Will Apple Make Electric Cars?

My wife and I really enjoy driving our Ford C-Max Energi.  It’s the focus of this site.  However, it is really interesting to me that in the past few days, there’s been publications in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters and 9to5Mac about Apple creating a large team of employees working on an electric minivan.

The Wall Street Journal first reported this less than a week ago on February 13th.  According to the Journal, Apple is designing an electric minivan.  The car project lead is Steve Zadesky, a former Ford Engineer, who lead teams to create the iPod and iPhone.  The Journal said Mr Zadeskey was given the permission to create a 1,000-person team.  The Journal also said Apple hired Johann Jungwirth, who was the former president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development in North America.

Reuters published an article the next day, February 14th, that added Apple was working on self-driving and autonomous-driving electric cars.  It also said that Apple is recruiting experts in robotics.

Today, Bloomberg reports that Apple wants to start production of an electric car as early as 2020.  The article said that A123, a battery maker for electric vehicles, sued Apple because it is “poaching” their employees.  According to the lawsuit, this aggressive campaign to hire their employees started in June 2014.  The lawsuit also claimed, “Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123.”  The hiring of A123 employees started with former Ford engineer, Mujeeb Ijaz, who founded A123’s Venture Technology division researching materials, battery cells, and advanced concepts.  After starting at Apple in June, he hired other A123 employees according to Bloomberg.  Bloomberg also noted that Tesla’s Elon Musk complained this month about Apple offering $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent salary increases to hire away Tesla’s employees.

Also today, 9to5Mac reports many new hires at Apple.  Robert Gough, started in January from a company designing safety systems including airbags, radar and night vision.  David Nelson, a Tesla engineer that left and started at Apple this month.  At Tesla, he served as a mechanical engineer leading a team responsible for modeling, prediction and verification of motor and gearbox performance and efficiency.  Pete Augenbergs, an Apple employee since 2008 that formerly worked for Tesla, is a product design manager on the team.  Hugh Jay, a transmission and mechanical design engineer.  New hire, John Ireland, was a senior power train test engineer at Tesla since October 2013.  Previously, he worked for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on battery technologies to improve energy storage. Another new hire is David Perner, a Ford engineer that worked on “hybrid vehicle calibration, new vehicle launch, design and release…”  Perner worked on an upcoming hybrid Ford F-150.  9to5Mac reported the details of many more new hires on the Apple vehicle team.

The hybrid and plug-in vehicle market is definitely getting interesting.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying our Ford C-Max Energi.

Infotainment in the Ford C-Max; The next Sync with MyFord Touch

Over the past couple weeks, there have been many news and rumor articles that will affect future and perhaps current owners of Ford vehicles with MyFord Touch and older Sync infotainment systems.  Sync is the in-vehicle communications and entertainment system developed by Ford that uses the Windows Embedded Automotive operating system designed by Microsoft.  Sync with MyFord Touch is the second-generation infotainment system used in more recent vehicles.  The unreliability of MyFord Touch/Sync has been cited by J.D.Powers & Associates as the primary factor contributing to a decline in Ford’s reliability standing for new car purchasers.  Ford has more than 10 million vehicles that include Sync.  The current version of MyFord Touch is 3.6.2, which was released in August 2013.  I’ve been using it since I purchased my own Ford C-Max Energi the same month.  I haven’t had problems with MyFord Touch as others have reported.

On February 24th, Bloomberg reported that Ford will base the next-generation Sync software on Blackberrry’s QNX and no longer use Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive operating system.  The QNX CAR application platform is running in over 20 million vehicles as of mid-2011.  According to Bloomberg, the switch to QNX will improve flexibility and speed of Ford Sync while decreasing the cost.  An article in Fortune reported, “Ask analysts what reputation QNX carries, and you’ll get phrases like ‘rock solid’ or ‘a solution for things that can’t crash’…”  According to the Detroit News, a source with a knowledge of the plans to switch to QNX said, “the automaker could easily update the software of those vehicles already equipped with Sync to the BlackBerry software [QNX].”

According to Apple’s March 3rd press release, CarPlay, “the smarter, safer and more fun way to use iPhone in the car”, will be included by Ford in vehicles.  Apple said that many other makers, including Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan Peugeot, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota will include CarPlay in vehicles.  For more information on CarPlay, see this description at the Apple Website or read the description below from the press release.  CarPlay requires a Lightening-enabled iPhone running iOS 7 – the 5s, 5c and 5 are the only iPhones meeting both requirements.  An article in N4bb.com states that CarPlay could become the biggest competitor to QNX CAR.  It suggests that CarPlay runs on top of the QNX real-time operating system kernel.  They quote Paul Leroux of QNX, “Connectivity to smartphones and other mobile devices is a key strength of QNX Software Systems’ platform for car infotainment systems, and many automakers and tier one automotive suppliers use our platform to implement smartphone/head-unit integration in their vehicles. We have a long-standing partnership with Apple to ensure high-quality connectivity with their devices, and this partnership extends to support for Apple CarPlay.”

