a trashbag costume jumps into the street, etc. Those are the edge cases that we care about right now.


There are different ways of training things than relying other people's data. For instance alpha zero is still the most remarkable achievement in ML or 'AI' in my opinion, and it used 0 human games in learning to play chess. It training was entirely from self-play. I think models that rely on learning from these sort of weighted monte carlo type systems are likely to end up far more robust than ones that try to learn from humans. In the AlphaZero case this was provably true.

But in the more general case, the optimal solution for humans and the optimal solution for machines is not necessarily the same. So in driving, for instance, it may be the case that operating a vehicle in one way is safest for a human - yet not necessarily so for a machine. It's not hard to come up with examples. We are awesome at intuition and awful at microsecond reactions. Computers are awful at intuition and awesome at microsecond reactions. The optimal style of 'play' is likely going to differ. Yet if the machine is trained based on human data it would end up trying to shoehorn itself into replicating human behavior which may be suboptimal for it.

All that said, this sounds more like marketing talk. My guess is that Apple simply decided that self driving is extremely difficult and is going to come with some major growing pains which could negatively affected their crafted brand image, making it generally a poor investment of time and resources.


Plus, I don't quite get what is the privacy being violated when taking a lot of pictures of red traffic lights...


Mine the exif data for the time and geolocation of the people taking the pictures and what camera/phone they used. You might even be able to tell which direction they were travelling in.


You can harvest data and anonymize it. My friend at Google supposedly is doing this via research at Google. I'm not going to say Google care about our privacy as much as Apple but they are researching this probably for medical and for when opportunity arises. To be perfectly honest I think Apple's stance on privacy is all marketing, there are cases where they refused to unlock phones for the FBI but there are other cases where they ship recordings of your talk to SIRI to a third party company.


Yeh most company anonymize it because "data snooping" makes your algorithm worse. But try telling a layman that.


> You can harvest data and anonymize it.

Presumably the anonymization needs to happen prior to collection for it to be effective?


To play devil's advocate: Perhaps Apple adopted this public stance as a strategy to hurt their competitors after failing to achieve parity.


Worse performance is definitely not from lacking data. They have more than enough data to make the kind of dense samples needed for ML; remember that ML is about sampling and fitting a generalization to some population, not collecting all the data from every person and overfitting to it.

It's more likely lacking infrastructure, which OP alluded to. ML requires infrastructure that companies like FB/Amazon/Google naturally possess. Apple is playing catch-up.

Other comment also mentioned that Google et al anonymize data, and have options to opt-out of data collection. We don't have evidence that they are necessarily worse at privacy than Apple (they could be, we just can't know for sure unless you work there and happen to know exactly how it all goes down).

Apple has data on you too. They're just worse at making use of it (and you can argue less incentivized but I don't know -- getting people to use apple-only products is a pretty strong incentive to make things work well, and Siri/Apple Maps don't work that well).


Thank you for this comment, long term is rarely even considered in consumer technology related to smartphones or "devices".


>you shouldn’t have to harvest lots of data for intelligent AI

That shows they don't understand how AI work. That literally like code for traditional programming. It's literally impossible based on how modern ML works.


You are conflating AI and ML. You can have AI with no ML.


Machine learning is literally a numbers game. The bigger and higher quality your data set, the better your models. So, it's contradictory that a company like Apple assuming they've taken a "privacy first" stance, can also simultaneously claim to be a competent player in this machine learning arena.

The other thing is, it's really tiring to see "Apple is a privacy first company" narrative on HN. Because, nobody knows exactly what Apple is doing behind the scenes with your data. There's literally no way to know what Apple is upto other than trusting their marketing material that claims to be privacy centric.

For all you know, they could still be doing stuff what other companies are doing secretly and nobody can prove nor disprove that. Next, iOS is closed source. Without access to source code, this privacy narrative is nothing more than just a marketing gimmick. We're a tech crowd and we should definitely take it a step ahead, investigate and then conclude, rather than blindly believing marketing posters that Apple puts out.

Once your data moves to a private cloud like iCloud, there's no way to guarantee anyone's privacy or safety for that matter other than blindly trusting the vendor. Don't believe me? Ask Jennifer Lawrence.


> Don't believe me? Ask Jennifer Lawrence.

You are aware that the attack was a spear phishing attempt, rather than an inherent weakness in iCloud?


Apple is far behind its competitors in pretty much every area except hardware. They are still terrible at running stable web services. There is a new critical bug or security hole in their OS every month. And all of their non-hardware offerings - Apple Maps, Apple Music, iCloud, iTunes, Siri etc. - range from very bad to average.

IMO they need to be investing a LOT more on the software side of things if they intend to stay competitive, especially since iPhone sales are already drying up.


Sales levelling off != drying up.

Apple has always had problems with their online services, but iOS security is a problem? Compared to what, the dumpster fire over in Android?


iOS is arguably the most secure operating system in widespread use. Not sure why the OP thinks otherwise. macOS while not as secure is still in pretty good shape. But largely irrelevant to Apple's financial future.


I was referring to macOS in that line.


Phones are moving towards commodities even apple found this when the X got push back at $1000 per unit.


I think the price is a mistake, but I don't think it's "failure" reflects a weakening Apple's of brand competitiveness as much as it is a sign of the relative maturity of smartphone hardware.

In other words, people are buying phones less often, because phones for 3-4 years ago are still quite capable of meeting the needs of most users, so people are naturally going to start buying phones less often.

I suspect Apple was very aware of this trend, and the price increase was an effort to increase margins to make up for an expected decrease in unit sales. After all, Samsung also indicated lower guidance on their Smartphone numbers for this year, so Apple is not the only company affected by this trend.

Maybe they missed the mark a bit, and a significant number of potential customers chose not to upgrade this year, but I seriously doubt those customers turned around and bought an Android instead. I suspect they will just get plan to get another year out of their 6S and wait for what comes out this year.


> I suspect they will just get plan to get another year out of their 6S and wait for what comes out this year

This is the situation I'm in. Have a 6s that I'm not in a rush to upgrade until something appealing appears. It's plenty fast enough for everything I do. I actually started looking at Android alternatives thinking I could get a high-end phone with a removable battery but learned that's not a real thing anymore. Plus I don't like the idea of using too many Google services.

Still not sure what my upgrade path with be yet. Maybe an iPhone 8 but it feels like I'm just getting the same phone as I've got but without a headphone jack.


They can still charge a premium over any other phone manufacturer, and they sell at the about the same volume. They have a lock in that seems likely to protect that premium for the foreseeable future. As long as they can charge a premium they get a nice profit margin.


The major differentiator of Apple hardware is the software that runs on it. iOS and MacOS are basically unmatched by other offerings.


In what meaningful way are they "unmatched"?


Speaking for myself: a combination of ease of use, features, quality and a mature ecosystem. They certainly don't have a perfect track record in any of these, QA being a well-documented example in the last few years. And the alternatives have gotten better, but they're still not good enough to convince me to switch.


iPhones have better hardware/software integration, which is easy for Apple to do because they control everything. They get better performance out of their hardware because of this.


There are announced security holes in every operating system. But unlike Android, iOS users can actually get security patches for years after they buy their device.

Android still has a horrible permission system after all of these years and privacy is laughable.

And as far as “iPhones sells are drying up”. They are still predicted to report the second highest revenues this quarter of any company in history - only surpassed by their previous record.


"They are still predicted to report the second highest revenues this quarter of any company in history - only surpassed by their previous record."

Profits, perhaps, but not revenues.


Yes because we all know that revenue is more important than profit.....


I didn't say that it was.


Their power cord keep on dying for my macbook 2013.

I had a temp iphone and it took over a lot of my texts by redirecting it toward apple's server first. When I got my android back I receive no text msgs from my friends who have iphone.

It also seem like they're making cheaper stuff so they can increase their margin via tech support and peripherals.

