"How to Differentiate The Apple Car" in Humanizing Tech
From offering the same thing as Tesla, BMW, Mercedes & GM
I. Primer on Differentiation
Are you sick of hearing about every car company talk about their investment in self-driving cars and how it’s all going to be so glorious come 2020? For me, it’s all started to blend together and feel the same. Heck, even Apple (aka Project Titan) is reportedly having problems figuring out what to build that makes their story more compelling than, say, Toyota’s “Guardian Angel”. That’s because nobody has yet to figure out the most important question.
Why would someone want to buy your car instead of someone else’s?
Have a look at the chart below and tell me everyone isn’t shooting for the same exact thing. Namely, Level 2 autonomy and potentially electric vehicle.
I’ve made this a Google Sheet if you’d like to go in and add to it or make edits. Aside from the industrial design and brand, what sets one apart from the other? Note that even Tesla started building their car on the Mercedes CLS chassis. No wonder it’s tough out there.
Everyone is chasing the same white dragon: autonomous driving. If everyone introduces it, it’s no longer a differentiator. It’s table stakes.
The major trouble with autonomy is the car manufacturers don’t want the liability that Tesla is currently facing. Once you market the words, “self-driving” or “autonomous”, people stop reading the fine print by the NHTSA classification system and think that Level 2 means Level 4. Even Tesla’s summon feature isn’t possible until Level 4 and nobody’s even close to that using state of the art techniques.
The first step is having a simple difference to make your product stand out from the crowd, and the other is that it’s either cheaper, faster, or better. That way, any 10 year old can easily recite how it’s different and why that’s important. Knowing that is what makes people whip out their wallet and purchase.
II. What Do You Want Me To Feel?
This is the single most important question when it comes to building any new brand or product. In this case, why do cars all look the same, and feel the same, on the inside? Two seats up front, a bench seat in back, a dash and some windows around it. Sure, maybe the materials are a bit different and has a few other bells and whistles but they all feel the same.
Musk has said that the Model 3 will feel like a cockpit, taking design cues from the SpaceX Dragon capsule that will transport humans into space. But do you want to feel like you’re blasting off into space when you’re commuting every morning? That seems like it would add more stress, not less. Or, going cross country with friends, do you want to feel enclosed in a small launch capsule?
No, I think the appropriate feeling is one of “Aaaaahhhhhh”. One of walking into a comfortable home and collapsing onto a down feathered couch where you can sink into the cushions and put your feet up. What if your car didn’t feel like a car at all?
What if it felt like a cloud?
Could you imagine that on the way to and from work every day. Holy moly. But lets not stop there, friends. Lets amp it up a notch and play with our sense of time and environment. What if a car made you feel like this during the day:
And then this during the night:
What if your “interface” (read: interior) actually changed your mood, depending on the time of day, much like a hotel or nice restaurant does? Now we’d be onto something that’s compelling.
What we’re getting at here is the interior design concept of a Loungeable Living Room.
What about the exterior? I think that one’s pretty obvious. Sex appeal, not grandma mobile. The Tesla Model S is a great example, but lets be honest the SUV was a little weird looking. The Range Rover Sport is more my bag, baby.
How it makes you feel is the most important aspect of any product. We are humans after all. If you prick me, do I not emote?
III. Seek to Understand the User’s Problem
The biggest reason people might want a self-driving car is for commuting. As someone commuting an hour twice per day for the rest of my life, I don’t want to get angry sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I also want to take my hands off the wheel during a long, cross-country road trip.
In both cases, it means I have free time to either work, hang out with friends, or watch some movies. Heck, maybe I can even have a drink and some food to go along with those activities depending on the time of day.
The last problem is the one we face with air travel: leg room. Even the Apple Watch tells you to stand up once per hour. As a passenger, I would like to stand up in the vehicle and walk around a bit to stretch my legs, maybe do a few yoga poses, all while continuing to “make good time”. Shoutout to dad.
IV. Then Build The Requirements List
If you start with this problem and work backwards, then what do I as this traveler, really want from a car?
- It needs to get me from A to B without me having to do anything.
- Ideally it doesn’t cost a lot (or the price is off-set by lending it to the on-demand driving fleet).
- I still want it to look good so the industrial design is important (I’d much rather ride in a luxury vehicle with Alacantra headliners than a cheap alternative with a plastic dash).
- I want high speed internet so I can watch movies, TV, chat or work while I’m in the car.
- It should be big enough that I can move around somewhat.
- It should be a social experience where I’d rather drive cross country with friends than fly.
- I want the interior to be dark so I can watch a movie during the day and the windows to be clear enough to view the scenery while driving.
V. Finally Design the Car
If we take those requirements and begin to build a car, then we’re likely looking at an SUV for the body style because it affords more room than a sedan and is more widely accepted than a minivan.
We could throw a big screen in place of the back window hooked up to an Apple TV for watching movies or using as a second monitor. 4K video editing, perhaps?
And because sometimes we want privacy and darkness while others we want sunshine and a view, integrate Smart Glass into surround sheets of glass that tint or clear with the flick of a switch.
You take the Cloud Couch from Restoration Hardware, mix in some exterior sexiness of a Range Rover Sport, and then sprinkle in swappable interior design elements like candles, barware, or book shelves.
Instead of changing out Apple Watch bands, you can change out interiors. How does one do this? Maybe you can choose two themes in your car. The car comes standard with panels that slide across or flip around to make for easily changing the mood. Look no further than Apple’s new retail store concepts for the beginnings of this in the wild.
A few themes could be:
- Entertainment mode: 4K TV, gaming system, dark tinted windows, popcorn, soda, comfort couch, and fuzzy blankets
- Night on the Town mode: barware, sound system, leather and wood interior
- Work mode: light, multiple screens, sound dampening, high speed wifi, conference calling feature
- Travel mode: integrated luggage, circular captain’s chair recliners, small table for games, cup holders
- Exquisite Luxury: partner with Rolls Royce to give you the most aspirational acoutrement only the most discerning of customers can afford.
As you can see, choosing one mode versus another creates a very different set of requirements that produce a very different feeling.
VI. App Store for Cars Isn’t About Apps
If Apple can figure out a way to make a car more personalized to your lifestyle choices and the feelings you want, then make it modular so you’re not stuck with one single variation, we’re onto something that no other car company can offer.
Granted, the manufacturing process for this would be incredibly difficult, but maybe not. If we can figure out a simple way to interchange Watch bands, I’m sure a 3rd party accessory market that can easily slip in and slip out would be a boon to Apple.
People would be quick to think that an App Store for cars would be some piece of software that you download and include in a UI like CarPlay. That’s nice and all, but the real “store” should be about these other types of accessories that are based on a slide-in-and-out and lock-unlock mechanism.
The seating is likely all sectionals. The candles are locked into place, along with the specialty glassware. The iPhone plugins are readily available, snapping right into the arm rests. You should make various steering wheels as the first accessories until we move fully past human-driven cars. Why do I have to have the exact same steering wheel that millions of other people have? The one thing I touch every time I’m in a car for countless hours and I have no options.
Personalization is, and always will be, the answer to differentiation.
Do I think Apple will do all of this? Unlikely. It complicates the manufacturing process and the supply chain. Besides, everyone is trying to figure out the autonomous thing first.
Of course, I’ve got an idea of how AI will play out with a new approach that beats Deep Learning, but that’s a topic for a different article.
from Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/2aQeA8f