Apple Car: What we know and how we got here
27 'Apple Car' stories
February 2015 - February 2021
Apple has gifted the world with a library of devices that have since become household names, many of which we use daily. There’s the iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, and AirPods; but when you think Apple, Car is not the first word to come to mind. That might soon change as recent news has breathed new life into over ten years of rumors surrounding Apple’s attempt at an electric car.
Here’s everything we know so far, along with the winding road of a backstory that brought us to this point.
Apple’s attempt at an electric car
Tech titan Apple may be stepping a bit out of its comfort zone — okay, way out of its comfort zone — in attempting to create an electric car, but if any company has the resources and cashflow to pull off such a lofty goal, Apple would be near the top of most people’s lists. While recent updates have stirred the speculation pot amongst Apple and EV fans alike, this story remains a work in progress and began a lot longer ago than you might think.
The Apple Car saga dates back around 2007. Apple execs had tossed around the idea of an electric car, but decided instead to focus all resources to the development of a new kind of smart cell phone called the iPhone. That decision seems to have paid off, but not even a year later, Steve Jobs was brainstorming how Apple could develop its own car.
From there, the rumor and innuendo slowly faded into the shadows of Apple’s headliner electronics — products that were significantly smaller and less expensive than a vehicle. That is until 2015, when a report revealed Apple may not have given up on its automotive dream after all.
Apple Autonomous Driving
After suspicious mini vans with cameras on top spotted around San Francisco were linked to leases by Apple, the rumor mill once again opened its doors for business. Reports at the time stated that an Apple employee revealed the tech giant had a project that would “give Tesla a run for its money.” This news came shortly after reports of a war between Apple and Tesla in poaching each other’s employees. Tesla CEO Elon Musk so boldly called Apple a “Tesla graveyard,” due to the complex and painstaking process of developing and manufacturing vehicles he had experienced first hand.
Musk would continue to criticize the tech giant, claiming that Apple’s plans to build an electric car were “an open secret.” He went on to say that it’s hard to keep a project secret when you have to hire 1,000 engineers (some of them former Tesla alum) to do it.
What is especially funny about the past five years of jabs at Apple, is Elon Musk’s recent reveal that he had tried to sell Tesla to Apple for 1/10 of its current value, and CEO Tim Cook wouldn’t even take the meeting.
Now Tesla sits as the world’s most valuable automaker by market cap, while only little crumbs of details begin to surface about Apple’s potential electric car project, nicknamed “Project Titan.”
In early 2016, Apple was reported to have registered a number of different domain names, hinting at the monicker of its vehicle program as “Project Titan.” Furthermore Apple was suspected to be operating Project Titan under a shell company called SixtyEight Research in Sunnyvale California. It had purchased a variety of real estate property in that area, fueling speculation as the area checked a lot of boxes for building a car. This move, along with the hiring of several executives and engineers from rival automakers, supported a rumor that Apple had plans to debut an electric car.
From there the trail went cold once again — or at least went foggy as to the overall goal of the project. Soon thereafter, rumors began that Project Titan had abandoned the development of its own electric car and had instead turned its focus to autonomous driving. That plan would entail Apple developing the self-driving technology while relying on a separate auto manufacturer to build the vessels themselves.
That appeared to be Apple’s course of action in the automative game, until early 2019 when it laid off 200 workers from its autonomous vehicle department. Apple called the move “staff restructuring” and still projected great confidence in its program. Later that year, several more of Apple’s self-driving vehicles were spotted and said to be equipped with new cameras, sensors and LiDAR.
Project Titan today
Now it seems Project Titan has pivoted yet again. According to a report from Reuters in late 2020, Apple plans to continue to develop its autonomous driving technology, with plans to produce its own passenger vehicle to showcase it by 2024. So now we appear to have a recent nod to an Apple Car back in the works, and a new timeline for when the world might catch a glimpse of it. If it wasn’t apparent from this project’s winding history to this point, even Reuters‘ recent news must have an asterisk:
There is still a chance Apple will decide to reduce the scope of its efforts to an autonomous driving system that would be integrated with a car made by a traditional automaker, rather than the iPhone maker selling an Apple-branded car, one of the people added.
Rumored Apple Car features
Since Apple unsurprisingly declined to comment on Reuters’ recent report, it may be a while before the tech world (or the entire world for that matter) learns what Apple truly has in store for its own car. For now, we only know small tidbits that hint at what Apple is developing, and how it might fit into a future EV.
One thing that is most relevant whether Apple manufactures its own vehicle or contracts it out is the focus on autonomous driving. Current rival (but not yet rival?) Tesla has recently made huge strides toward full-self driving capabilities among its fleet of electric vehicles. All signs point to FSD as the future of vehicular travel, whether it becomes better suited for individual owners, or for public transit and ride share options like autonomous taxis.
Apple has not yet shown its hand as to what space it has honed in on, so it could be both… or it could be neither. For now, bet that Apple will continue to focus on sharpening whatever autonomous driving AI tech it does have and decide from there what exactly to do with it.
Apple and EV fans alike can look forward to a new battery design as well… whatever that entails. The Reuters report revealed:
Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could “radically” reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range, according to a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design.
Apple has declined to comment about what this supposed new design will offer, so it’s understandably hard to get excited about.
This past fall, Tesla started manufacturing its own powerful battery cells with hopes of surpassing the current world production capacity of lithium-ion battery cells. It’s tough to guess where Apple is on its battery timeline based off a third person report, but they more than likely will have some catching up to do on Tesla. Elon had some thoughts on the matter:
Rumored partners for an Apple Car
Toward the beginning on 2021, there were plenty of rumor swirling about about whom Apple was speaking to regarding the production of a potential electric vehicle. One legacy automaker that kept popping up was Hyundai.
Apparently, Hyundai and Kia were in close talks about partnering up with Apple to produce a new EV under the Kia brand to be manufactured in the US. Unfortunately those talks apparently fell through after Hyundai admitted it was in talks to reach a deal with Apple.
Conversely, Apple was reportedly quite upset that Hyundai Kia would admit to those talks, of which the automakers then denied ever happened.
Here are some other rumored partnerships that have yet to come to fruition to get you up to speed:
- Apple allegedly held talks with EV startup Canoo about developing its own car
- LG and Magna reportedly ‘very near’ to signing deal for Apple Car production
- Bloomberg: Apple hires BMW veteran who led i3 development to join its electric car team
Release date: When is Apple electric car coming out?
As previously mentioned, Apple reportedly hopes to have some sort of Apple vehicle by 2024. Whether that car is completely designed and manufactured by Apple, or commissioned to another automaker is yet to be confirmed.
To that note, recent rumors have begun to swell further around the potential Apple Car release. An Apple analyst recently called the current market “too bullish” and speculated drivers may not see Apple’s premiere vehicle until 2028.
Ideally, Apple comes forward with its own news and can confirm some of the speculation mentioned above, but for now we all will have to wait until another leaked tidbit steers the masses in a new direction.
We’ve already waited fourteen years for concrete answers, what’s another few?
Keep it locked to 9to5Mac and Electrek and to stay in the loop.