I agree they should invest more in software so they don't have to resort to these crappy tactic.

Also they should make a cheaper iphone region lock it to china and india only if they want to increase their margin. Their current strategy for these markets is stupid.


This is totally unfounded. Their market-leading bokeh camera effect is powered by a “state of the art image recognition system” including custom silicon (the “neural engine”).

Siri has gotten a lot better especially at natural language recognition.[1] The HomePod for example is exceptionally good at detecting Hey Siri commands while loud music is playing. That’s all local machine learning processing coupled with a great mic array. It’s more the breadth of services that are the issue, but that’s not machine learning.

The music recs.. well you don’t cite anything. I can say the weekly For You new music mix works good for me.

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/siri-vs-alexa-vs-google-assistant/


I keep hearing that people noticed Siri getting better, but my experience is totaly different.

For example, how can it screw up something as simple as enabling alarms: https://ibb.co/vkYpGcq (this has happened multiple times to me).

Why most of the questions are answered with a google search link? Why it keeps randomly forgetting context (example: I tell her to wake me up at 1pm, then repeat just 1:01pm, and so on to add more alarms. Most of the times, it works, but sometimes it stops understanding what I want, even though the speech recognition is right and I’m saying the request in the same format as my previous requests, just with an incremented time).

I’m not saying other Apple products can’t use AI, just that Siri seems to be very low on their priority list (and I don’t blame engineering, this is something that comes from management).


I complained a few months ago that Siri had a tough time recognizing my accent heavy speech but these days it is better.


What you're describing on the HomePod is "ASR," automatic speech recognition, which is a separate function from natural language recognition. ASR is converting spoken language to (the correct) words, basically dictation; NLR is "I have these words, now what do I do with them." This is a distinction I've learned from working at Viv Labs, which is producing its own voice assistant. (Samsung's Bixby 2.0 is basically our Viv, and it's an entirely different product than the 1.0 version, which was basically a rebranded S-Voice.)

Having said that, I think Siri is better at NLR than it's often given credit for, and Alexa is much worse than it's often given credit for; Alexa's NLR seems less akin to its competitors than that of a 1980s text adventure, i.e., "use exactly this precise phrasing or you won't be able to [get the treasure | turn on your living room lights]". Amazon's real strength is in making it so damn easy to write Alexa skills and to forge deals with hardware/appliance vendors, which goes back to your "breadth of services" observation.


I'd add that Apple News has had a much better hit rate than Google News. It consistently has added new suggested categories based on my observed preferences.


They reason is because they don’t snoop on their users and so don’t have good training sets available.

Training set for driving is more readily available.


Apple originally kept Siri audio for up to 2 years "for testing and product improvement purposes". I am not sure if that is still the case.

https://www.wired.com/2013/04/siri-two-years/


The formal grammar structure behind smart assistants is basically the same. Siri is as primitive as Cortana, Google Now and Alexa, the difference comes in the amount of data the interfaces have access too. Outside of the text to speech and speech to text algorithms, there is barely any machine learning when it comes to understanding what the user says. As of it right now comparing smart assistants is equivalent to comparing dictionaries, Siri having less entries and people writing them than the others.


There’s a lot of unknowns with liability and regulation. I’d rather let someone else take up that legal risk than spend all this money on basic research just to have my shit shut down by ordinance or a manslaughter charge.


Apple bought Shazam, and their recommendation system is quite good.


My list so far: Apple, Tesla, Buzzfeed, Verizon/Yahoo/CNBC, HuffPost, SpaceX

Doesn't look like the layoffs will be ending soon either. If it was just one or two that would be one thing, but this is forming a pattern. What do all these companies know?

I keep hearing word of a potential recession or downturn. Is anybody here more keyed in than myself and can provide an explanation?


Layoffs happen all the time so I am not reading too much into this re. macro economics.

However, I firmly believe the autonomous driving bubble will pop eventually, and you will have layoffs across that entire segment of the tech industry.


without having read the article: layoffs in preparation of an economic downturn would be unusual, especially when it's R&D in a cash rich company

I don't think there's a pattern, companies lay off and rehire people all the time due to changed goals and/or requirements


What if the economic downturn has already started and it's just that these specific companies are feeling the effects sooner than others?


I'm not sure I follow, you think that employment goes up during economic downturns?


I wonder if this autonomous driving thing has gone off the boil across the industry. Years ago fully autonomous was only just around the corner - as in five years away - but now nobody is talking of much more than improved lane keeping assist grade safety features, stopping if someone walks in front of the car rather than navigating a whole city including small streets.

The scale of autonomous has been misleading. Either something is autonomous or it isn't. 'Level x' autonomy is marketing speak.

I am quite happy with incremental improvements in driving aids, e.g. how Intel MobilEye is advertised. Spaceboy Elon sold it all to us as an impossible future. I reckon that Apple probably got on board the electric autonomous driving bandwagon but can't perform the required magic. You can hire all the engineers you want to build magic things but after a while there is no point paying them if the magic is not going to happen. They may well have pivoted to a car type of thing that has great UX instead of 'magic'.


I never really understood how the industry was able to ensure, from a legal standpoint, the failsafeness of autonomous cars. There are bound to be errors, such as the incident last year with running over a homeless woman who was clearly visible to a real eye, but not detected.

It’s simply impossible to account for all the corner cases, especially when you have to factor in manual drivers who can behave arbitrarily (what if they purposely drive weird just to mess with the autonomous cars?).

In fact, autonomous cars may increase danger rates as human drivers become quite peeved at sharing the road with them, and try to derail them at all cost.

Maybe these are the reasons they gave up.


> what if they purposely drive weird just to mess with the autonomous cars?

I got a car about 6 months ago with Level 2 Autonomy and I'd say it's even more than just trying to mess with them. Now that I know the subtleties of how my car behaves, it's easy to spot other drivers who have theirs engaged too. I can use that to my advantage when appropriate and it takes some ethics not to abuse them. For example, if I have to merge I'll merge in front of one of those cars, purely from a safety standpoint -- I know that car is going to respond and give itself lots of space. Of course, people could use that much more maliciously to take advantage of those cars "niceness".

I've never had anyone mess with my car just for the sake of it, but you can see the seasoned Tesla owners taking the opportunities that they spot. It changes the way other drivers drive if they can identify the behavior.


A number of researchers without vested interests have been saying this all along. But they’ve been drowned out by those many who so wanted to believe, not least of which the young urbanites who so desperately wanted to believe they would never need to buy a car and would be driven everywhere all their lives.


It’s true. I watched a panel discussion from maybe three years ago and those who were closest to the research, even those who were actively working on the technology, estimated 2022-2025 for a general debut and longer for the difficult cases. We may see large pilots sooner but the timing given by the experts seems properly prescient compared to all the excited people who thought we’d have the tech widely this year.


Well, it really really looks like Waymo has something decent. TBD because they are damn secretive and there is probably ten years or more before the tech is perfect, but I think there’s opportunity to start taxi services in good weather in the coming years.



There are too many cars already.


I really wish companies chasing this far-fetched dream of an autonomous car instead invested in their local transit authorities to make public transit free for all.


the sad reality is that public transit isn't very profitable and has been consciously sabotaged since the invention of cars.


Any stats on how many employees they had to start with? If it was a team of 500 vs 2500 that changes how I'd view this heavily.


Apple accused a Project Titan ex-employee of trade secrets theft, and it was disclosed that there 5,000 employees "Disclosed" on Project Titan.

https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-self-driving-car-proje...


Of course the most important comment is towards the bottom. If they laid off 200 out of 5000, then it really means nothing


And they haven't laid off all 200; many will be moved to different assignments at Apple.


Rumors are that there are several thousand people disclosed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_electric_car_project


A lot of negativity here. Hey maybe Apple has figured out autonomous car and no longer needs that 200 employees!


As usual.

