Do you remember all the talk of an Apple Car? In 2014 the technology giants began work on Project Titan, a programme to do with the development of a modern electric car. It was a dangerous project with serious weight behind it – there was reportedly as many as 1000 Apple staff involved in the project at various levels. But then it all went quiet. What happened?
Story of the Apple Car
Apple was interested in developing a car long before the iPhone became a reality. The car plans were temporarily abandoned in 2008 as the iPhone was designed, the company believes that to be a form of technology that was more marketable at the time. They were probably right based on their market share right now. Once the iPhone was proving to be incredibly profitable, it left Apple free to explore other avenues, and the Apple Car began to be seriously considered once more.
Buy 2015 the rumor mill was in full effect, and a vehicle registered to Apple with multiple cameras mounted on it was spotted on the streets of California. This led to rumors of a project similar to that of Google with Street View. Apple admitted that this was part of a mapping project, but they remained guarded when it came to any further information.
Shortly after the potting of this vehicle, a number of employees at Tesla began to leave and join Apple to work on an exciting project which was still very much under wraps. But it’s difficult to keep secrets in business in the modern era efficiently, and it wasn’t long before the Financial Times found out that Apple was suddenly appointing some car design and technology experts and it could only mean one thing: the Apple Car was soon going to become a reality. It wasn’t confirmed, but all the signs were there. The Wall Street Journal said that they had confirmation that this was what was happening. Exciting times indeed.
The Apple Car by mid-2015 was said to be an electric vehicle resembling a small van, and among the companies, Apple met with were Magna Steyr who make relatively high-end cars, but there was no concrete plan in place just yet. BMW and Daimler were also in the mix to be involved.
From Apple’s standpoint, they wanted full control over the technology in the vehicles and ownership of all rights to the cars which proved a massive stumbling block for potential manufacturers. The number of employees working on the Apple Car project was swelling, and a change of project leader in early 2016 didn’t seem to slow the project down any. Apple met with the DMV to discuss laws surrounding the kind of vehicle they hoped to produce soon. Then out of nowhere, it was as if they’d changed paths completely.
The new Apple Car plan
Later in 2016, the focus from a technology-based car remained, but now Apple was interested in autonomous or driverless cars. And the attention was directed towards the technology used in such vehicles rather than the actual cars themselves. There were wholesale layoffs of employees, and it seemed that the whole Apple Car idea was dead in the water.
Other companies were already developing driverless cars, and it was thought that Apple was interested in a massive piece of a potentially very lucrative pie. But while the likes of Google were trialing such vehicles often with disastrous consequences, Apple remained tight-lipped about their plans. Reports began to circulate that Apple was nearly there regarding technological development for their autonomous vehicles, although whether they intended to partner with a manufacturer or somehow build their real cars remained a mystery.
And now it has been revealed that Apple has given the team until the end of 2017 to make something happen with the projector at the very least prove that it will be feasible. Could we see some form of Apple Car on the streets by early 2018 then? Maybe not.
As well as Apple and Google there are some other companies very interested in producing autonomous vehicles and being the first to do so. Tesla seemed to be leading the way, but following a crash in Beijing looked like they were perhaps further away from completion than previously thought. Ford has also revealed they are working on driverless technology and hope to have a vehicle on the market by 2021.
But are driverless cars feasible? The main problem is that all current vehicle and road legislation doesn’t take this into account, so it is currently a legal grey area as to whether they could be driven on public highways. With 2021 drawing ever closer legislation would need to be in place or all these companies will have invested all their time and money for nothing.
There are also connectivity problems. A driverless vehicle will rely heavily on internet and some form of satnav to guide it. What happens in internet blackspots? Will it be possible to pre-programme a route or would the car merely stop moving? These are issues that developers will need to iron out before any potential launch date.
Apple’s other vehicle interests
In 2016 Apple invested a vast $1 billion in Did Chuxing. This might not be a name you’re familiar with, but they operated a ride-hailing service in China very similar to Uber. So similar were they to Uber in fact that the companies merged which made Apple’s investment seem very wise indeed. Uber is also thought to be interested in driverless vehicles, and it could be a potentially lucrative partnership. And Apple has also registered some interesting domain names. Apple.car, apple.cars, and apple.auto are all owned by the company although none of them contain information.
If Apple eventually does launch any version of an Apple Car you know it will be good, but for now, we can only speculate on how it will look or operate, and we’ll have to wait and see.