Report: Apple might challenge Tesla with an electric minivan

Hundreds of Apple employees are working on an electric car that resembles a minivan, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. It’s possible the car will never make it to market, but the WSJ’s sources said the company has been meeting with manufacturers in Austria.

Apple CEO Tim Cook gave the car project, known as “Titan,” the go-ahead a year ago, according to the report. The team, which may grow to 1,000 people and has Apple vice president and former Ford engineer Steve Zadesky at its helm, is researching robotics, metals and materials. Apple has also hired Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America lead Johann Jungwirth and industrial designer Marc Newson since the department’s formation.

The report indicated it will be several years before the car is completed and certified, and the minivan design is only the current iteration. The car’s battery and other electronics could also find their way into other Apple products.

Unlike Google’s car, Apple’s vehicle would not be self driving, the WSJ’s sources said.

Report: Uber hired 50 scientists from Carnegie Mellon to build self driving cars

We knew this day would come, but we didn’t know it would be this soon.

According to TechCrunch, Uber is building a research facility in Pittsburgh to invent its own self-driving cars. Not content to rely on Google, the on-demand ride company has reportedly recruited researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute to build the product.

It has staffed up with 50 senior scientists who will work on the software technology and the vehicles themselves. The Robotics Institute has been “cleaned out” with the flood of high profile departures, the TechCrunch report said.

After this story published, Uber released a blog post confirming the news. It called the center a “partnership” between Carnegie Mellon and Uber. The building will be called the Uber Advanced Technologies Center. As part of its development, Uber will fund faculty chairs and graduate fellowships at Carnegie Mellon. And in the blog post announcing the news, Uber included supportive quotes from Carnegie Mellon’s dean of the computer science department and the Pittsburgh mayor.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has said for a long time that the company intended to eventually shift to self-driving vehicles. That would cut a huge chunk of its revenue cost — drivers take 80 percent of every transaction. “When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle,” he explained at the Code conference in May.

Many have used Kalanick’s remarks as proof the company doesn’t care about its drivers’ well-being, since it hopes to eventually eliminate the need for them. On the flip side, the convenience, safety, and efficiency for passengers would be substantial.

A shift to self-driving cars would fundamentally change the nature of Uber’s business by putting the company in charge of the vehicle fleets it deploys. Until now, it has acted as a transportation platform, connecting willing riders to willing drivers, but not owning the hardware of the operation itself.

According to the report, Uber has already started to build work stations for the scientists, although there’s no word on the project’s timeline for completion.

Uber gets investment from Baidu to aid China push, report claims

The Chinese web giant Baidu will buy a stake in Uber worth up to $600 million, according to sources quoted by Bloomberg. The ride-booking company, which raised $1.2 billion earlier this month to give it a valuation of $40 billion, is currently pushing into China, where it faces stiff competition from local rivals such as the Tencent-backed Didi Dache. Analyst Li Yujie told Bloomberg that cooperation between the companies could see Uber use Baidu’s mobile payment system in China. Integration seems to be the name of the game there – Didi Dache is conveniently tied in with Tencent’s WeChat messaging service, for example.

Is Ford facing off against Apple over the connected car?

A lot of automakers are lining up to support Apple’s new Siri Eyes Free technology, but Ford, the most aggressive company in the connected-car space, isn’t joining the queue. A platform war over the connected-car interface might be in the making.

iPhone accessory review: Ford Fiesta and Microsoft SYNC

After I wrote my recent article about Bluetooth integration with car audio, Ford contacted me about the Microsoft SYNC system. I took it for a test drive (literally). A new Ford may just be about the best (and probably most expensive) iPhone accessory out there.

Review roundup: Bluetooth car stereo iPhone adapters

Since music subscriptions services like Spotify and Pandora are all the rage, I wanted to listen to them in my car instead of the same boring CDs. To achieve my goal as painlessly as possible, I checked out a range of Bluetooth A2DP in-car streaming solutions.

Pioneer’s app-enabled receivers play nice with iOS content sources

Almost every car stereo available today has some way to connect to your Apple devices, but Pioneer is looking at even tighter integration with Apple’s iOS devices through custom-built apps that leverage services like Pandora. Here are my impressions of one such stereo.

Zipcar Prices IPO At $14 to $16 Per Share

Apparently, car sharing company Zipcar’s long-awaited IPO is not off! This week, Zipcar priced its IPO at between $14 and $16 per share for a planned run on the Nasdaq under the symbol ZIP. The company’s 8.3 million shares will net $89.2 million.

Ford Taps Tiny Bubbles for Lighter, More Fuel Efficient Cars

Ford is turning to a new tech to reduce the weight of its cars and improve fuel efficiency: tiny bubbles. Ford says it is trialling a technology out of the labs of MIT, now owned by Trexel, called MuCell, which injects micro bubbles into plastic components.