The truth is that Apple hasn't promised anything and delivered nothing.

Google on the other side, has promised everything and delivered nothing.

And they promissed it "in five years" in 2012...


Delivered nothing over the millions of fully autonomous miles? Delivered nothing to the residents of the Phoenix area who are using their SDC?

And, yes, as usual, tech company way over-promising on timelines. But that's no different from anyone else trying to generate hype and garner investments/public partners.


Aren't they running trials now


Waymo have been operating on public roads since 2017.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/7/16615290/waymo-self-drivi...


That's just bull, it's on Arizona, on a closed circuit test track.

> And starting very soon, the company plans to invite regular people for rides in these fully self-driving vehicles.

What happened since 2017?


They invited regular people for rides in these fully self-driving vehicles.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-waymo-selfdriving-focus/w...


It always seems odd that huge tech giants like this lay off certain sectors. Are they dumping them because they don't have anywhere else that they'd be useful to Apple? Surely recruiting is harder than moving someone laterally in the company.


>In August 2018, Apple enlisted a Tesla engineering vice president and Apple veteran, Doug Field, to lead the Titan team alongside Bob Mansfield. This week’s dismissals from the group were seen, internally, as anticipated restructuring under the relatively new leadership.

>Other employees who were impacted by the restructuring of Project Titan are staying at Apple, but moving to different parts of the company.


Often, they label culling the bottom 5% as "restructuring" or try to make sure the bottom 5% get included. It's easier to combine layoff events than have a steady stream of them.

A lot of these companies also do layoffs, then pay severance, and possibly some time where you're technically an employee and are free to look around the org for a new job. But honestly, after being told you're laid off, your loyalty to that employers is pretty low, and you're better off looking elsewhere.


A automotive engineer isn't going to be much help on ios mac and phones.


You'd be surprised at how much of automotive development is just regular software engineering. Sure, the 5% of their skills that are automotive-specific aren't much use, but the rest of their skills are certainly useful - especially at Apple, who does actual close-to-the-metal coding.


Ok any software engineers want explain constant pressure and constant wear and which component of a cars drive train it applies to?


In dense urban environments, like say FiDi areas - why not have sensor and car-control infrastructure integrated into the city streets/curbs/sidewalks.

One doesnt have to realy on the most amazing sensors in a car if the city can be responsible for driving the vehicles down its pathways.

Let the car enter a given area and relinquish a certain amount of control from the car to the environment it is in.

Let the traffic light system dictate what cars are movingg in which direction.

Ensure that the cars never enter a crosswalk or bike lane etc.

once you leave the area - you then have whatever control of the car you would normally.


This is a great idea! And the tech to do it is already available. So why isn't it implemented tomorrow? There are too many questions on where the liability lies.

What city would take on the risk of their infrastructure failing causing economic, or even worse physical, harm?

What balance of control do you allow? Can a driver still stop their car? If they can and fail to, are they liable?

How much are the auto makers responsible for the behavior of the car? Will there be a universal standard of signals that yield similar behavior in all cars? Sam the other way, will all municipalities work the same with navigation systems in cars?

I hope a city tries this, and I hope it goes well, and I hope it happens soon. But what I want to see most is answers to these concerns around liability. That's what will spur real progress.


A nice idea in theory, however most cities are woefully behind on public infrastructure to begin with. They're going to be much, much slower to roll-out than any self-contained SDC by SV or Detroit makers.


Recall that company that was installing parking spot sensors in SF? What happened to them?

But a company could support making a "Smart Curb" which monitors all traffic infomation around it, acts as a beacon, and does other things...

Lots of "iot" ideas could happen from that - like all the Scooters replying to the curbs stating their location.

People could choose a ble beacon tag for their traditional bikes and could have it always visible. Effectively a BLE beacon fabric in an urban environment is an interesting idea to me.


Go anywhere with winter and look at the state of the curbs. Its like eastern europe. In one season everything shifts several inches up or down or out or in, cracks and crumbles, and gets covered with dirt and debris until it is warm enough to begin street sweeping again.


Although they aren't shutting down, I was thinking that even if they did, Apple can just wait for the dust to settle and buy one of the existing/growing players once the technology is proven out (they definitely have the cash to do it).

Spending a lot of money and trying to catch up to Waymo/Zoox/Cruise etc is also kinda hard, even for Apple, because of all of the pieces of the stack they need to work on and access to a very competitive/small talent pool.


That is unless those newer co's are overvalued in the market. I imagine Apple would love to buy Netflix for 10-20bb but at 140bb that's a hard sell.

Driverless is such a foundational tech it makes sense to have lots of efforts pursuing it.


Did they get laid-off or reassigned? The article is vague.


Seems to me like some of them got laid-off and some got reassigned.


Reassigned.

Of course it's Apple, so they are going to make it as much fake as they can without getting sued.


Right now roads are designed for "human sensors." At some point we'll need to redesign the roads for new kinds of sensors. I have no idea what this will look like, maybe all the roads will have RFID in them or some other tech. I think that's the hurdle we haven't gotten past yet, recognizing we need new roads.


Considering we can't seem to pay for our existing road infrastructure, I don't think this will happen in the next 20 years.


How can 200 employees have any significance when talking about such a huge project as autonomous Car ?


200 is a pretty meaningless number unless someone has inside knowledge of Apple and know how large the project was.

200 out of 210 is a killer, 200 out of 4000 might just be a re-balancing of skills/priorities.


The autonomous car community is learning the same lesson the aviation community found. Autopilot is a very powerful tool that increases safety, but it doesn’t replace pilots. Similarly car automation will increase safety but it won’t broadly replace drivers.


At the risk of offending some folks, let me offer some conclusions based on living near the Waymo facilities for 4+ years. Their autonomous cars are already driving better than about 30% of the licensed people on the road in my town.


In what is being billed internally as a restructuring effort, Apple this week released more than 200 employees from its "Project Titan" group, a secretive branch of the company focused on developing self-driving car technologies.


haven't seen those cars in Sunnyvale for something like a couple months. The cars are really heavy on sensors, so Apple shouldn't have issues with detailed 3d scene acquisition, it is probably understanding of the scene is where they struggle - not surprising giving that they are hardware company and for example behind the likes of Google in the AI dept.


The couple of now former Apple Titan employees I know all took new jobs in the last six months. This has been coming for a while.


Making room for that TSLA acquisition..


I wouldn't trust an Apple self-driving car. If i saw one i would start running.


Why not?


If you look into the failure rate of apple products, the defects in things that all other manufacturers seem to get right then you begin to build a picture of how this is going to turn out.


All the best Apple for your future endeavors.!!


Well, that was quick.


When you can't make a laptop with reliable screens or keyboards, or an iMac lineup that has CPU's 2 generations behind.. Maybe it's time to shut down the stupid vanity projects and focus on your core business instead?


I have no idea why you're getting downvoted.

If a company decides not to produce wireless routers (which were class leading) or monitors etc anymore, all because they're non "core" to a computer/mobile hardware company then I don't see how building automotive AI is core to a computer/mobile hardware computer company that has zero core competency in either car manufacturing or AI.


I suppose they're getting downvoted because "why are you working on X when Y has problems" is kind of a silly argument. The problems with the butterfly keyboard design are almost certainly not a result of all the keyswitch engineers having been foolishly reassigned to work in the automotive group.


It's very much a focus and resource allocation problem. Double the number of engineers working on the keyboard and it doesn't happen


I can almost guarantee that doubling the number of engineers working on the keyboard would make the problem worse, rather than better.


It would seem to me the issue is because of bad product design decisions. Apple decided having user serviceable reliable keys was less important than making the thinnest laptop they possibly could.

It's left for the market to validate whether it was the correct decision or not.


Having returned my 2018 "improved butterfly keyboard" MBA because the keyboard died after 3 weeks, I suspect that the issue isn't being taken seriously. A minor design revision that didn't pick up or resolve a recurring issue is a death march for a product.


