Why Apple has to make inroads in the autonomous self-driving car space, and fast.

Autonomous vehicles; not wearables will be the new mobile platform.

Autonomous self-driving vehicles (AVs) will be the new mobile platform, on top of which a host of new products and experiences will be developed. Like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems, on top of which multi-billion dollar iTunes and mobile advertising businesses have been built, connected autonomous vehicles will enable a multitude of new products and experiences that the consumer will be purchase and/or consume during the ride.

Ride-monetization opportunities are valuable competitive advantages to a robot taxi platform.

As we have learned first-hand in the ride-hailing business, any ability a ride-hailing platform possesses to keep ride fare prices low is a strong competitive advantage. The reason for this is simple. Consumer demand for a given platform’s rides is highly sensitive to ride prices/fares it charges. That is, the platform that offers the lowest prices and wait-times will enjoy the most demand. The ability to generate revenues on AV rides — on top of the ride fare — provides extra margin and room for the robot taxi service provider to lower ride fare prices and still be profitable.

Waymo, Apple, Amazon and Uber possess the best ride-monetization opportunities.

Google’s Waymo is the AV team arguably best positioned to create in-car ride-monetization experiences. Nest, Google Express, Youtube, and of course the digital ad business provide a multitude of opportunities for Waymo and its parent. Perhaps the next best-positioned providers of ride-monetization experiences are Apple and Amazon.

Apple needs to move fast in the autonomous vehicle space.

The smartphone will continue being a key tool in our lives, but Apple must play a role in this future mobile platform otherwise it risks massive declines in its enterprise value. Apple may be late to AV game, but there is hope for Apple to win. With its suite of entertainment, content, and home-system products, Apple is one of the best positioned to create ride-monetization solutions. Seamless cross-product integrations and experiences are what Apple does best. The autonomous vehicle will be just another one of the products with which Apple products will need to integrate. If Apple doesn’t win a major stake in the AV future, Google’s Android — through its integrations into the autonomous vehicle ride experience — could create a better-integrated mobile OS and capture not only Apple’s share of that market but also share of adjacent markets in hardware and content.

As it stands now, Apple has made its AV strategy clear, and it will partner with car manufacturers to provide the autonomous hardware/software technology needed to make a car drive from point A to point B. The challenge will be for it to get the technology working fast enough and to set up the manufacturing partnerships before other teams beat them to it, and there aren’t many car manufacturers left who haven’t already partnered with an autonomous vehicle technology team.

Very strong network effects will be at the core of the autonomous vehicle revolution, which will hinge largely on robot taxi platforms instead of direct-to-consumer vehicle sales. The first teams to get a working product to market will have significant advantage over late bloomers, who will struggle to profitably create a product that offers value in excess of the significant switching costs that the would-be customers would incur to leave its existing AV tech provider.