Allegations of Apple developing its very own electric motor vehicle branch, akin to Elon Musk’s brainchild Tesla Motors, have been doing the rounds for some time. In fact, Musk himself refers to the project as an “open secret.” Former Senior Vice President of the iPod Tony Fadell even revealed that the late Steve Jobs had already toyed with the concept in 2008.
The city of Sunnyvale, California in July 2014 approved plans for an Apple auto-testing centre. Apple has also met with officials from California’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) to discuss regulations for autonomous (self-driving) cars.
What else do we know, so far, about the rumoured enterprise known as the iCar, Apple Car or Project Titan?
Its release date
The Wall Street Journal claimed that the initial release date was scheduled for 2019. However, due to internal setbacks, it is now widely accepted that the new release date is 2021.
Retrenchment and employment
Fights between managers over where the project was headed started towards the end of 2015. The project was reported to have 1000 members of staff working on it, but staff cuts ensued on a major scale in August and September of 2016, while many members of staff have left by their own accord or have been reassigned. Initial project manager Steve Zadesky left the company in January 2016, and was replaced by Bob Mansfield, who used to be head of hardware development at Apple.
The company has also recruited Porsche’s race program lead Alexander Hitzinger and Tesla’s former Vice President of Vehicle Engineering, Chris Porritt.
Reports of various premises
Reports of project development have been linked to various Apple premises, most notably its shell company EightySix Research, located in Sunnyvale, California. The facility is known as SG5.
There are also reports of secret labs in Berlin, Germany and Vienna, Austria.
Apple has been in negotiations with automotive companies Daimler and BMW for development assistance, who both turned down the tech giant.
A probable view on the issue is that car manufacturers would be hesitant to manufacture vehicles for Apple on what would initially most likely be a small scale.
Apple has always prided itself on pioneering and driving technology forward, and Project Titan is no exception. However, reports speculate that the first line of Apple cars most likely won’t be self-driving.
The company’s recruitment of Dan Dodge, founder of QNX and a leading expert in car software, points to the fat that the company’s focus is more likely on developing car technology rather than building a car from scratch.
Conversely, Apple has reportedly partnered with an unnamed Korean company to develop lithium-ion batteries with a hollow centre that would increase the battery capacity of the iCar.
With strong competition from Tesla Motors, it remains yet to be seen whether Apple will be able to frontier a car that adheres to the criteria of the eco-friendly electric car, while simultaneously driving forward technological boundaries.