Okay, but on the flip side I used the 2017 MBP for a year with no problems whatsoever. It's hard to figure out realistically how much of a problem this is for them.


Take the dead ones to bits and do a post mortem. There's enough of them.


Well there has to be a reason, people are assuming it’s resources, because incompetence which isn’t noticed and fixed by management is hard to understand


If management isn't competent, they won't be able to discern competence from non-competence.


Replacing the current ones would work.


…and 9 women are known to bear a child in one month


Adding people to a department actually helps if it's understaffed.

But I guess the keyboard design is a managment problem not a engineer problem.

"The mythical man month" should not be interpreted dogmatically.


The existence of the Autonomous Car Unit was also a management problem.

The unstated truth in the "mythical man month" is that you can't rescue a project by throwing people at it if the project is out of control because of poor management.

Stellar management can do almost anything.

Mediocre management bumbles around creating failures.


> Adding people to a department actually helps if it's understaffed

Eventually. At first it makes matters worth. And that's assuming your predicate is correct, that the department is understaffed.


Besides what the commenters are saying, physical keyboards have been a solved problem for what, 2 decades now? Even slim ones. There's no new basic research needed and even the engineering should be quite obvious by now...

Maybe I'm missing something.


By this logic we should just triple the cancer researchers and then it doesn't happen


Doubling the number of engineers can also make progress slower, once communication costs dominate.

(Or did you mean the keyboard doesn't happen if number of engineers is doubled? I don't think it can be that bad.)


They stopped making routers and monitors not because they are non “core” products, they stopped making them because there is not much money in it. You buy routers ones every 10 years probably, and margin is limited, but supporting them throughout this period is quite expensive. As for monitors, there is so many competitors right now, that it’s hard to make it worth building your own monitor, Especially if you want to win the market share you need to distinguish yourself from competition, and there is very little you can do to make your monitor distinguishable from your competitors.

Automotive AI meanwhile is a future and they have to think about future with all the money they have now.


If Apple truly cares about the user experience they would have kept the wireless routers in their portfolio. A great opportunity missed to have a product that is more user friendly than the competition.

I'd argue the wholesome user experience will prove be more important for Apple in the long run than having a big profit margin on every product.


The “user experience” for most users trying to use a third party router instead of the one bundled with their internet service where support comes from their ISP would be worse.


Sure, they could have been the ones launching the Unifi line of routers and switches, instead of Ubiquiti, but that would mean caring about and supporting non-mac equipment and computers in the offices.


Another option, assuming core Apple processes don't need more funding: they could pay out that cash as dividends, and let the market think about the future (getting the money to companies who's core actually is about automotive AI, if investors actually think so).


The other way of thinking about it is that autonomous cars are so obvious and will eventually be so commodity that Apple not sticking their logo on this market would be about as dumb as them not making the bigger phones the market demanded.


  autonomous cars are so obvious and will eventually be so commodity
Apple's core business (smart phones) will be commoditized way before autonomous cars - we're already seeing smart phone improvements becoming more and more incremental, longer device lifetimes, people less willing to spend for the latest and greatest


Would you buy an autonomous car from a company that can't build a reliable keyboard, and is still struggling with its maps?


I would be scared to buy an Apple car. Let there be a design flaw: It will take a class action suit for them to acknowledge it. Until then, anyone who drives to their Apple Car Store will be told to pay out of their own pocket for fixing it, that they obviously mishandled the car, Apple is not to blame, it is not covered under warranty.


As opposed to Google with their world class customer support or Uber with their great reputation for safety and ethics....


Or a GM car where they do the math to see if its worth it to issue a recall for cars that shut themselves off out of nowhere or Ford where they did a cost benefit analysis on a recall of Pinto fuel lines.


In other words, like every other business....


Apple does pay out dividends, as well as pursuing stock buy backs which pushes share prices up, rewarding investors.


> Automotive AI meanwhile is a future and they have to think about future with all the money they have now.

Automotive "AI" is not a future, more than so than the automotive "cloud." It does not even takes one to have a computer science background to figure out that claims of artificial "intelligence" there are a joke.


That's going to be an unpopular opinion on HN, but I really agree. Getting self-driving car to where they are currently is impressive, but the technology isn't close to where it needs to be.

The technology is 90% there, perhaps more, but the last percentages that it will required for this to be a mass market product is going to take 20 or 30 years to reach. The current solutions are built using ideas and research grounded in the field of "Artificial Intelligence", but they are not "true AI".

There's also no AI in your Huawei phone. There's software using machine learning, which is a discipline under the umbrella of "artificial intelligence" as a computer science discipline.


non “core” products, they stopped making them because there is not much money in it

The idea of Mac was always “it just works”. You could go to the Apple Store and get everything you needed and know that while it wasn’t cheap, it was amongst the best you could buy. You pay the premium for that experience and you remember how nice it was and come back next time.

Now that experience is broken, you need to shop around and make it work yourself. And if you need to do that then the experience is no better than anyone else’s.


> I don't see how building automotive AI is core to a computer/mobile hardware computer

I don't see why Apple needs to stay within the bounds what what you think their "core" products are.


They don't, but as a public company they do have obligations to their shareholders which at least suggest they shouldn't be neglecting their core business.


I think the shareholders are the main reason why Apple actually stopped making routers and monitors. There isn’t much money in those products, and shareholders wants to see revenues, they don’t care what products you build as long as they make them money


Do you think before the iPhone came out that Apple was experts in basebands and antenna design? Were you bitching about that when iTunes was a PoS in 2005? Were you ranting that the Wi-Fi bugs in 10.4 weren’t getting fixed because they were working on phones and tablets which they had no core compentency in back then? Point being, everyone is calling doom for Apple saying they’ve not invented the next great thing, yet when they work on the fields that will likely be the next big thing, they get ridiculed by folks like you. Seems they are damned either way, no?


I kinda feel cars are core to Apple. Essentially they are a screen company if you think about it. Their job is to own all your screens and make a quality experience across them, both the bonus of upselling services to said screens. A car dash is the last (others?) of the more used screens they haven't covered yet. So probably a market they dont want to miss out on, especially as it ties in with other areas so well like music, maps and in the future apps.


They do have Apple CarPlay though.


Which is actually pretty good. Had one in a rental a month or so back and I was, wow, a vehicle entertainment system that actually works rather than being primarily occupied with sucking the contacts off my phone.


It's really not that confusing. Routers, discrete monitors, or cars are not core to Apple's existing businesses. But of the three, only cars represent a market large enough to be worth pursuing. So that's where Apple invests and attempts to develop competency.


It's hard to see them making any money on cars anytime soon. Autonomous cars are at least 20 years away. Profit margins on cars isn't even close to that of an iPhone. Also it would be entering an entirely new field of business that not only require the R&D to make the car, they also need the infrastructure to handle sales and repairs.

Apple does have the money to pull it off, if they want to. I would just question if they'd profit from the project.


“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone, PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

Former CEO of Palm.


>then I don't see how building automotive AI is core to a computer/mobile hardware computer company that has zero core competency in either car manufacturing or AI.

Autonomous Vehicle, is basically a Giant Mobile iPhone that you can sit in it. There will be lots of custom silicon doing software calculation, LiDAR making 10s to million of input every second, a gigantic battery, and lots of softwares.

Although I still think AV is at least another 5 - 10 years away in real world usage.


> Autonomous Vehicle, is basically a Giant Mobile iPhone that you can sit in it.

Ugh. What's next? It seems in the future everything will look like an iPhone and is built by one company. Why can't we have more modularization in the economy, i.e. smaller companies that do 1 thing well, which sell to potentially multiple other companies that do 1 thing well too? Perhaps we should set a hard limit on the number of employees working for a single company, e.g. 1k.


