Apple talks with McLaren and Lit Motors with thoughts geared towards Automated Driving

Recently McLaren has been moving towards electric and hybrid technology and Apple has had a growing interest in the automotive industry. McLaren uses a high performance electric drive system in its hybrid P1 road car and as usual continues to supply electrical components for cars in the Championship. The graph below, created with PatSnap Analytics, shows how electric and hybrid technology have become more important to McLaren Automotive over the last 5-6 years.

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Apple could want a stake in McLaren for one of two reasons. Knowing how Apple strives for the top it will almost certainly be aiming to be the market leader for driverless vehicles. By acquiring or strategically investing in McLaren Automotive they can develop their prototype faster. We know already that Apple made a $770 million investment into the Chinese app Didi Chuxing earlier this year and we are well aware that they are testing driverless electric cars. On top of this Uber has now merged with Didi Chuxing in China so it would be safe to assume that they are seeing success.

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Secondly there is the possibility that Apple wants to partner with McLaren in order to provide a technology platform to them. Within Formula 1 racing McLaren uses a huge amount of data analytics. In a specific race the team uses constant computer modeling to predict possible situations that might occur so that the team on the ground can be prepared and react quickly. From looking at PatSnap Insights we can see 31.91% of Apple’s patent portfolio is made up of IP within ‘Electrical digital data processing’ (IPC:G09F) so we know that Apple is serious about it.

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Three more reasons justifying Apple's interest:

  1. The Applied technologies division within McLaren has the best driving simulator in the world, which is used to test new vehicles. This would prove to be a huge asset to Apple.
  2. McLaren is the king of carbon fiber and if a partnership was to happen then Apple would instantly gain the automotive company's manufacturing expertise to expedite their own process.
  3. Thirdly McLaren is the leader in systems integration and manufacturing – ‘the tough business of turning a one-off prototype into a production vehicle.’ Apple has a huge interest in this space, which is clearly visible by where they have filed their patents. In the image below you can see Apple’s filed patents in 'systems integration and manufacturing'. Bear in Mind Apple holds more than 70,000 patents worldwide so that means thats around 15% of Apple's total IP portfolio is in the systems integration and manufacturing space.

rrrr-1.pngApple is also in talks with Lit Motors – a scooter manufacturer who holds 72 patents and 10 specific patents related to self driving vehicles. Apple could be interested in the company itself, their patent portfolio, their resources, or their high profile team of engineers. An advantage of PatSnap Insights is text clustering which allows you to quickly see what a company's patents relate to. Below you can see exactly what Lit Motors are about. We know that Apple has a history of acquring smaller companies and as Lit Motors' portfolio is only worth $5,830,000 it would be quite a feasabile option for the tech giant.

The future is unclear and as neither Apple, McLaren Automotive or Lit Motors has made any comment on whether or not any partnerships are going to happen, this blog is purely an opinion. However if history is anything to go by I would not be surprised if Apple bought McLaren and changed the automotive scene as we know it!

For more information on the developments within the autonomous vehicle space, don't forget to download our full white paper, on how self-driving cars and open innovation are re-shaping the auto industry.

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