Apple’s description of CarPlay: “Once iPhone is connected to a vehicle with CarPlay integration, Siri helps you easily access your contacts, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails. When incoming messages or notifications arrive, Siri provides an eyes-free experience by responding to requests through voice commands, by reading drivers’ messages and letting them dictate responses or simply make a call.  CarPlay makes driving directions more intuitive by working with Maps to anticipate destinations based on recent trips via contacts, emails or texts, and provides routing instructions, traffic conditions and ETA. You can also simply ask Siri and receive spoken turn-by-turn directions, along with Maps, which will appear on your car’s built-in display.  CarPlay gives drivers access to all of their music, podcasts, audiobooks and iTunes Radio℠ with easy navigation through listening choices from the car’s built-in controls or simply by asking Siri to pull up what you’d like to hear. CarPlay also supports select third-party audio apps including Spotify and iHeartRadio, so you can listen to your favorite radio services or sports broadcast apps while driving.”

Now, adding to the confusion, CNET quotes Pin van der Jagt, a Ford managing director, “Sync 1 and 2 was done with Microsoft but we are not married with them. For us, it’s a supplier, so every time we keep evaluating is it the right partner.”  He continued, “That [the switch to QNX] is a rumor. What we are in the process of, we are spec’ing out our requirements for the next generation: what we want to do, what features we want to add, what functionality. Then you go through a normal supply selection process. Those requirements for the next generation get sent out to everybody, to Microsoft, to Apple, to everybody, and they come back with offers… We go to evaluation and make a choice and that choice hasn’t been made yet.”

It’s not clear to me right now, just what it all means for current or future owners of the Ford C-Max.  I would love to have CarPlay support.  I use an iPhone, iPad and iMac.  To have my car integrate closely with these Apple devices I use currently would be a big benefit, but not enough to sell the car and get another that supported CarPlay.  It would be nice if Ford allow current owners of MyFord Touch to upgrade their infotainment system for free.  The warranty on MyFord Touch is now for 5 years and unlimited miles.  Even an upgrade for a fee may be worth it to me.

What’s your opinion?

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iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Mobile Apps for C-Max

Apps for C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi

MyFord Touch Guide (MFT Guide) app.  [FREE, iPad, iPhone and Android] MFT Guide emulates the user experience for MyFord Touch with SYNC.  This app is an informative way to learn the basics and benefits of MyFord Touch.  In normal mode, it simulates Climate, Phone, Entertainment and Navigation Screens.  You can switch to the help mode by clicking the question mark next to the clock.  Clicking on any highlighted button will display an avatar and explain the functionality.

Google Maps [FREE, Android and Apple iOS 5 or earlier] Maps is an excellent navigation app.  For C-Max Energi owners, it’s a good way to find charging stations too.  Type in “ev charging location near blank”, where blank is a location, such as a zip code.  Google Maps uses the U.S. Department of Energy database of EV charger locations.  Try the same query in Apple’s new iOS 6 map app for iPhone and it comes up empty.

SendToCar [FREE, Android] After finding a destination in Google Maps, SendToCar lets you send the address to the Navigation system of the C-Max. [Hat Tip: Charlie Savage]

Ford SYNC Destinations [FREE, iPhone, iPad and Android] SYNC subscribers can get on-the-go access to their cloud-based SYNC services account with this app.  Drivers can add, save and manage destinations like home, work, school and airport.  The Destinations app works with SYNC AppLink to download directions into the vehicle using voice commands.  Drivers can also access traffic and incident reports by voice command. [Hat Tip: Charlie Savage]

GasBuddy [FREE, iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Mobile] by GasBuddy.  When you need to buy gasoline, this app gives you the best prices in your area.

AccuFuel [99 Cents, iPhone].  AccuFuel by Appigo makes monitoring your C-Max vehicle’s mpg easy. [Hat Tip: Mike B]

Apps for C-Max Energi

MyFord Mobile [FREE, iPad, iPhone and Android]  Manage charging, plan trips, and control many features (e.g., climate control) of the C-Max Energi.  The app uses MapQuest to find charger locations (the MapQuest database isn’t very comprehensive.)  This app requires registration at the MyFordMobile.com web site.  It’s possible to sign up in guest mode at the MyFordMobile.com web site rather than register your Ford vehicle.  A previous blog listed MyFord Mobile training videos.

PlugShare [FREE, iPad, iPhone and Android]  One of the best sites to find charging locations is PlugShare.com.  It is more comprehensive than other sites, listing public stations as well as private residences that could allow you to charge your C-Max Energi.

Recargo [FREE, iPhone and Android] A good app to find charging locations.  Charging locations can be located at the Recargo web site too.  I found locations where it is possible to charge not listed in other databases.  [Hat Tip: Kevin]

ChargePoint [FREE, iPhone, iPad, and Android] by ChargePoint.  According to their website, they have 9,993 charging locations.  This App can locate chargers, check pricing and reserve locations.  Walgreens has installed many free chargers throughout the country.  They are often listed in this app. According to ChargePoint and some internet postings, some free ChargePoint chargers require the ChargePoint card to use the charger, but there isn’t a fee associated with charging your C-Max Energi.

CarStation [FREE, iPhone, iPad, and Android] by CarStation.  Like PlugShare, this is a user support database of charging locations.  It is quite comprehensive and useful.

WattStation [FREE, iPhone, iPad, and Android] by GE.  WattStation Connect for EV Drivers for iPhone and GE WattStation on Android aids finding locations and paying for charging your C-Max Energi.  It may be useful in an area with many WattStation chargers.

Chargelocator [FREE to $4.99 for Premium, iPhone and Android]  The chargelocator database is also available online.  It doesn’t appear to be very comprehensive.  It may depend on where you live.

Do you know of other apps?  If you do, please post a comment to add to this resource.

This blog was updated on December 9th and 13th, 2012 and January 11th, 2013.


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