An iPhone is made by many different suppliers. Apple only makes a handful of chips. Important chips, but hardly everything in the phone.


Apple doesn’t even “make” the chips, they design them. TSMC and GlobalFoundry have been the fabs historically that have done the actual “making” of them.


The point is that if Apple's obsession with supply chain integration continues, then at some point even the fabs might be assimilated. This can happen e.g. if their CPU design division needs tighter control over fabrication, or if they develop a key technology at the silicon level that they want to keep out of the hands of their competitors.


That's quite the understatement.

I wonder what is taking Tesla so long to get their factory up and running.


You have core now, core in the future, and never core.

When work started on the iphone, phone weren't core, but there was a vision that it could be. Routers were killed because there was no future where routers would ever be core.

Apparently Apple sees (saw) a future where automotive AI might be core.


I think ulfw’s argument about product line focus makes sense, but the parent was implying Apple can’t make laptops, whereas compared to most manufacturers their products are incredible (but still imperfect).


Apple makes the products Apple wants to make; that those product choices might not align with everyone's preferences (I'm pretty happy with my 2018 MBP, for instance) doesn't mean the company can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

Particularly when they make $200 billion per year in revenue.


Well thats my point - it seems that they can't chew gum and walk at the same time. If they could, we'd have Macs that are updated to the latest gen hardware in a reasonable amount of time, and issues like the faulty keyboard would have been fixed by now after 3 years.


I don't think this viewpoint is shared by the vast majority of people who buy personal computers. Gigahertz, number of CPU cores, Intel processor families, etc. mean nothing.

I think the reason why they don't rev their hardware as frequently as they could is because it doesn't pay to. The number of people choosing between a Mac and a Dell who go for the one with the newest processor has to be vanishingly insignificant.

In my view, people have a clearer picture of how much disk storage they want--the usage meters on their phones help drive that home. Other than that, they are confident that the machine they get today will be faster than the one they bought 4 years ago. But I suspect usage patterns have changed (e.g., more time in the browser; games are played on phones; etc.) so that speed bumps aren't the primary reason why people upgrade, anyway.


It shows a lack of respect for their users, and for their users money.

They are charging the same for almost two years old hardware than they would if It had been updated, but the user gets a worst product, and in the long run, experience.


Apple has a ~40% profit margin, and you think them not updating their HW specs in a timely fashion is what shows they don't have respect for their users money?


Attacking the CPU is dumb - mobile cpus have not increased significantly in performance, so why pay a premium of more than x% for <x% performance increase to have the latest gen?

Seriously, the GPU is the only thing you're likely to get a big win from at the consumer level, and you're restricted to intel's shitty IGP until you get to the top end MacBook Pro. Again: you are exceedingly unlikely to get a real day-to-day performance increase from the high end intel mobile cpus on a core-for-core basis, and adding a tonne of cores just eats your battery life (hell, ram alone is a significant power drain for laptops, hence the last gens 16gig limit)


Since you mentioned it, I just added the Apple / Blackmagic eGPU to my 2018 Macbook Air and holy smoke it is a major change for docked 4k workstation with a mac laptop. This eGPU is underrated bigtime.


I agree eGPU is a game changer , at least for me. Having the ability to use eGPU in my next laptop is now a requirement for me.


For what applications?


Everything in MacOS moves more smoothly on a 4k running in 2560x1440, from the dock hide/show to messages bubbles.


It's overpriced with a lot of cheaper alternatives. Unless silence is of the utmost importance.


I read this a lot in comments about this product but this is a really simplistic description of what this product is in comparison to building your own eGPU right now.

Very often "cheaper alternatives" have stability issues like crashing. Or plug / unplug problems. Stability is more valuable than the quiet although silence matters when the entire rest of your workspace is silent.

The build quality for these enclosures is obviously cheap and low quality. You can tell by when you work with the ports on them.

Also, none of these builds have been supported by Apple. This product was cooperatively designed with Apple so the support is excellent. You have one Thunderbolt 3 cable for all of the things to the mac.

So the price is actually good for what it is.


If you're resting most of your argument / feeling on whether Apple is shipping latest gen hardware you might want to examine that more closely. This is a very common misconception and a bit of googling will tell you either a) they are shipping latest gen, or b) the differences between latest and prior gen are negligible.


What makes you believe the autonomous car project comes at the expense of Mac improvements, rather than being unrelated?


It will still take up senior management and board time. THis is something recognised accross corporate governnce - see recently GSK spinning off it's over consumer health and the counter portfolio of drugs, to focus on what it's core business is; novel pharmaceuticals.

Yes you don't want to be a total one trick pony, but if you do everything, you do nothing well.


> if you do everything, you do nothing well.

Sometimes that's true, but I think that most often, these kind of transactions (M&A, spin-offs etc) are the result of political gaming on top of companies, rather than driven by actual business or financial needs. Top managers play their own game very well, and at the end of those transactions usually there is a bonus paid out, no matter the results 5 years down the road. It's not as if verticals within a large company hadn't their own specialized staff, focusing on their own products.


Yes because the board is knee deep in the design of Mac hardware.


Phones, Tablets, Mac computers, Cars, iTunes Music, App sales, Headquarter building, Share price, tax strategy. There are a lot of things that take up bandwidth of senior management. We've all seen many companies where something doesn't get the focus it could were it not for other priorities.

Is this absolutely the reason the laptops are a bit crap? No, but it is plausible that the lacklustre offering in hardware comes from the lack of it being a priority for the company. It certainly doesn't feel like a priority for them, and the offering doesn't feel like a lot of strategy has gone in to how it has evolved over the last few years - contrast that with the iphone.


Laptops have gotten attention, they made design mistakes but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I doubt that the board would have been knowledgeable enough to know they were making a bad decision.

I wouldn’t touch a Mac laptop with a ten foot pole except for maybe the Air if I was desperate, but the iMacs and Mac Minis are tempting. I don’t do development anyway without at least two external monitors and my favorite keyboard/mouse combo.


Commenter thinks Apple putting engineers on their autonomous car project will somehow make Intel's engineers move faster. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Or Apple just believes they can make more money not updating them.

jarym 30 days ago [flagged]

I’ll add my pet peeve to the list:

Sell me a £1k phone that can’t connect to the £3.5k laptop you sold me because the phone comes with a USB-A cable and the laptop only has USB-C sockets.

This is precisely the sort of garbage Stveve was very much against yet Apple seem to now think ‘it’s ok’.

It’s not ok. To the down voters, the fanaticism only emboldens Apple to become more mediocre. Think about that a moment.


Besides the connections the software doesn’t work between those two out of the box. My mom bought 2k MacBook Pro from the Apple store and a 1100 Iphone xs and we got home and plugged it in to back up her saved backup and iTunes wouldn’t let us. I can’t recall the exact problem but the solution was downloading the latest software for both devices. Several hours later it was working but out of the box? So disappointing.


That seems like a negligible issue. It's really not unusual that both device and software need to be on the same or latest version to work as intended.


steve would laugh you out of the room if he hadn't fired you on the spot...

(unless perhaps you didn't hold it properly.)


as if in the days of steve all was working smoothly... gimme a break...


Then it should tell you that's whats wrong and how to fix it.


If I remember correctly iTunes absolutely tells you that that your software versions are incompatible and suggests that update.


Was there not also a point where a new MBP with USB-C only, and a new iphone wouldn't even be able to be connected out of the box?


Still the case unfortunately, had to go back to the store to get and adapter to connect my iPad to my Macbook.


Hey Apple thrives on "pet peeves," way back to missing function keys and second mouse buttons. Keep 'em coming.

> Sell me a £1k phone that can’t connect to the £3.5k laptop you sold me

Of course they can connect, via Bluetooth and WiFi and AirDrop...

If you mean your iPhone can't charge off a MBP, well, OK: MBPs are admittedly not the best charging hubs.

