Apple’s expansion from its traditional tech heritage continues with the iPad-maker accelerating its efforts to build an electric car.
The news comes after CEO Tim Cook was in spotted in Leipzig, Germany in July, and reports back then suggested Apple was close to agreeing a partnership with BMW.
Apple was reportedly going to use the BMW i3 vehicle as the basis for its long rumoured ‘Apple Car’.
And now the Apple Car rumours have intensified after the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is building an electric car as a “committed project”, and has set a shipping date of 2019.
Citing people familiar with the matter, the internal project is codenamed Titan, and comes after Apple spent a more than a year investigating the feasibility of an Apple-branded car.
Project leaders have now apparently been given the green light to triple the 600-person team. Indeed, Apple has recently hired a senior engineer from Tesla and another expert from Volkswagen.
And last month, an Apple attorney reportedly met with officials at California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to discuss regulations for self-driving cars.
But it is worth noting here that Apple is not following Google’s lead, at least not yet, in developing a autonomous vehicle. Instead, the first generation of Apple electric cars are expected to need a driver. But it does have long-term plans to make driverless cars.
Google’s self-driving cars in comparison are currently undergoing thorough testing in the US before a public launch soon. Some of Google’s prototype vehicles have been involved in 11 accidents over the last six years of testing – however, all of these were the result of errors by other (human) drivers.
There is no doubt that Apple is a long way behind Google in this regard, but the iPad maker has already reportedly hired experts in driverless cars.
But there are unanswered questions about how Apple will build any electric cars, as it doesn’t tend to actually manufacture its own devices. Most of its iPhones for example are made by a third party, namely Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (otherwise known by its tradename Foxconn).
Car makers on the other hand have their own purpose-built factories and build their own products. Maybe the possible BMW partnership could be a solution here?
Apple also doesn’t have anywhere near the experience that car makers, or indeed Google has, and it also faces years of very tough regulatory testing before its car is allowed into the hands of the general public.
Indeed, the WSJ source’s indicate that there is a great deal scepticism within the Apple Car team that the 2019 target is actually achievable.
Time will tell.
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