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Apple Car: What we know and how we got here

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Apple Car is Apple's long-off EV project that may or may not come to fruition.

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.

Apple Car

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.”

Apple Car

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.

Apple Car

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 Batteries

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 Car battery

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:

Speaking of Mr. Musk, he allegedly wanted to be the CEO of Apple at one point, and current CEO Tim Cook dropped an “F-bomb.” However, Musk later denied all of it, stating that he did request a meeting with Apple regarding the sale of Tesla, but Apple refused to even meet with him.

Most recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to Musk’s previous statements that he wanted to sell Tesla to Apple, but avoided a question about the Apple Car.

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.

Most recently, 9to5Mac reported news out of Korea that Apple had been in talks with manufacturers overseas about helping complete its EV business plan. The report states that Apple believes in cannot complete the project without the help of other manufacturers.

Following that news, 9to5Mac later reported that Apple was once again working alone on developing its flagship electric vehicle to avoid further delays… as if another delay even registers at this point. That report seems a bit sketchy though, so take it with a grain of salt.

Most recently, Apple reportedly suffered a huge setback to Project Titan as Ford poached its special projects VP and former Tesla Exec, Doug Field. Field is now Ford’s chief officer of advanced technology and embedded systems.

Here are some other rumored partnerships that have yet to come to fruition to get you up to speed:

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.

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Former Apple engineer takes plea deal for stealing self-driving trade secrets before working for XPeng

Apple secrets

Former Apple engineer Xiaolang Zhang has pleaded guilty to trade secret theft after being accused of stealing information surrounding Apple’s self-driving technology. Zhang would go on to work for XPeng Motors in China, which has publicly stated it has zero involvement with Apple or Zhang’s case.

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CEO confirms NIO is developing its own phones, names Apple as a potential rival

NIO Apple

Although NIO CEO William Li recently admitted the company is only in the research phase, he has confirmed the Chinese automaker is exploring the production of its own phones. By combining technology with humanity, NIO hopes to provide one holistic system for consumers’ daily lives – much like Apple, who NIO’s CEO sees as a potential rival in the future.

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Ex-Tesla VP turned Apple Car engineer poached by electric plane startup in latest staff loss

Apple has lost a senior member of its autonomous electric car team to a startup focused on electric aviation. Michael Schwekutsch, who left Tesla to join Apple as senior director of engineering for Special Projects Group in 2019, has left the company to work for Archer. This is just the latest in a revolving door situation surrounding Apple’s years-long effort to develop an electric vehicle with self-driving features.

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Tech companies venturing into electric vehicles: Sony, Apple, and more

Apple electric vehicle

Why would companies that manufacture phones, like Sony or Apple, want to get into the electric vehicle business? A better question to ask is, “why wouldn’t they?” While electric vehicles have only just begun to corner a small portion of the automobile market, the upside of prospective growth is tremendous. As vehicles become more reliant on batteries, wiring, and programming in lieu of combustion engines, companies like Sony and Apple feel they have enough knowledge and expertise to take a crack at an electric vehicle of their own.

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An ‘Apple Car’ EV? What we know and how we got here

Apple electric vehicle

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.

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Apple has fully autonomous vehicles on closed routes, but is rebooting its Car project again

Apple’s car plans appear to have hit yet another snag. Tonight the NYTimes is reporting that Apple is again rebooting the now infamous car project.

In a retrenchment of one of its most ambitious initiatives, Apple has shuttered parts of its self-driving car project and laid off dozens of employees, according to three people briefed on the move who were not allowed to speak about it publicly.

2016 has been an abysmal year for Apple’s car project if you believe the various reports from top news agencies. A timeline of Apple Car developments this year:

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Report: Former hardware exec Bob Mansfield now leading Apple’s electric vehicle project

Tim Cook, Steve Jobs, and Bob Mansfield during 2010 iPhone 4 'Antennagate' press conference

Tim Cook, Steve Jobs, and Bob Mansfield during 2010 iPhone 4 ‘Antennagate’ press conference

Apple’s electric vehicle project may be gaining steam thanks to a recent change in staff at the top. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple has recruited Bob Mansfield out of retirement and back to the company to lead the ‘Project Titan’ Apple Car team. Mansfield previously led Apple’s hardware team before moving to a special projects role then an advisor position. Pulling Mansfield out of retirement to work on the Apple Car effort suggests the company strongly intends to bring an electric vehicle to market as the former exec has a reputation for getting the job done.



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Shift your expectations, Apple’s electric vehicle reportedly won’t debut until 2021

A Tesla-style concept of the Apple Car from CarWow

A Tesla-style concept of the Apple Car from CarWow

News around Project Titan, the name given to Apple’s electric vehicle ambitions has been relatively quiet lately despite the anticipated introduction in 2020 inching closer by the day. That may be because the introduction target for Apple Car has moved back one year to 2021. Included in a profile of three brothers who are said to have worked on the Apple Car initiative, The Information includes this detail:



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Report: Apple interested in charging station tech for powering rumored electric vehicle

Apple-Car-1

If Apple is going to produce an electric vehicle like Tesla, then naturally Apple will want to provide customers with a way to recharge away from home without relying on infrastructure from third parties. Reuters now reports that Apple is showing interest in such charging stations as it’s talking to existing companies and hiring engineers with experience in building them.



