Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice-president of technology, who helped launch both Apple Health and Apple Watch, has reportedly taken on an even bigger, faster project — helping launch Apple Car.
So, what does that mean?
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So, yeah, there’ve been a ton of changes at Titan, Apple’s autonomous technology aka self driving car project over the last few years. But that’s true of most projects. Imagine if Apple back in the day was covered the way they are now?
“Project Purple in chaos, Apple abandons tablet plans for risky attempt at phone.” “All out war at Apple as iPod phone battles OS X phone for Steve’s love!” “Cingular in the dark, is Apple making a lego phone?” “No developers in site, will the iPod phone even run apps?” “Panic in Cupertino as Jobs scratches his screen!”
Titan is just a much bigger, harder project, so the scale of those changes is proportionately larger, and I’ll get to why in a 2 second launch mode hot minute.
But I’m psyched about Kevin Lynch’s involvement. Kevin came to Apple from Adobe, where he’d waged a bit of a back-and-forth war with Steve Jobs over the future of Flash media in the age of web apps.
At Apple, he hit the ground running on Project Gizmo, the Watch, and all the health features that would go with and beyond it.
Meanwhile, Dan Riccio, former head of hardware engineering and current head of the VR and AR projects at Apple, began ramping up Project Titan.
And… Titan was different. The iPhone, the iPad, even the Watch while monumental challenges in terms of cracking interfaces, nailing interactions, miniaturizing components, maximizing battery life, and all that, Titan was and is the biggest challenge to date — making a car that could drive itself. Like Knight Rider.
And the technologies that requires, not just the novel operating systems and interfaces but just… ingesting, understanding, contextualizing, and acting and reacting to the entire world at any point in time and space… are the technologies that are going to lead us to everything that comes next. Cars, sure, but anything autonomous, including personal robots, holodecks, the machines that make the machines…
Maybe, those a-holes the Terminators. So it’s kinda really gotta be done right. As one look at Tesla and every other company grappling with the same, ridiculous level of complexity will tell you.
How does it deal with rain or snow so heavy it’s near indistinguishable from walls? A dog running out into the street when there are other cars on both sides? Weighing the actuarial-like risks of hitting an elderly couple in a Prius vs. a family of five in a F150. Black ice. Potholes. Hulk angry human drivers? That’s all hard for our million-year evolved brains to handle on the daily, never mind neural networks that are, relatively speaking, babies.
But I digress. Riccio was eventually replaced on Titan when Bob Mansfield, his predecessor as hardware boss, came back out of retirement to give it a more singular focus. Around that time, Apple also brought in Dan Dodge, founder of realtime operating system QNX, which had since been sold to BlackBerry.
Then, Mansfield handed off to John Gianandrea, who’d left Google to pursue what he hinted at was more ethical artificial intelligence at Apple, becoming head of machine learning.
Which is the key component to putting the self into the car driving.
With Kevin Lynch, who’ll still be reporting into Apple’s chief operating officer and health head, Jeff Williams, Titan is getting a software lead who knows how to ship new product categories, but also how to help craft new and compelling experiences for us, the people using it.
To help make time for Kevin to focus on the car, it sounds like Evan Doll will be taking on more at Health. Which is also terrific. Evan may be most famous of co-founding Flipboard, but that was after working on Apple’s Pro Apps back in the day, helping make the apps as part of the original iPhone team, and more recently coming back to work as director of health software.