What’s happening with Apple’s autonomous electric car?

Project Titan: What's happening with Apple's autonomous electric car? photo 3

© Provided by Pocket-lint
Project Titan: What’s happening with Apple’s autonomous electric car? photo 3

(Pocket-lint) – Apple is trying to revolutionise the car, or at least that’s what all the leaks and rumours indicate. Here’s what you need to know.

Table of Contents

Is Apple really developing a car?

  • Yes, it’s been exploring the idea since 2014
  • The project, Titan, has morphed over the years
  • Currently, Apple is focusing on an autonomous car

Several reports since at least 2014 have claimed that Apple is not only poaching former Tesla employees and hiring automotive experts but has also quietly started up a research lab filled with hundreds of Apple employees all working on a secretive project codenamed Titan. What’s more, the noise around the project has been getting louder. It’s now believed that Project Titan will result in an autonomous electric vehicle, often referred to as Apple Car.  

The most recent reports suggest Apple is accelerating its plans to develop an electric car with full self-driving capabilities – even going so far as trying to solve various challenges that have plagued the auto industry. In fact, over the past seven, Apple’s car team has explored creating a car with full self-driving ability that doesn’t require human intervention. The effort’s newest leader, Apple Watch software executive Kevin Lynch, wants to push forward with this approach. 

Apple’s engineers are now concentrating on a fully self-driving system. But this is just the latest shift for Project Titan, which is cursed, if you will, thanks to several strategy changes and leadership shuffles since the very beginning. Just this September, the former head of the project, Doug Field, reportedly left for a job at Ford. Lynch is his replacement, and he’s going after the white whale of the auto industry: Truly autonomous capabilities. 

It’s worth noting Tesla has been attempting to offer fully self-driving cars, but it’s years away from actually delivering on that promise. Alphabet’s Waymo, too, has been exploring self-driving capabilities. Uber was dabbling in this space as well, but it agreed to sell off its autonomous-driving division last year.

Will Apple’s car definitely be electric?

  • Apple’s car has been rumoured to be an EV
  • It will be compatible with the CCS standard
  • Apple has a special interest in battery tech

Yes. All signs point to Apple’s car being fully electric.

Most recently, Apple is thought to have discussed its car being compatible with the combined charging system standard, so it would work at most charging stations. It’s also made several hires and, according to several reports, has spent a lot of time and resources researching batteries and battery technology


Project Titan: What's happening with Apple's autonomous electric car? photo 2

© Provided by Pocket-lint
Project Titan: What’s happening with Apple’s autonomous electric car? photo 2

What will Apple’s car look like?

  • It might not have a steering wheel or pedals
  • It could have a roomy interior like Canoo’s
  • Thought to include an iPad-like touch screen

There have been many artists’ interpretations of what a potential “Apple Car” could look like, some of which were based on actual reporting. It’s changed over the years, too. But it’s hard to say, for certain, what Apple is designing for a car. Reportedly, its ideal car will be electric and fully autonomous, and, crucially, it’d have no steering wheel or pedals. Apple has reportedly discussed equipping the car with an emergency takeover mode, however.

Apple’s car would also have a spacious, social interior – one very similar to the Lifestyle Vehicle from Canoo, a startup in the EV industry. In that car, passengers sit along the sides and face each other like in a limousine. Apple is also rumoured to be including a large iPad-like touch screen for the infotainment center, and it’d, of course, tie the car to its existing services. Finally, the latest reports suggest Apple’s car will feature a special processor. 

In fact, the company is said to have reached a key milestone in developing the car’s processor and has even completed much of the work.

This car chip, which was designed by Apple’s silicon engineering group, has been described as the most advanced component that Apple has ever developed internally. It is supposedly made up of neural processors that can handle the artificial intelligence needed for autonomous driving. Apple likely wants to ship its first-generation car with this chip and is currently expected to start using the new processor in road tests in California soon.

Perhaps it will test the chip on the fleet of 69 Lexus SUVs that it’s been using in self-driving experiments.

Is Apple building its own car?