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Apple seeking 800,000-sq feet of space for car project as team reaches around 600 people – WSJ

A Tesla-style concept of the Apple Car from CarWow

An independent concept of the Apple Car from CarWow

One of the largest property companies in the San Francisco Bay Area has said during an investor call that Apple is seeking around 800,000 square feet of space in the area to expand its car project. The WSJ quotes Hudson Pacific Properties CEO Victor Coleman talking about rising demand for space for car R&D in the area.



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Exclusive: Apple hires former Tesla VP of Vehicle Engineering Chris Porritt for ‘special [car] project’

chirs porritt

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has an affectionate nickname for Apple: The ‘Tesla Graveyard‘. “They have hired people we’ve fired,” Musk said. “We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple”. He made the comment after being asked about the so-called “poaching war” between the automaker and the consumer electronic giant following the start of Apple’s electric car program: ‘Project Titan‘.

We follow who’s coming and who’s going at Tesla pretty closely here at Electrek and it’s clear that the two companies share a lot of former colleagues. Tesla’s senior engineering staff and leadership are full of former Apple directors and VPs, while the Cupertino-based company hired quite a few former Tesla engineers, but rarely any senior leadership… until now.

Electrek, in collaboration with our sister-site 9to5Mac, has exclusively discovered and confirmed respectively that Apple hired former Tesla Vice President of Vehicle Engineering and former Aston Martin Chief Engineer, Chris Porritt, to work on “special projects”, and we know that “special projects” is where Apple’s Titan car project lives.

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German report claims Apple Car could be manufactured in Austria by BMW/Mini maker Magna

Apple-Car-1

German publication Frankfurter Allgemeine is reporting that Apple may be planning to use Austrian-based automotive contract manufacturer Magna to manufacture the Apple Car. The publication also says that Apple has created a ‘secret lab’ in Berlin where it has head-hunted a small cross-disciplinary team of 15-20 upcoming engineers from a number of German car companies.

Magna specialises in making limited-edition models for major car manufacturers, having made the Mini Paceman and Clubman for BMW, as well as the BMW X3. It is expected to make hundreds of thousands of vehicles for BMW over the next 6-7 years …



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Motor Trend teasing speculative piece on Apple Car tomorrow

motortrend apple car

Betteridge’s law of headlines tells us that any headline ending in a question mark can be answered by the word no, and Motor Trend was working hard to prove it today. The auto industry publication had a lot of Apple and EV enthusiasts excited today after teasing a reveal set for tomorrow with several design sketches and pictures posted to their Twitter feed:

[tweet https://twitter.com/MotorTrend/status/720265417252405251 align=’center’]

Is this the Apple Car we’ve all been waiting for? As per Betteridge’s law of headlines, no it’s not.

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Tim Cook says it’ll be ‘Christmas Eve for a while’ when asked about Apple Car

Chevy Volt CarPlay

Tim Cook and company lead Apple’s annual shareholders meeting of 2016 this morning, and as usual there were some interesting questions and answers between those in attendance. Like last year, Apple’s rumored electric vehicle project came up, only the Apple CEO didn’t automatically defer to CarPlay this go around.



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Apple’s electric car initiative hits a speed bump as project leader leaves the company

Ford is expanding its SYNC® connectivity system, adding Apple CarPlay, giving iPhone users access to Maps, Messages, Phone and Music through Siri voice control or touch screen. In North America, Ford is making Apple CarPlay available on all 2017  vehicles equipped with SYNC 3, starting with the all-new Ford Escape. Owners of 2016 vehicles equipped with SYNC 3 will have an opportunity to upgrade later in the year.

According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the Apple veteran employee who has been overseeing the company’s “Project Titan” electric car initiative is leaving the company. The report, citing “people familiar with the matter,” says Steve Zadesky, who has been with Apple for 16 years, is leaving the company for “personal reasons.”



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Tesla CEO Elon Musk says it’s an “open secret” that Apple is developing an electric car, says it should be a “compelling” product

elon-musk1

During an interview at Tesla’s design studio in Los Angeles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk commented on Apple’s rumored electric vehicle program, codenamed “Project Titan“. It was hardly the first time the CEO commented on the project, but it always interesting to hear about the possibility of Apple bringing an electric car to market. This time Musk called the project under-development an “open secret” and agreed that Apple is “serious about it.”


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Former Mercedes R&D chief leaves Apple after just a year to join Volkswagen

CARPLAY-appleAfter just over a year at Apple, former Mercedes R&D chief Johann Jungwirth left the company earlier this month to join Volkswagen AG as the new ‘Head of Digital Transformation’. Even though his official title at Apple was “Director of Mac Systems Engineering”, the executive was rumored to be working on the company’s electric car codenamed “Project Titan” due to his extensive automotive background and the timing of the hire, which was followed by several other engineering hires with experience in the auto industry.

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Apple’s ‘car front’ recently attended a global car body conference

tesla bodyAlthough Apple has yet to confirm the existence of “Project Titan,” it seems like every week brings a new clue that the company is indeed working on an electric car. We learned that Sixty Eight Research, a sketchy firm widely believe to be a front for Apple’s effort in the automotive business, recently attended the 17th Global Car Body Benchmarking Conference in Germany.

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