> This is precisely the sort of garbage Stveve was very much against

Yeah, that's baloney. Steve would ask why the iPhone still has any ports at all.


> Yeah, that's baloney. Steve would ask why the iPhone still has any ports at all.

If so, the Chinese have Steve beat with a product like that ready to launch[1].

[1] https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2019/1/23/18194178/m...


Of course. Apple has rarely aimed to be first, they aim to be definitive.


FYI if you're buying the £1k phones £3.5k laptops, you are the fanatic.


Seriously. If they only had any advantages and not prominent and glaring disadvantages...


I don't know what you are talking about: my new Samsung phone with USB-C connects perfectly to my Macbook :P

Still, I wonder why Apple hasn't changed the connector from the iPhone to USB-C when it seems like the obvious choice. Maybe trying to avoid controversy like when they changed the old 30-pin adapter?


>>This is precisely the sort of garbage Stveve was very much against yet Apple seem to now think ‘it’s ok’.

Steve Jobs is now gone. And your MBAs run the product management now. And those people have OKRs and targets to meet. And they seem to think if they make something that looks cute, utility be damned, as long as they meet sales and whatever targets, it must be ok. Then Apple also has enough loyal customers and brand they can milk. Eventually the public will tire out and move to something else. And so will they. There are enough companies to work at.

Having seen enough of this kind of sausage made. I can tell you no one cares. There are companies full of upper management whose sole purpose is optimizing for their careers. They survive because their kind, get hired by their own kind.

Eventually every one moves on.

Only real people who can make any change at all are the stock investors who hold big chunks of stocks. But even those guys care about 'percentage' of profits, and once they get it. They move on.

So no one cares really.


If the phone could block "No Caller Id" calls it would be nice too ...


this seems like the biggest problem. there are a bunch of spam call filtering solutions available from third parties that require me giving third parties a lot more of my data than I'd like; if apple would come up with a solution to the spam call problem, I'd pay good money for that.


Really? It seems that it is a very easy thing to do. Obviously you need to grant permission to the app to monitor every inbound call, but I am sure that it could be an open source project that is not using that data for anything apart from the stated purpose. I'd pay for the same on Android


FDroid has a very good call blocker. It integrates with everything so you don't even remember it's there.

But I didn't try to block calls with no disclosed id. Those disappeared from my view a while ago, so either it does block them by default or something changed on the part of the callers.


yeah, come to think of it, I don't get a lot of blocked ID calls anymore, either. But I do get multiple spam calls a day, which is what I took OP's complaint to mean.


>Sell me a £1k phone that can’t connect to the £3.5k laptop you sold me because the phone comes with a USB-A cable and the laptop only has USB-C sockets.

https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MQGJ2AM/A/usb-c-to-lightn...

I mean, usb C has issues, but not being able to connect to an iphone isn't one of them.


Yeah, but it's $19 and should have been included for free with the phone.


I mean, yes. If you buy a mac laptop, they should include the usb c -> lightning cable as a courtesy. It's not a cheap machine.

However, it's a small thing, I think, compared to the cost of the mac laptops. If paying $20 for a cable is a big deal, then the macbook pro laptops and high end iphones are not for you.


With that kind of logic, you could justify any kind of price/attachment gauging. Like selling expensive laptop without batteries: "You already paid $3k for the laptop, why are you cheaping out on the extra $500 for the battery?".

People pay that kind of money with the expectation that everything works out of the box, not that they have to get extra adapters, which is usually only noticed after the fact. That isn't just extra costs, it's also the extra effort that people didn't want to have, that's why they paid the "premium price" in the first place.

In that context, $20 might not be "that big if a deal", but it would be even less of a deal for Apple to just include that stuff, while also making for a generally more customer-friendly experience without making them feel like being nickle&dimed every step of the way.


>With that kind of logic, you could justify any kind of price/attachment gauging. Like selling expensive laptop without batteries: "You already paid $3k for the laptop, why are you cheaping out on the extra $500 for the battery?".

Depending on what I was buying the laptop for and the variety of batteries available, that seems totally reasonable.

I mean, not for the mac model of "you pay a lot extra but it works out of box, without having to make too many decisions" of course.

But if I was buying an expensive laptop 'cause it was powerful and customizable? yeah, it would be totally reasonable and even desirable to let me buy the battery I wanted; I'm a big fan of the old thinkpads, and they often come used with the giant battery that sticks out, which I dislike, because they make the laptop bigger and heaver. My buddy who is also a fan just bought a 'low profile' battery for his, which is even smaller and lighter than the regular battery I use.

I usually buy my desktops and servers entirely as parts, because I want to choose the parts I want.

But that's not really Apple's market. (of course, I do also have a non-pro macbook and an iphone; but in a lot of ways, I have different expectations for those than I have for my old thinkpads.)

>In that context, $20 might not be "that big if a deal", but it would be even less of a deal for Apple to just include that stuff, while also making for a generally more customer-friendly experience without making them feel like being nickle&dimed every step of the way.

right my point is that it's not the $20 that is the big deal there, it's the fact that you've gotta go order another thing, when you paid apple big money for it to work out of box.


Uh... 2 gens? iMacs are on Kaby Lake which is last gen. Anyway, the iMac doesn't have Coffee Lake CPUs because they're barely any different than Kaby Lake, or even Skylake for that matter. Intel is basically rebadging CPUs at this point while they sort out their 10nm process. The main driver of a refresh would be upgrading the GPU and some connectivity options at this point.


It reminds me of the Apple of the early 1990s. So many stupid vanity projects, some of which were actually pretty cool: Newton, Dylan, Copland, Taligent, OpenDoc, etc. And yet they couldn't succeed at their bread and butter of selling computers. There's no Steve Jobs to bring them back from the brink this time.


What precipice does Apple need to be walked back from? Certainly not the current one, where they rake in an amount of money roughly equal to the GDP of Luxembourg in a single quarter.


Money is a lagging indicator for product quality. When a company's built up a strong brand, it can take years (or sometimes decades - witness Sears and Applebees) of bad experiences or outdated products before it starts to show up in sales numbers. But when it does, it usually ends up cascading rapidly, oftentimes faster than the company can react.

Apple started its slide the first time around 1989 - that was when Mac models started proliferating, when System 6 came out, and when its first sales decline happened. Jobs didn't return until 1998. That's almost a decade in between.

It's similar for other dominant companies - the writing was on the wall for IBM when Compaq & Dell started selling PC clones in 1983/1984, but they didn't need a turnaround until 1993. Sun Microsystems hit its zenith at the top of the dot-com boom in 2000, but its stock price didn't start sliding until 2007 and it wasn't purchased until 2010.


But there is no great lagging indicator of products in development apart from this reorg on autonomous systems. What about the glasses? Tablet interfaces have obviously peaked, yet there is no stronger ecosystem to support an AR product than what continues to mature around iOS.

Apple has a ton of cash and the best HW/SW/Design on the planet. The company is not done making new things.


Well, to start, as late as 1993, 1994, Apple was either the #1 or #2 computer seller. It was far from struggling until around the time of Windows 95.


Financial performance during the biggest market bull run in history (which lasted almost 10 years) isn't that indicative of the future of company.

On the other hand, the declining quality, sloppier design, increased prices on already highly priced products, multiple conflicting product lines - all of those decisions will eventually have consequences.

Apple used to be about doing a handful of things really well and having a loyal customer base that would happily pay a premium for the quality/brand/premium-feel/coolness of their products - all of that has been slowly going away over the past 5-7 years.


Which product lines are conflicting, and is that conflict a really big deal or just a minor one? Apple has always been self-cannabilizing, see iPod v iPod Mini v iPod nano. The company is much much larger than all these fond remembrances of golden days, which means product lines are going to grow a bit to hit different market segments which each have millions of customers.

Is this about iPad v MacBooks?


I think the iPhone XR and iPhone XS is a fairly glaring overlap that seems pretty confusing.