  • The company will likely rely on partnerships
  • It might be built in the US
  • Expect strong safeguards

Apple reportedly hopes to develop a vehicle for consumers, but it might rely on partnerships, perhaps even multiple manufacturers, with building the actual vehicle. It’s thought to have considered building it in the US, too. According to the most recent reports, Apple is also looking to build in stronger safeguards than what’s available from Tesla and Waymo. It’s also actively looking to hire engineers to test and develop safety functions.

When will Apple’s car be available?

  • Could debut by 2025
  • The hope is for it to be fully autonomous
  • Apple might introduce a car with lesser tech

Currently, reports say Apple is internally targeting a launch of its self-driving electric car in four years. Other reports have said five to seven years. That means, at the earliest, Apple should debut its car in 2025. That all depends on the company’s ability to finish work on a fully self-driving system.

Ultimately, Apple could either delay a release or perhaps even sell a car that doesn’t have all the self-driving features it had initially envisioned.  But, as mentioned earlier, Project Titan has suffered from many development challenges and leadership struggles over its seven-year history.

Lynch, for instance, is now the fifth executive to take charge of the effort.

Under his stewardship, Apple seems keener than ever to release an autonomous EV. If it actually does remains to be seen. 


Project Titan: What's happening with Apple's autonomous electric car? photo 1

© Provided by Pocket-lint
Project Titan: What’s happening with Apple’s autonomous electric car? photo 1

What’s the latest news about Apple’s car?

Here is a full timeline of the most notable news reports and leaks concerning Apple’s rumoured autonomous EV:

19 November 2021 – Apple’s autonomous electric car could debut in 2025 with no steering wheel

Apple has reportedly done “much of the core work” needed on a new processor that will power a future autonomous electric car.

11 November 2021 – Is this what the Apple Car will look like?

The model is based on official Apple patents and the concept details both the exterior and interior of the car.

13 August 2021 – Apple executives are in Korea negotiating Apple Car production plans

Industry sources have said that executives from Apple have been in Korea recently to negotiate plans for electric car component manufacturing. 

14 April 2021 – Apple Car: Will Apple actually announce a fully-autonomous EV soon?

No, Apple isn’t making an electric car. Instead, Project Titan is an effort to develop autonomous driving systems.

13 April 2021 – LG Magna e-Powertain could power the Apple car

Sources in Korea suggest that LG Electronics and Magna International could sign a contract that will see involvement in early Apple Car models.

26 February 2021 – Kia talks maybe not over?

Korean publication ChosunBiz suggests that there are still ongoing negotiations between Kia and Apple and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed last year. The website quotes a source saying the negotiations are “experiencing difficulties” but are not over. 

22 February 2021 – Apple in talks with multiple suppliers regarding lidar sensors

According to sources of Bloomberg, Apple is in talks with a number of different suppliers over the use of lidar sensors in its autonomous vehicle. These sensors essentially allow the car to “see”, though discussions appear to be at an early stage.

8 February 2021 – Hyundai source says that Apple Car discussions have stopped

A Bloomberg source claims the Hyundai-Apple talks actually stopped several weeks ago and that Apple has been in discussions with other vehicle manufacturers. Of course, there could be an element of it being a deliberate negotiating tactic.

5 February 2021 – Apple said to be in talks with numerous Japanese automakers

A report from Nikkai, via AppleInsider, suggests that Apple hasn’t settled on Hyundai-Kia for its Project Titan ambitions, but is in negotiation with up to six Japanese firms too. The report says that these companies are wary of becoming a subcontracter to Apple.

4 February 2021 – Latest rumours say Apple EV will be fully autonomous and built by Kia in Georgia

CNBC reports that a $3.6 billion deal now seems close between Apple and Hyundai to build a fully autonomous EV at Kia’s plant in Georgia. The vehicle will use Hyundai’s new E-GMP platform. Hyundai has already said 23 new models will be based on the platform over the coming years.

According to a CNBC source “the first Apple Cars will not be designed to have a driver”. They continued: “These will be autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile.” So we could be talking delivery vehicles here. 

