It should come as no surprise that Apple is one of the world’s largest and most lucrative companies. They’ve created some of the most streamlined and advanced devices and software on the market. But there’s one area that many believe Apple intends to enter that has left the tech industries excited and the automobile industries nervous. Is Apple really building a car?
Background: Project Titan
In 2014, Apple began working on “Project Titan,” hiring over 1,000 employees to develop an autonomous electric vehicle. Years passed as very little information was made public on the progress of the project. Then, in 2017, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook, told Bloomberg.com that, “We’re focusing on autonomous systems. It’s a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”
Soon, Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc, returned to Apple to oversee the project. But just as the project was rumored to begin, it was put on the shelf, citing leadership issues and internal strife as the leading causes. With hundreds of employees laid off, it seemed like the end of Project Titan and the Apple car.
Analysis: We Know Almost Nothing About The Apple Car
According to a report from Reuters, “Apple Inc. is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology.” But many in the automotive industry believe this to be nothing but rumor and speculation. In an interview with Forbes, Jessica Caldwell, an executive director at Edmunds, stated, “The rumored Apple project is a prime example of how the future of the auto industry is less clear than ever. We are seeing startups, as well as established non-auto companies, investing to get a chunk of the massive transportation sector that is evolving due to electrification and autonomous technology.”
Outlook: Is There Really an Apple Car?
If Apple is moving forward with Project Titan and does so successfully, it would challenge Elon Musk’s Tesla’s dominance in the EV car market. While many companies produce electric cars, Tesla’s success stems from creating a cult-like brand connected to a product. Driving is Tesla is a lifestyle choice, and not just owning a car. Apple is no stranger to producing a similar experience. Apple products are addictive, and the company is known for creating technological ecosystems and not just gadgets.
Apple can learn from Musk’s mistakes in promising things he couldn’t deliver. In fact, in 2016, Tesla began charging thousands of dollars for a “full self-driving” software package that didn’t provide any functionality and still doesn’t today.
So is there really an Apple car being developed? While there was some speculation that Hyundai-Kia was tapped to build the mythical vehicles, that deal seems to be on the rocks. If the South Korean car company is producing physical cars, Apple can focus on its AI technology, software, and batteries to implement into its vehicles.
While some think that an Apple car could be a Tesla killer, Apple remains silent on its highly secretive Project Titan. The Apple car may be nothing more than a myth. Or, the Apple car may still be a shelved product waiting for its time to strike. Yet, even the whisper of its possibility may pressure Tesla and many other automotive companies to step up and continue their development of electric vehicles, moving us away from fossil fuels and into a new age of sustainable transportation.