The MacBook and MacBook Air are also confusing - despite its name the MacBook is smaller, it’s more expensive, but lacks touchID.

Apple don’t make that many more products than they used to, but they are getting into these snarls for no apparent reason.


Agree on MacBook v MacBook Air. I think the intent was to kill the MacBook Air and service the market segment it once occupied with a combination of the MacBook and MacBook Pro non-touchbar. However that didn't seem to work out the way they planned because consumers kept buying the old MBA, probably b/c MacBook Air also was the low-cost entry point to Mac ecosystem, and there's a noticeable difference between a 12" and 13.3" screen.

I actually don't agree about the XR v XS. Apple's in a situation where much of the market sweet spot for new iPhones exists within that $700-1200 range with a set of preferences around a 5.8"-6.5" size and expectations of certain features and capabilities. The smartphone market is gigantic and if you want to be a player in it at some point you need to differentiate the demand into two or more products, which means drawing the line somewhere in terms of price and features.

XS is 33% more expensive than XR, and the XR drops the dual camera and OLED, while being roughly the same size as the XS, plus a few things to lower cost. I don't know if there are other features you'd realistically want to cut, so it seems to cover the low-end of that sweet spot. The only thing Apple could do with it is maybe lower the price to $699. Meanwhile, I'm not sure what other tech the XS could add to move it further upmarket from the XR. I'm not sure I would have done it differently this year, given the available tech.

My guess from reading lots of peoples thoughts on this is there's a confusion in the relationship between size vs price. It'd be clean and easy if demand for larger phones correlated with willingness to spend more, but that really isn't the case for a lot of segments of that market. E.g. in China there's a preference for larger devices at lower price points. And there's also the quarter miss which is bringing a lot of these discussion up, which was mostly driven by China's massive recession, but fingers are I think unfairly pointing at the XR/XS lineup.

I've been watching the Apple product lineup closely for many years with a particular eye to market segmentation, and my take-away is that while Apple always strives to make it as easy as possible for consumers to choose their preference in product lineups, the fact is both the shifting cluster of preferences consumers have and the technology available to ship means most years they're off the mark by a bit.

Shifting a product line is a multi-year exercise and it creates anachronisms along the way - for instance, see the transition to iPad Pro in 2016-2018. It took a few years to sufficiently move the consumer iPad downmarket ($329) and the Pro upmarket ($799) to have meaningful distinction, and that had to be done incrementally both in testing the market's interest and in delivering on the key tech to do so. The iPad lineup during those years wasn't as ideally distinct as it could have been, e.g. the 9.7" iPad Air 2 and 9.7" iPad Pro both being sold in 2016 wasn't a big distinction, and the 12.9" was far afield from both. Then the next year the 10.5" Pro selling alongside the prior year's 9.7" Pro was also a bit weird, but made sense from a clearing out the inventory perspective.

When they were a smaller company, it was easier to distinguish market segments (e.g. Jobs' famous 2x2 of pro/consumer and desktop/laptop in 97), in part because they had to simply ignore many parts of the market, and because the tech was simpler and changed more quickly. I think the situation we're in now is in part because they went all-out on the X last year to create a distinction between regular and 'pro' models, and because rate of change in tech in general is slowing down. My guess is if they keep this going, in the next few years they will try to draw a bit more distinction between the two lines. The challenge to that going forward is much of the tech differentiation possible is now in software rather than hardware, and the whole zero marginal cost of software actually makes product segmentation harder.


> the declining quality, sloppier design, increased prices on already highly priced products, multiple conflicting product lines

None of which are Apple's problems.


This is a completely different time than the 90s, when Apple's market strategy was failing, they were fast running out of cash, and had too many SKUs. The scale back then is orders of magnitude different than now, and the health of the company is a complete reversal. All this perpetual doom and gloom around Apple is silly.


Could you imagine what hell Steve would raise about 3 years of faulty keyboards?


The same amount of hell as for the issues that were happing when he had the reigns? And that we then still had to endure because they got ignored or not fixed in time?


I must be pretty lucky. I've been using Apple products since the original iMac and the only problem I've ever had was when I dropped my phone on a rock and cracked the screen. Apple was great about replacing it for me too.

Regarding CPUs, I'm personally much more interested in being able to run macOS on my computer, iOS on my phone, and tvOS on my TV and have them all work together in ways that make me happy. If Apple could add a car to that, I'd be thrilled. I'm always willing to try other options, but I've just never found a setup that worked quite as well for me.

For example, I have a computer I built from parts from NewEgg and Nvidia about a year ago. It has a Threadripper 1950X processor, 128GB of RAM, and an Nvidia Titan V card in it. I used it for about a week and then went back to my MacBook Pro. The custom-built computer is gathering dust in the corner of my office. My point is that different things are important to different people.


Why did you build a machine with 128GB of RAM and then not use it? Was there a specific task you built it for? Why didn't you just rent some instances from AWS?


Yes, I built it for a project I was working on. I planned to use the machine for development and maybe gaming afterward but kept going back to my laptop since it was easier to use. I hadn't really expected that to be the case, but that's how it turned out.


> I must be pretty lucky.

> [...]

> It has a Threadripper 1950X processor, 128GB of RAM, and an Nvidia Titan V card in it.

Yes, you are, you're rich. An Nvidia Titan V card on Amazon costs about $3k!


Sadly, yes, which makes the wastefulness of it sitting in the corner that much more poignant.


“can’t make” - that is a very general statement. I am quite happy with my MBP


Post 2015? Maybe I'm just spoiled, but I can't type on them to save my life.

I had a 2006 MBP and every 3 - 5 years since, but after a few months with the latest line I jumped to a Dell XPS running Ubuntu, and I never looked back. Had to find new tools and learn new shortcuts, but after a month or so I adjusted, and I never have to endure that hellish keyboard again.

edit: punctuation exists.


Yes, 2018. I have been using MBs since 2004. So I was very skeptical because of all the bad news I had heard. But since it is a company standard I didn’t have great choice. And I have to say: it is really a great product. It is fast, the screen is amazing, it is silent and the keyboard is just great (for me).

EDIT: the worst MB I had was the white one... the case broke open, the color was yellow-ish in the end


I know I'm in a massive minority, but I actually prefer the new keyboard (minus the touchbar - that is a joke).

What I really miss are the HDMI port and SD card slot.


You’re not in the minority, it’s just the minority who hates the new keyboard also happens to be a vocal contingent here on HN.


You're not spoiled. Just stuck in your old ways. Some of us adapted without even noticing (hard to believe, right?)


Apple has 250 billion dollars at their disposal. They can obviously have multiple efforts running in parallel.


People fail to appreciate the fundamental differences between functional and divisional orgs and how that constrains Apple.

At Microsoft, the head of Xbox marketing reports to the head of Xbox and the head of Azure marketing reports to the head of Azure.

At Apple, there is no divisions, every Apple marketer is responsible for the success of every Apple product and reports to the head of Apple marketing. But the only way this is possible is if every single Apple employee is able to hold every single Apple product line in their head at the same time.

This is an enormous constraint but it's also foundational to Apple mythos because it allowed them to kill the iPod. Divisional orgs have an enormously hard time with disruptive innovation because it upends the power structures of those with the most power. At Apple, there wasn't any person with the title "Head of iPod" whose job would have been in danger if the iPhone overtook the iPod. This was the reason Apple and pretty much only Apple have ever aggressively obsoleted their very best selling product and emerged even stronger out the other side.

You can argue the merits of functional vs divisional all day long and many have but none of those arguments will gain any traction inside of Apple. Apple will remain functional until the day it dies because functional is what allowed Apple to kill the iPod.


> But the only way this is possible is if every single Apple employee is able to hold every single Apple product line in their head at the same time.

Just to clarify: every public product line. If Apple is working on autonomous vehicles, there's no way that every (or even most) employees at Apple know about it.


