What's Up With Apple: Self-Driving iCar, Grateful Dead Biopic, and More

Virtually every electric vehicle maker traded lower Thursday. While some of that was surely profit-taking after a big run-up in share prices in the first two weeks of the month, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) also put its $2 trillion thumb on the scale.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported that Apple is accelerating development of an all-electric Apple car (iCar?) that will come with full self-driving capability. Not only did Apple weigh on other EV stocks, the report likely helped boost the company’s stock to a new all-time high near $159.

According to the Bloomberg report, Apple is targeting the launch of its car in 2025, just four years from now. That timeline is one to three years shorter than the current plan and is down to Kevin Lynch, the leader of the Apple Watch team who was given responsibility for Apple’s car project earlier this year. Lynch reportedly wants full-self driving capability when the car is launched in 2025.

If you would like a reminder of what full self-driving means, check out the description and chart from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

No mass-produced vehicle on the road today has yet achieved SAE Level 3. Honda built 100 Legends with Level 3 autonomy earlier this year, but a lack of regulatory guidance is holding up development in most other countries. GlobalData automotive analyst Colum MacRae sums up the headwinds to Level 5 autonomy:

Autonomous vehicles are not dead, because there are lots of interested parties who still want to see it happen and the stakes are too high, but it’s proving to be much more difficult than people thought. There are so many edge cases to address in order to be 100 percent safe that, outside of geo-fenced urban areas, it’s very difficult to see that we’ll achieve the dream of autonomy everywhere.

According to the Bloomberg report, “Apple believes it has completed much of the core work on the processor it intends to eventually ship in the first generation of the car.” The chip was designed in-house and is being tested in 69 Lexus sport utility vehicles in California.

One skeptic is Gary Black, managing partner of the Future Fund Active ETF, and a Tesla perma-bull. Black told Barron’s, “The idea is utter nonsense—there is no edge. Brands don’t extend into categories where there is no clear distinctive competence.” He likened an Apple car to a Tesla phone.

Apple has once again pushed out the date on which it wants employees to return to their offices. CEO Tim Cook said in an internal email Thursday that employees should plan to return to the office on February 1. Until March, employees would only need to be in their offices for one or two days a week. In March, the company will begin implementing its hybrid work plan that would require employees to be in the office Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of each week.

Briefly noted:

Concert promoter Live Nation, Apple and rapper Travis Scott are being sued for $2 billion by 282 people who claim to have been injured at Scott’s Houston concert that resulted in the deaths of 10 people. Apple Music live-streamed the event.

Martin Scorsese will direct and Jonah Hill will star in an Apple TV+ biopic about the Grateful Dead. Apple last year acquired first-look rights for projects from Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions.

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