According to a new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple is stepping up its car ambitions. The company now aims to launch a fully autonomous vehicle in four years, though that 2025 target date is fluid.
Apple has been hiring engineers and automotive veterans for years under what is widely believed to be called Project Titan. In fact, the project has gone on so long that many of Apple’s original hires have since left the company. Notably, Apple poached Tesla veteran Doug Field for VP of Special Projects, but Field left earlier this year to serve as Chief Officer of Advanced Technology at Ford. Apple then handed the project over to Kevin Lynch, the software engineer responsible for the Apple Watch’s software.
Under this new leadership, the report claims, Apple has settled on the more ambitious of two potential plans: A fully autonomous vehicle, rather than one that focuses only on driving assistance similar to many vehicles sold today. The report says that if Apple can’t get its fully autonomous system done in time for the 2025 date it could either delay the car’s release or sell one with lesser technology.
Apple currently tests autonomous vehicles in California, where it has fewer than 70 autonomous vehicles registered with the DMV, as of 2020. That’s a pretty low number, though Apple could have expanded its testing fleet in 2021.
Bloomberg’s report claims that Apple’s ideal car would have no steering wheel at all, and Apple has explored several different interior layouts and designs. “People familiar with the matter” claim that Apple has reached a major milestone in its self-driving system, completing the core work on the internally-designed processor it intends to ship in the vehicle. The chip is the most sophisticated Apple has yet developed and is expected to run hot and require special cooling as Apple begins using it in retrofit test vehicles.
The project’s timetable is still quite aggressive. It often takes at least two or three years for an established car company to go from a final prototype design it can show the public to mass production and customer deliveries, and Apple is still a long way from a completed design. The company will also need a car production partner, which in itself could prove difficult considering how demanding Apple can be over design details and branding and how difficult it is to mass-produce cars at scale with quality and price that meets Apple’s standards.
The report offers other interesting tidbits, such as the fact that the car is intended to use standard CCS charging systems and that Apple considered taking the “fleet of cars” approach that would see customers simply summoning rides similar to Uber or Lyft, but has instead settled on making cars for individual ownership.
It seems like every time we hear new leaks about Apple’s car, the launch is just three or four years away. Apple’s plans are ambitious and it is clearly serious about this project, having hired top talent for many years, but it never seems to inch closer to the finish line.