"But the only way this is possible is if every single Apple employee is able to hold every single Apple product line in their head at the same time."

Ridiculous. Apple has an incredible amount of secrecy across its different departments. Functional orgs don't require the hoi polloi to know everything, as long as mgmt does.


Thanks for posting that I didn't realize that's how Apple worked.


This would be more obvious if I weren't reading it on a brand new faulty MacBook Pro screen.


Can't do much with anti-trust law around.

In 18th-century, "trade companies" (V.O.C., British East India Company, etc.) are strong enough to own a country.


> In 18th-century, "trade companies" (V.O.C., British East India Company, etc.) are strong enough to own a country.

Also, effectively, in the twentieth century, post-antitrust. Hence, why we have the term “banana republic”.


They have the money - but do they have enough high-profile people to run all those efforts?


Yes, but obviously they cannot fix the more urging problems in their core business: Keyboards, laptop CPU's and memory, macOS development. It's a desaster area every developer working with their products wants to leave as soon as possible.

And why should I trust them with an iPhone or car then, when the simpliest products were run into the ground.


Anything baking up your old school Apple is doomed rant?

Swift is a huge and thankless work totally invisible to the userbase and heavily targeted to improve development on Mac/iOS.

You just can’t brush it off to fit your narrative.


APFS is also a big investment in replacing HFS+.


Keyboards, laptop CPU's and memory, macOS development. It's a desaster area every developer working with their products wants to leave as soon as possible.

Jesus, calm the hell down.

It’s okay to have complaints about aspects of Apple’s products, but this wild exaggeration isn’t doing anybody any favours.


Macs aren't their core business. You may think they should be, but they aren't.


Core business in terms of both units sold and income is iPhones, not computers. Apple hasn’t been Apple Computer for over a decade.


I see what you're saying, but given that developers have to have an Apple computer to develop for iOS and macOS, the computer lineup does rather underpin everything else.


The iPhone itself may very well have seemed like vanity project at the time.

Cars are computers with wheels these days, and there will be to some extent a merger of initiatives.

Steve Jobs did several BD deals with feature-phone manufacturers like Motorola before the iPhone specifically to learn and internalize issues from that space.

When you're sitting on $100B in cash, your cost of capital is probably cheap, and existential risks abound.

It makes a lot of sense to be working on trends which are nearly 100% guaranteed to have a massive impact. Since we know self-driving cars are coming one way or another, it makes sense for them to be there.

In 20 years, 'MacOS' could be powering your car and other devices and we might have forgotten about this iPhone thing.


> The iPhone itself may very well have seemed like vanity project at the time.

It sure did, to some people:

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/apple-should-pull-the-plug...


If so, then the irony is everyone complaining of Innovation is dead at Apple. Lot of OS improvements, especially for the older model devices. But does Apple get appreciation for that or for Airbuds?

And with multiple product lines, company can have multiple focus.


I am pretty sure laptops (and other computers) are a vanity project for Apple at this point. They need some way for people to be able to write iPhone apps, and the history of Apple kind of makes it difficult to say "buy the latest version of Windows and use our Visual Studio plugin", so they make Macs. But I'm not sure it's a good business decision. The number of people that use a computer outside of work seems to be dwindling. Should probably focus everything on making sure they are using an iPhone, not something else.


Yes, because Apple doesn't completely dominate the market of computers above $1000 or nothing...

It's just stupid people like us that buy their computers...

Stupid people like engineers at actual first tier tech corporations. First tier arts and entertainment companies and individual artists.


The point is that that market is tiny compared to the people that buy iPhones. I also think Apple is doing good things on turning the iPad into a general purpose computing device. For my use cases (ssh somewhere to do work), it is way easier to manage than a laptop, and smaller. I imagine that as the product improves more people are going to make the jump, leaving MacOS in a weird place. (I switched from a Surface Pro 4 to an iPad Pro as my "laptop" and I am much happier. I still use a Windows workstation for everything that can't be done by ssh-ing to a Linux box, though, and of course prefer dual monitors and a mouse when I'm not travelling.)


Of course it is "tinier", because the PC market (and Macs are PCs) is much smaller than the phone market.

And has been shrinking since 2010... must be a coincidence as Apple introduced the iPad that year...


Source on the dominating above $1000?


Ohhh, that hate...

Apple is the most reliable computer manufacturer of all, according to ConsumerReports actual statistics.

Now according to BS fake news that is paid by Apple competition, yes, there are lots of problems with Apple computers (like 3 or 5 people that complained on Twitter), and nothing with Apple competitive products ever (unless it's a widespread recall like with Samsung...)

Also, what's your problem? If you have any problem, Apple will fix it for free. It's called WARRANTY.


Reliability is one thing, and whether it's "excellent" or "great" is a small difference. Apple laptops radio the top spot in different categories on consumer reports. And the ones they trade with are typically far cheaper.


Reliability? They can't make a laptop keyboard that survives an encounter with a crumb and if you open your laptop too many times the video cable gets severed: https://ifixit.org/blog/12903/


Wow! You really believe that a crumb can break a MBP keyboard?

God have mercy on your soul.

Really, is that the best that Apple competitors can do!?

You are all ridiculous, there are MILLIONS of MBPs out there, must all those millions live in a enclosed dome where no dust can get in.

Seriously, nobody has time for your anti-Apple nonsense, I don't know why I even replied.


I believe it because Apple admitted it was true: https://theoutline.com/post/5052/apple-admits-its-computers-...


No, they didn't.

Nowhere in that POS "article" the author justifies the title.


"I don't know why I even replied. "

You probably shouldn't have :)


> Maybe it's time to shut down the stupid vanity projects and focus on your core business instead?

What is the "vanity project" in this case? I think it's pretty clear that Mac sales won't last forever, and it's not like Apple is strapped for cash and can't afford to pay for both teams.


I assume he's talking about the car project. It seems like they now have fewer than 1000 engineers on that project, so I can't imagine what they're doing with that few engineers. That would be pretty small scope in the auto sector. There's one large automaker I consult for and they've got more people than that just working on software they use internally.

So, in scale, it might seem like a vanity project, but Apple obviously knows something we don't. For example, Tesla hired a couple of chip engineers from Apple and designed their own chip (to replace the NVidia gpu they were using). Maybe Apple has something unique in the pipeline that would be applicable to machine vision or something else useful to cars and it makes sense to market that to OEMs (I highly doubt they're building an entire car with so few engineers, makes more sense that they would be supplying a component and/or software).


> It seems like they now have fewer than 1000 engineers on that project

I believe Apple has significantly more employees disclosed on this project than that. This is clearly not a "vanity project".


I agree, like I said... even if it was less than 1000 they know something we don't (so I don't think it's a vanity project).


Somehow they manage to make their entry level stuff to higher quality, nobody is complaining about the iPad 2018, at their high end it's not just that people have higher expectations it's that their process is broken, they're churning out expensive, flawed devices.


Apple is a very profitable company, with massive cash flow. I would love to know why their laptop lagges in hardware. Seriously can’t they hire 200 people to work on it or on iOS and really crush the competition


They lag, because it makes the laptops more profitable. Older chips cost less.

They are crushing the competition, their profits show that and profits are the ultimate goal.


>>Seriously can’t they

The word 'they' suggests some kind of hive mind at work. In reality it's more like 1 - 2 people at the top making decisions.

If those people drag their heels for ever, or just don't care it won't happen.

The real question is why should they care. I mean even if you give them stocks, by the time they vest, they would have got their money. After that you can go work for whomever you like.

So why should these people care?


> The real question is why should they care. I mean even if you give them stocks, by the time they vest, they would have got their money. After that you can go work for whomever you like.

Apple’s executive team is not known for ditching the company the moment their stocks vest.


No, they’re known for hanging out and collecting more stock while weighing the company down with their deep incompetence and indifference.

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