Off late, there has been quite a bit of chatter around Apple's self-driving car project. Now, perhaps the most credible piece of information is coming out of Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who is considered to be one of the foremost Apple watchers on the planet. According to a story filed by Gurman, Apple is indeed pursuing a full-fledged self-driving car, and not just a self-driving car platform and it could be 5 years away which is slightly longer than what Reuters reported a couple of weeks ago as it indicated a 2024 launch for the Apple Car.
Gurman states that Apple has launched numerous ex-Tesla employees for the product which is dubbed project titan internally. The self-driving car project is led by Apple's senior vice president of AI strategy and machine learning John Giannandrea.
"The Cupertino, California-based technology giant has a small team of hardware engineers developing drive systems, vehicle interior and external car body designs with the goal of eventually shipping a vehicle. That's a more ambitious goal than in previous years when the project mostly focused on creating an underlying self-driving system. The company has also added more ex-Tesla Inc. executives to the project," states the report.
The report adds that Apple has hired Jonathan Sive, a former vehicle engineer who had stints at BMW, Tesla and Waymo as a senior manager. In 2019, the company had hired Michael Schwekutsch, Tesla's former VP for drive systems and more recently it hired another Tesla VP, Stuart Bowers who led its self-driving technology till 2019.
Apple is reportedly designing a vehicle which is meant for passive travel for passengers, with it having teams design an autonomous car mechanism, and the interiors and exteriors of the vehicle with some unique technologies. The car could be fueled by electric propulsion with a new mono-cell battery architecture which will give the car an incredible range.
But data and manufacturing could be a huge stumbling block. Self-driving systems need troves of data something which only Google's Waymo and Tesla have in abundance. Even though Apple has been testing self-driving cars, it lacks the training data that its rivals have built and then manufacturing and supply of vehicles are wildly different problems than that of consumer electronics.
Elon Musk has famously dubbed Apple as a graveyard for ex-Tesla employees in the past. This report is further rarefied by another CNBC report which stated that Apple has had talks with Hyundai as a potential manufacturing partner for the vehicle. In the wake of the report, Hyundai's stock price increased and it acknowledged the chatter without mentioning Apple directly.
"We've been receiving requests of potential cooperation from diverse companies regarding development of autonomous driving EVs, but no decisions have been made as discussions are in early stage," said Hyundai in a statement.
Hyundai is not the only company Apple has discussed a potential partnership for the Apple Car with. It has also had talks with Canadian manufacturer Magna for the same.
The Apple Car project has been in the works since 2014, but yet any product has been materialised from it. However, a slew of reports and even analyst statements like the one from Ming-Chi Kuo have further confirmed that Apple's ambitions towards the automotive market back on full steam and - even though a timeline is hard to pinpoint, an Apple-branded vehicle could come sometime between 2024-2027.
One of the reasons for the vague timeline is the COVID19 pandemic as per the report by CNBC which notes that most of Apple's engineers are either working from home or working under extreme constraints when in office. The pandemic alone could've pushed back the project by much as 18 months.
Apple CEO Tim Cook in the past has described the self-driving car project as the "mother of all AI" projects. For the first time, the project has been handed over to Apple's AI team.