29 January 2021 – Hyundai expresses reservations

A Hyundai executive – quoted by Reuters –  expresses a further opinion on the status of talks between the two companies, saying “We are agonising over how to do it, whether it is good to do it or not. We are not a company which manufactures cars for others. It is not like working with Apple would always produce great results.” But there was no official update during the company’s earnings call. 

23 January 2021 – Apple posts 300 job listings

Analytics firm GlobalData spotted that Apple posted over 300 jobs in 2020, including for “key roles that indicate working on battery power management, road safety, and car experience”. These were apparently all for new hires within Apple’s Special Project Group, or SPG, a special unit at the Cupertino-baed company that only works on scalable, innovative projects.

8 January 2021 – Is Apple developing a self-driving electric car with Hyundai?

(Pocket-lint) – Apple is reportedly in talks with Hyundai to produce an autonomous electric vehicle. The Korea Economic Daily first reported their “early stage” discussions on Thursday. Hyundai later confirmed the development to Bloomberg, saying: “Apple and Hyundai are in discussion, but as it is at early stage, nothing has been decided.” But then Hyundai further clarified the statement, telling CNBC: “We understand Apple is in discussion with a variety of global automakers, including Hyundai Motor.”

22 December 2020 – Reuters reports Apple will make a passenger car by 2024 with ‘next-level’ battery tech

Reuters spoke to two people close to Project Titan and reports that the Apple car will be in production by 2024 with a “next level” battery technology with a reduced cost and increased range. For the avoidance of doubt, the sources say the vehicle will be a passenger car initially for the mass market. 

09 December 2020 – Reports of Apple establishing car supply chain surf

A report from Digitimes suggests that Apple has established a car factory and is establishing suppliers. There’s the suggestion that TSMC will be involved for self-driving car chips. The component industry, reportedly, says that the Apple car will be similar to Tesla and that the timeline would suggest a 2024-25 launch.

08 December 2020 – Car unit now lead by AI chief

A report from Bloomberg details that the self-driving car unit has moved under the control of John Giannandrea, Apple’s artificial intelligence executive.

21 May 2020 – Apple will look to control every aspect of its autonomous car tech

According to a Morgan Stanley research note Apple will “need to control the design, the guts and the experiences and services on top of the platform.” So does that mean it’ll develop a whole vehicle itself? Probably not, but the potential is there. 

21 April 2020 – Apple files a patent for window-tinting tech

Maybe relevant, maybe not, but Apple has filed a patent for adjusting the tint of windows in “vehicles and buildings” using several layers within the glass. Apple makes several references to vehicles in the patent filing. 

26 June 2019 –  Apple is still working on self-driving tech

Apple bought Drive.ai, a startup that’s been running pilot programs of autonomous vehicles in Texas. While Drive.ai ceased its own operations, Apple now has Drive.ai’s fleet of autonomous cars and other assets including engineers. 

10 August 2018 – Former Tesla lead engineer now works on Project Titan

The re-employment of Tesla’s Doug Field could mean Apple Car plans are very much back on the front burner. Field left Apple in 2013, to work with Tesla and was in charge of Model 3 production at the electric car firm.

15 June 2018 – Apple hires Waymo engineer

Apple has hired a high-profile senior engineer of Google/Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving vehicle effort in a move that signals Apple’s development of autonomous efforts. 

16 May 2018 – Apple has 62 self-driving vehicles in California

In May 2018 Apple had 62 vehicles and 87 drivers available to test autonomous vehicles, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) said in response to questions from macReports. The move follows on from other reports earlier in the year.

15 November 2017 – Apple says self-driving car software improves obstacle detection

Apple researchers were able to achieve “highly encouraging results” spotting pedestrians and cyclists with LiDAR thanks to new software. See also New Apple SUVs with LIDAR spotted

12 June 2017 – Apple working with Hertz on testing

Apple is working with Hertz on testing and managing its self-drive test fleet – Apple reportedly hired Lexus SUVs from Hertz fleet management. 

