Apple is developing a fully autonomous car: the steering wheel and pedals are not included
In 2014, Apple began work on "Project Titan," in which more than 1000 automotive experts and engineers develop an electric car at a secret location near the company's Cupertino headquarters. MacRumors.
Over the past few years, the Apple Car project has changed several times due to internal disagreements and management issues, but development is proceeding according to plan. Rumors in 2016 suggested that Apple had shelved plans for a car, but plans are back for 2020.
Apple is said to be working on a fully autonomous self-driving vehicle that won't require user intervention to drive, and goes further than any other car manufacturer to date. It's a very ambitious project, and rumor has it that Apple wants to create a car without a steering wheel or pedals.
Apple's head of AI and machine learning, John Giannandrea, is leading the Apple Car project, and Kevin Lynch, best known for his work on the Apple Watch, has also joined the Car team and is said to be largely responsible for Apple's push for a self-driving car.
The Apple Car has a powerful chip designed by Apple and is the most advanced component Apple has developed to date. It's made from neural processors that can handle the incredible AI workload needed for autonomous vehicles. The chip is expected to be made by TSMC, which is the same company that makes the chips for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Because Apple doesn't have a background in car manufacturing, it will need partners to build the car, and Apple is said to be working to secure partnerships in the automotive industry. It is not yet known who Apple will work with, but negotiations are already underway with Hyundai and other companies.
The Apple Car has been described as "Apple's next star product" as Apple can offer "a better integration of hardware, software and services" than would-be competitors in the automotive market. The Apple Car is likely to be sold as a "very high-end" or "significantly higher" model than a standard electric car.
In June 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke publicly about Apple's work on autonomous driving software in a rare moment of candor. Apple doesn't often share details about what it's working on, but when it comes to automotive software, it's harder to keep quiet.
“We are focused on autonomous systems. This is a core technology that we consider very important. We consider it the mother of all AI projects. This is probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said of Apple's automotive plans.
Since early 2017, Apple has been testing self-driving cars on public roads in California using several 450 Lexus RX2015h SUVs leased from Hertz. SUVs have been spotted on the streets of Cupertino with a plethora of sensors and cameras as Apple prepares its self-driving software, and testing has intensified over the years. Apple has over 60 test vehicles on the road.
Apple aims to have its autonomous car out by 2025, but given the ambitious nature of the project, it may not meet the target date or the project could end up being delayed.
It will be years before the Apple Car is ready to debut, and we'll likely hear a lot more about the project as Apple will need to seek deals with a whole new set of supply chain partners to build the car.
Design and features
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported in late 2021 that Apple has decided to go all-in on its automotive project by developing a fully autonomous vehicle. Apple is "re-focusing" its automotive project on a self-driving vehicle that doesn't require driver interaction, a goal that other car makers like Tesla have yet to achieve.
Apple had two goals. The first development option was associated with limited autonomous driving capabilities, and the second with full autonomous driving functionality, and now Apple has decided to go the second way under the leadership of Kevin Lynch.
Without steering wheel and pedals
Apple wants to develop a car without a steering wheel or pedals, with an interior focused on hands-free driving. Apple discussed a design that would be similar to Canoo's Lifestyle Vehicle.
In this car, drivers sit on the sides rather than the standard front and rear seats. Apple may not be able to remove the steering wheel as it could be useful in an emergency.
Without the steering wheel, there would also be no need for foot pedals to control acceleration and braking, so it's possible that Apple could have omitted them. It's not yet clear if Apple's ambitious design plans will materialize, so it could end up looking more like a traditional car.
Kuo said the original chassis of the Apple car could be based on Hyundai. But it's not yet clear if this will succeed because the company may not be able to establish a partnership with Hyundai.
Apple considered a design with a large iPad-like touchscreen at the center of the car that wouldn't be too dissimilar to the design of Tesla cars. Users will be able to interact with the central panel and it will be integrated with current Apple devices and services.
The processor being developed for the car was created by Apple's engineering team, which has also created processors for the Mac M1, iPhone, and other devices. This chip is the most advanced component developed by Apple internally.
