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Of course Apple is making a car, says Elon Musk

Technically Incorrect: In a BBC interview, the Tesla CEO says he's not scared about Apple creating its own vehicle and that the Apple car project is an "open secret."

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Elon Musk. Not scared of Apple.

PATRICK T. FALLON/Reuters/Corbis

I worry that once cars are all self-driving, people won't care as much what they'll look like.

So why would Apple get involved in the tortuous enterprise that is building a car? Will anyone want to buy something beautiful and more expensive, as an Apple car surely would be?

Elon Musk, however, insists that the Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker is hard at it. In an interview with the BBC, Tesla's CEO said that building a car is "quite hard to do."

"Companies like Apple will probably make a compelling electric car," he said. "It seems like the obvious thing to do."

Perhaps, though, Apple isn't interested in the obvious. Watches aren't exactly obvious, are they? They're positively anachronistic.

Pressed whether he'd heard anything about Apple building a car, Musk said: "It's pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it."

Some of these engineers have come from Tesla. Last October, Musk suggested that Apple was hiring the engineers that Tesla fired. He also mused that Apple's design abilities weren't perfect.

He said: "Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch? No, seriously. It's good that Apple is moving and investing in this direction. But cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches."

Subsequently, he insisted that he didn't hate Apple at all.

But does he see Apple as competition in the car industry? Not at all. Musk told the BBC that it would only "expand the industry."

Apple CEO Tim Cook has always deflected questions about Apple's auto ambitions. In recent days, however, the company was said to have registered domain names such as Apple.car. Apple was also said to be investigating a self-driving car testing facility in Concord, California.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

It's evident that, as last weeks' CES showed, cars are becoming the latest hub for complete connectedness. Perhaps this is why Musk told the BBC that Apple's car project is "an open secret."

What, though, would an Apple car look like? The company's watches are frightfully conservative in their looks. Yet with something like a car, you'd hope that it would have a memorable exterior. Is this achievable? How often will we get to actually drive it?

Musk said that in ten years' time we'll only be driving occasionally as "a hobby."

It'll be like "owning a horse," he said. "You would use [a non self-driving car] for sentimental reasons."

Sentiments can be very powerful. I suspect when we take our iron horses out for a spin on a Sunday in, say, 2025, the self-driving cars still may not be able to cope with the emotional side of human driving.