Tesla's ecosystem strategy differs from automotive projects surfacing at Apple and Google

This week, reports emerged that Google and Apple formed alliances with rental car companies, Avis and Hertz. Both of these tech giants are revealing more about their strategies to become part of a self-driving, car sharing future. However, their disparate tactics contradict Elon Musk's unified approach at Tesla. 


Above: Self-driving, car sharing strategies differ greatly between Tesla, Google, and Apple (Image: Fast Company)

Eric Johnsa at The Street* reports that, "Both deals, however, shine a light on how Google and Apple seem to be limiting their autonomous driving work to developing the hardware and software that allow a car to drive itself, and perhaps the software and services that consumers seated within such a vehicle would use. The strategy represents quite the contrast with what Tesla Inc. is trying to pull off."

Furthermore, "There's a big difference between cars that can take over from human drivers in certain conditions, as Tesla cars supporting the company's Autopilot 2.0 system can, and ones that can fully replace drivers and be marketed by rental agencies as such."

On the one hand, Google's Waymo chief John Krafcik revealed, "We can imagine this [technology] in ridesharing, in transportation, trucking, logistics even personal use vehicles and licensing with automakers." On the other hand, "Apple now seems to be thinking along similar lines [as Google]. Though its car project, codenamed Titan, initially planned to bring a fully-fledged electric car to market, reports over the past 12 months have signaled that it's focusing for now on autonomous driving systems, and perhaps an in-car operating system. Two weeks ago, Tim Cook confirmed Apple is 'focusing on [developing] autonomous systems' for cars."


Above: Tesla plans to attempt a fully autonomous cross-country trip by year's end (Image: Motor Trend)

Yet, "Tesla, by contrast, wants to control the autonomous driving user experience from start to finish. Its Autopilot systems go into Tesla cars, which in turn run on Tesla software, are sold at Tesla retail stores, and are serviced at Tesla service centers. And last year, Elon Musk signaled that Tesla could one day run an autonomous ride-sharing fleet that Tesla owners could loan their vehicles to when they don't need them. Tesla's approach to autonomous driving has a lot in common with Apple's approach to the smartphone, tablet and PC markets. Whereas Google and (ironically) Apple's strategies have more in common with Google and Microsoft's."

Although, to be fair, "looking at Android's manic growth and Google's successful efforts to monetize it can vouch, an open platform that effectively addresses a big new market's needs can become a monster... even if the early going is messy."

Johnsa surmises, "Ultimately, Tesla may end up being the iOS or macOS of autonomous driving, while Waymo and one or more other companies will be its Android or Windows. In the short-term, Tesla, whose Autopilot 2.0 systems are capable of some pretty impressive feats even if they can't yet do full autonomy, arguably has an edge. Over the long run, things might be much more competitive." Only time will tell.


Above: Details emerge about a new alliance between Google's Waymo and Avis (Youtube: Bloomberg)

That said, Tesla's tightly-controlled ecosystem seems like something Steve Jobs would applaud. "As anyone paying attention to Apple's bottom line and customer loyalty rates can vouch, there's a lot of value to taking an end-to-end approach in terms of [bringing] compelling new products to market quickly, creating a seamless user experience and deriving a ton of long-term financial value from loyal customers."


*Source: The Street