It is said to be made up of neural processors capable of handling the demands of artificial intelligence for autonomous driving. The chip may need a sophisticated internal cooling system. An EETimes analyst suggested that the chip could be called "C1" and could possibly be based on the A12 Bionic processor.
Safety is at the forefront of Apple Car design. Apple wants to build a safer car than companies like Tesla or Waymo, so engineers build in redundant systems and backup systems that work to avoid control failures.
Removing the car's steering wheel may ultimately prove impossible if Apple wants to make the car as safe as possible for drivers.
Charging and battery
The Apple Car may be compatible with the Combined Charging System, a standard used to charge electric vehicles. Companies such as Tesla, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Kia, Hyundai and others support CCS, and adopting the same standard will allow Apple car owners to use charging stations already available.
Apple is developing a new battery design that could "drastically" reduce the cost of batteries and increase vehicle range. Apple is creating a "mono-cell" design that will increase the volume of individual battery cells and free up space inside the battery by removing packages and modules that hold battery materials. This will allow more active material to be used in a smaller package. Battery technology has been described as "the next level" and is like "the first time you saw an iPhone".
Apple has held talks with four suppliers of LiDAR sensors that are smaller, more affordable and easier to mass-produce than existing LiDAR systems, which are too bulky and expensive to use in production vehicles. Apple is aiming for a "revolutionary design" that could potentially be used in a future autonomous vehicle.
The Apple Car is likely to be sold as a "very high-end" or "significantly higher" model than a standard electric car.
As of early 2021, there have been numerous rumors that Apple has entered into talks with well-known auto electronics suppliers about components for a potential future vehicle-related product, and Apple is also reportedly working to set up a manufacturing facility in the United States.
As part of a partnership with Hyundai, Hyundai Mobis was rumored to be in charge of designing and manufacturing some Apple Car components, while Kia, a subsidiary of the Hyundai Group, would provide a production line for Apple Cars in the US. Hyundai executives were reportedly divided on the prospect of a deal with Apple, although Apple planned to invest $3,6 billion in Kia Motors, with Kia going to build the Apple Car at its US plant in Georgia.
Apple is reportedly considering the Hyundai-Kia because the deal will give Apple access to an established automaker capable of building vehicles in North America. Hyundai-Kia was also willing to give Apple control of both the Apple Car software and hardware, with Apple planning to fully use the Apple-badged car rather than the Kia model that included the Apple software.
But Apple has suspended talks and is also discussing Apple Car plans with other car manufacturers.
Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia confirmed in February 2021 that they are not in talks with Apple to collaborate on developing a self-driving electric vehicle, so it looks like talks between Apple and the two car companies may be on hold for now. It's unclear if talks will resume, but some Korean media believe the partnership can last and Apple will do its best.
Apple also allegedly approached Nissan about a potential partnership, but the talks were brief and did not go well due to disagreements over the specifics of the Apple Car. The two companies clashed over the idea of a partnership, and Nissan feared that Apple would downgrade it to a mere hardware supplier. Apple wants full control over the design and software of the Apple Car, and Nissan has said it has no plans to change the way cars are made. Nissan has since confirmed that it is not in talks with Apple.
According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple's initial chassis could be based on Hyundai's E-GMP platform for electric vehicles (BEVs), which uses up to two motors, a five-link rear suspension, an integrated drive axle, battery cells that can provide range over 500 km on a full charge and can be charged up to 80% within 18 minutes using high-speed charging.
The high-performance E-GMP-based model is capable of accelerating from 0 to 96 km/h in less than 3,5 seconds and a top speed of 257 km/h.
Apple may also work with General Motors and European manufacturer PSA for follow-on models or in other markets. Apple's "close collaboration" with manufacturing partners will shorten the development time for Apple vehicles.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman explained that Apple is struggling to find a suitable existing automaker to build its car, and automakers are said to be concerned about the implications of such an agreement on their own brand. As a result, Apple is reportedly looking for contract manufacturers such as Foxconn, which already has a relationship with the company.
