The Apple Car: A Bridge Too Far?

The seminal 1977 war film A Bridge Too Far, directed by Richard Attenborough and based on the 1974 book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan, is a non-fiction account of the ill-fated late-1944 (World War II) Operation Market Garden conducted by a consortium of American, British, and Polish troops against the Germans. Envisioned with the goal of ending the war by Christmas of that same year, it was the most massive airborne assault ever attempted to date, intended to leap dozens of miles beyond the then-front line and seize a series of roads and bridges deep in The Netherlands enemy territory until the infantry could follow and secure them.

Top Allied commanders were motivated to act in such a chancy manner by the slow forward land assault progress being made due to overextended supply lines, by the desire to get to Berlin ahead of the Russians simultaneously advancing from the East (along with contending egos as to which Allied country's commander would lead the charge from the West), and by their own over-confidence fueled by a recent string of successes, all coupled with poor intelligence of the Germans' lingering capabilities (and arrogant dismissal of what troubling reports they were receiving).

The outcome, as the title suggests, was predictable, at least in retrospect. Concerns raised by lower-level officers (and the troops below them) were either not elevated or were ignored by top brass. Then-seeming unimportant implementation details (such as shortwave radios with insufficient broadcast range) ended up being showstoppers. The Allied attack was decisively repulsed at Arnhem, site of the definitive Rhine river bridge that Wikipedia describes as being "the last means of escape for the German forces in The Netherlands and an excellent route to Germany for Allied forces." More than 15,000 Allied troops were killed, with even more captured. And the War would linger for nearly another year.

I've been thinking a lot about A Bridge Too Far (which I highly recommend, by the way, among other reasons due to its outstanding cast), as I read the ongoing and escalating rumors coming out of Cupertino, Calif., regarding Apple's supposed "Titan" electric (and likely at least semi-autonomous) car project. Just in recent days, for example, we've heard that the company supposedly brought hardware wizard Bob Mansfield out of semi-retirement to take charge of the development team, along with learning about a patent filing initially linked to the company and referring to a technique for connecting the two halves of an articulated vehicle, such as a mass transit bus.

The patent revelation has subsequently been chalked up to a typographical error, but it wouldn't have completely surprised me to learn that Apple was also looking at things other than conventional car form factors.

Tesla, for example, is doing the same thing. More generally, I'm a big fan of the "where there's smoke there's (at least a little bit of) fire" hypothesis, so I'm pretty sure the "whether or not" conjecture regarding Apple's electric car aspirations has already been answered (Apple executives' "wink wink nudge nudge know-what-I-mean say-no-more" reactions to press and analyst

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