5 June 2017 – Tim Cook says Apple is focused on autonomous driving systems

Tim Cook says  Apple is focused on autonomous driving systems in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in his most detailed comments yet on Apple’s automotive plans. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

4 November 2015 – Fadell talks about Apple’s car approach

Tony Fadell, who is known as the “father of the iPod”, appeared on Bloomberg TV to discuss his time at Apple. During the interview, he revealed that he spoke with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2008 about how Apple could approach a car project.

But Apple didn’t have enough resources for such a project then. Fadell explained: “We had a couple walks, and this was in 2008, about if we were to build a car, what would we build? […] We would be looking at what would a dashboard be, what would seat be, how would you fuel it or power it, but at the end it was always like ‘We are so busy, we are so constraint’. You know. It would be great to do it, but we can’t.”

19 October 2015 – Startup blames Apple for poaching talent

Electric motorcycle startup Mission Motors ceased operations, and it blamed Apple for grabbing up its key talent, according to Reuters. Apple poached six engineers from the San Francisco-based startup but never attempted to acquire Mission Motors outright. The engineers reportedly specialised in electric drive systems and battery algorithms for charging and cooling.

21 September 2015 – Beefing up the team

Apple reportedly spent more than a year investigating whether an Apple Car project was even feasible. The company must’ve thought it was worth exploring some
more, because, according to The Wall Street Journal, project leaders tripled the so-called Apple Car team to 600-plus people. Apple was thought to be ramping up efforts to build an electric car and even set a target ship date for 2019.

18 September 2015 – Will Apple test in California?

According to The Guardian, Apple had a meeting with California autonomous driving officials in August 2015. This was thought to have followed an enquiry into acquiring a disused military base with lots of roads for autonomous car testing. Apple also hired an engineering program manager – something that usually happens at the company when a project is ready to leave the lab.

14 August 2015 – Apple seeks locations for testing

Apple was looking for locations to test a self-driving car, according to The Guardian, which said it learned this information through a public records act request. In one of the emails obtained through the request, an Apple engineer asked GoMentum, a 5,000-acre former naval base, for “an understanding of timing and availability for the space.” Apple also asked for a layout/photos of the grounds.

20 July 2015 – Apple recruits industry experts

Apple recruited automotive technology and vehicle design experts – including vehicle dynamics engineers – to work at its new “top-secret research lab”, according to The Financial Times. Then, The Wall Street Journal claimed Apple hired Doug Betts, who once served as the senior vice president of the Chrysler Group, where he was the global head of operations leading product service and quality.

Additionally, Apple had hired former Tesla vice president of vehicle engineering Chris Porritt, who used to be Aston Martin’s chief engineer. Apple hired also Paul Furgale, the deputy director of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s Autonomous Systems Lab. Apple was seeking even more experts with robotics and machine experience, too, with Furgale supposedly recruiting both students and researchers

19 February 2015 – Did Apple meet BMW?

In another report from Reuters, it was revealed that electric-car battery maker A123 Systems was suing Apple for aggressively poaching its top engineers since June 2014. These engineers were apparently helping Apple build out a large-scale battery division. Manger Magazine even reported that Apple had met with BMW because it wanted to use the i3 vehicle as the basis of its own electric car.

13 February 2015 – Recruits to work in secret lab

The Financial Times added to the choir by reporting that a team of Apple employees were researching automotive products in a new research lab at a top-secret location near Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino. The team was being led by experienced managers from Apple’s iPhone unit. The Wall Street Journal weighed in on all the speculation, specifically adding that Apple was making an electric vehicle codenamed Titan.

9 February 2015 – Apple employee says it will give Tesla ‘a run for its money’

An unnamed Apple employee told Business Insider that Apple was working on something that will “give Tesla a run for its money.” Apple and Tesla were also trying to recruit top-level employees from each other, according to Bloomberg Business, though, at the time, Tesla was winning the battle, by reportedly nabbing at least 150 former Apple employees. Musk was also publicly bragging about it.