Foxconn is the main assembler of the iPhone and also recently introduced an electric vehicle chassis and software platform to help automakers bring models to market faster. Contract manufacturer Magna is ostensibly another possibility, but Apple could also choose to manufacture the car itself.
According to The Korea Times, Apple is "very close" to signing an agreement with LG Magna e-Powertrain. Apple seems to be happy with the smaller production capacity of the LG Magna e-Powertrain, which suggests that the company does not intend to produce the car on the same scale as other major automakers.
Apple's first generation of electric vehicles are reportedly seen as an opportunity to assess the project's competitiveness rather than as a true mainstream vehicle.
If an agreement is reached with the LG Magna e-Powertrain, the two parties will jointly establish the exact production details of Apple's vehicle, with a prototype likely to arrive in early 2024.
In June 2021, Apple entered into "early stage talks" with two Chinese companies that could supply batteries for future Apple Cars. Apple discussed battery options with CATL and BYD, with Apple insisting on building manufacturing facilities in the United States. CATL and BYD refused to create such teams and projects in the US, so negotiations stalled.
Instead, Apple may be planning to work with Taiwanese manufacturers on batteries that could be made in the US. Taiwanese companies Foxconn and Advanced Lithium Electrochemistry are planning to open factories in the United States that could eventually produce Apple Car batteries.
Apple also sent an Apple Car team to South Korea in 2021 to meet with LG, the SK group, and others to discuss possible business opportunities related to Apple Car. Apple continues to work on finding new partners to join its supply chain for the upcoming car. Apple is looking for companies that can make lithium iron phosphate batteries that Korean suppliers are mass-producing.
There have been rumors that Apple will visit Toyota in September as negotiations to find and secure suppliers continue.
An Apple parts manager in 2020 allegedly told Japanese car supplier Sanden that Apple was working on an electric vehicle and provided Sanden with electric vehicle schematics and air conditioning parts. Sanden makes air conditioning parts for cars and the company was indeed in talks with Apple, but Sanden ran into financial trouble due to the ongoing pandemic and Apple Car talks stalled.
Apple representatives also visited South Korea last year to meet with suppliers, and Apple is reportedly looking for a number of automotive electronic component manufacturers with mass production experience to supply Apple Car components.
Korean companies are racing to secure a place in Apple's supply chain, and Apple has apparently already offered equity investments in at least one local parts maker in exchange for doubling production capacity.
The history of the development of Apple cars
Apple's interest in cars predates the original iPhone, and Apple executives have been discussing building a car since before the device's launch. Steve Jobs thought about developing an Apple car.
In January 2019, Apple laid off the Project Titan team and laid off over 200 employees. In 2020, Bob Mansfield, who led the project since 2016, retired and John Giannandrea took over the car project. Apple's Kevin Lynch also works on the Apple Car team in addition to working on the Apple Watch.
Doug Field, a former Tesla executive who along with John Giannandrea and Kevin Lynch led the Apple Car project, left the company in September. It's not clear how this could affect the development of the Apple Car, but it could be a major setback since he was VP of Special Projects. Lynch took over Field's duties, designing the Apple Car.
In June 2019, Apple acquired Drive.ai, a self-driving car startup that developed a self-driving shuttle service. Apple has hired several people from Drive.ai to design and design products for its self-driving car project.
Apple was in talks with electric car maker Canoo in early 2020, but negotiations ultimately didn't move forward. Apple and Canoo discussed several options from investment to acquisition as part of Apple's efforts to advance its electric vehicle project.
Canoo has developed a scalable, modular electric vehicle platform that Apple is interested in. Canoo hoped to get investment from Apple, but negotiations deteriorated and Canoo eventually merged with Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp. IV. Canoo plans to build commercial electric vehicles such as delivery vans as well as a consumer-facing van.
Apple Automotive Leadership
The Apple Car project has gone through several leadership changes and hundreds of employees have been laid off over the course of development, but is now led by John Giannandrea, Apple's head of artificial intelligence and machine learning, who took over from Bob Mansfield after Mansfield retired in 2020.
