Steve Jobs wanted to design an iCar, but never found the time

Justin Hyde

As Rene Magritte might say, this is not a car

Motoramic illustration

Even as he fought the cancer that would kill him, Apple co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs was dreaming of new ideas for his company, from televisions to medical devices. A new interview with a close friend reveals one of the ideas Jobs kicked around but never got to -- designing his own automobile. Here's why the iCar simply wasn't meant to be.

Mickey Drexler, the chief executive of J. Crew and a board member at Apple, told Fast Company magazine in an interview last month that Jobs had toyed with the idea of jumping into the automotive business.

"Look at the car industry. It's a tragedy in America. Who is designing the cars?" Drexler said in the interview, as reported by cNet. "Steve's dream before he died was to design an iCar." Drexler added that Jobs iCar "would've been probably 50 percent of the market," but that Jobs never got started on the idea.

Despite its envy of Apple's success, the auto industry never won much attention from Jobs and Apple, mainly because automotive technology often trailed the state of the art by a number of years thanks to longer design times. Apple has paired with a couple of luxury automakers to make its systems more integrated with in-car entertainment, but never cottoned to adapting its software for vehicles as Microsoft and Sony has.

1999 Ford 021C
But Jobs was a car aficionado, what with his license-free Mercedes SL55 AMG, and it's no surprise that he'd occasionally think about what he could bring to the automotive universe. Yet had he pursued the idea any distance, Jobs would have quickly found out about the same challenges all other car designers face, namely the laws and rules about safety, visibility, fuel economy and even what kind of headlights are legal that keep modern cars hewn to an increasingly limited set of designs.

The car used for the illustration above comes as close as any concept has to the minimalism that Jobs favored in Apple products. The 1999 Ford 021C was designed by furniture builder Marc Newsom as an attempt by Ford chief designer J Mays to introduce an outsider's perspective. At the time, critics roundly dismissed the 021C as a flop, and yet looking back on it a decade on, Newsom's design has held up well, standing as daring in its simplicity now as it did then. It will take another generation of geniuses to attempt for driving what Jobs did for computers.

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