Kevin Lynch, best known for leading the development of the Apple Watch, joined Apple's autonomous vehicle team to oversee the development of the Apple Car in addition to working on the Apple Watch, so Apple has some of the best people designing the vehicle. Lynch will replace Doug Field, a former Tesla executive who left the company in September 2021.
Apple started with a team of around 200 employees working on the Apple Car but was said to be aiming to get over 1000 employees. Since the beginning of 2015, Apple has been recruiting employees from the automotive industry and other areas related to vehicles, such as researchers specializing in battery technology and autonomous systems.
Over the years, and thanks to changes in the Apple Car project, Apple has hired hundreds of high-level employees with experience in cars and autonomous systems, poaching them from a wide range of automotive companies. Some Apple team members have previously worked at large companies such as Tesla, Ford, and GM, while others have been hired from smaller companies such as Volvo, Karma Automotive, Daimler, General Motors, A123 Systems, MIT Motorsports, Ogin, Autoliv, Concept Systems, General Dynamics.
Among the senior Apple employees hired by Tesla are former mechanical engineering manager David Nelson, former senior powertrain test engineer John Ireland, former Tesla chief recruiter Lauren Siminera, who may be working on recruiting additional employees for an automotive project, and former vice president Tesla Chris Porritt, who may have joined Apple to play a key role in the development of the Apple Car.
Porritt has many years of experience in the European automotive industry, having worked for companies such as Land Rover and Aston Martin before joining Tesla.
Apple's automotive campus is rumored to be located in Sunnyvale, California, just minutes from the company's main 1 Infinite Loop Campus in Cupertino.
Apple officially leases several high-profile buildings in Sunnyvale, but is also said to operate through the shell company SixtyEight Research. SixtyEight Research claims to be doing market research but has received city permits to build an "auto repair yard" and a "repair garage."
It is unknown if the rumors that the car project is located in Sunnyvale are true, but based on past information, the development of the car (or car software) is indeed taking place at a secret location off the company's main campus. Apple has been buying up a lot of real estate in the Sunnyvale area, including an industrial building that was once a Pepsi bottling plant.
Some of the buildings potentially linked to Apple's car project have secret internal names referring to Greek mythological figures such as Zeus, Rhea, and Athena, all of whom are indirectly related to the "titans" in Greek mythology, possibly hinting at that the buildings are related to the project «Project Titan.
The building plans that Apple has filed with city officials suggest the company's Sunnyvale facility, codenamed "Rhea," is being used for something automotive-related, with references to automotive terms such as "lube bay," "balancing machine," "Tire changer".
Rumor has it that Apple runs a secret car research and development lab in Berlin. The facility reportedly employs between 15 and 20 men and women from the German automotive industry, all with experience in engineering, software, hardware and sales. Laboratory workers are called "progressive thinkers" in their fields.
In late 2018, Apple leased a large manufacturing facility in Milpitas, California. It's not yet clear what Apple plans to use the space for, but it could potentially be related to a car project.
Apple's self-driving car program is heavily focused on safety, and Apple's protocols for vehicles are outlined in a white paper released by Apple.
The deployed vehicle undergoes "rigorous verification testing" using simulations and closed ranges, and test drivers driving the vehicles must complete several training courses. Apple also has safety protocols in place that require the driver to take control when needed, and for the car to hand over control to the driver when he encounters situations he can't handle.
Auto-linked Apple domains
In December 2015, Apple registered three auto-related top-level domain names, including apple.car, apple.cars, and apple.auto. While these three domains could potentially be associated with CarPlay, it's also possible that Apple retained the domains for future use with an electric vehicle or autonomous car system.
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The domains are not currently used by Apple and do not contain any information.
Reuters believes that Apple plans to start production of the car in 2024, but Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that this will not happen until 2025-2027 before the Apple Car is ready for launch. Kuo said he wouldn't be surprised if the launch schedule was extended to 2028 or beyond.
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