It’s no secret that Apple have been working on a car for some time now but there have been so few confirmations and many more contradictions from the tech giant that it’s hard to know what is actually going on. Let’s try and find out what is actually going on with the Apple Car.
To start off, we know that Apple started on the car in 2014 dubbing the effort as ‘Project Titan.’ They brought on hundreds of car experts and engineers to develop an electric car in what was likely a response to the success of Tesla. An Apple employee anonymously confirmed this when they told Business Insider that the company was working on something that ‘will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.’
Not much seemed to get done during this time. There was plenty of internal strife including leadership issues and changes. This led to rumours being circulated that the car was in fact cancelled in 2016.
Leadership problems have been a recurring issue for the project. In 2016, Steve Zadesky announced he would be leaving the project and former Apple executive Bob Mansfield would take his place. Mansfield retired in 2012 but returned to Apple for this extremely exciting car project.
During this period, it was a constant debate about what ‘Project Titan’ was actually going to be. Would it be a complete Apple branded car? Or would it be scaled back to be a project focused on self-driving technology? When Mansfield took over the project dozens of employees were sacked as the project seemed to be shifting towards autonomous driving. The evidence given to back this up has been sketchy as the primary evidence for this is that the employees who were sacked have since gone to work on other self-driving start-ups. This seems more likely to suggest the opposite, that Apple were working on autonomous driving but had switched back to car development in 2016.
However, Apple did receive permits from the California DMV to test self-driving cars on public roads which does suggest a focus on self-driving tech. But this didn’t necessarily mean that they were focusing on tech exclusively. Tesla’s vehicles have self-driving features built into the car itself. If Apple are hoping to compete with Tesla, this feature couldn’t be missing from their own product. However, the popular opinion at the time was that Apple had abandoned the idea of their own branded car.
It wasn’t until 2018 when the reliable Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, who works for TF International Securities, stated that Apple was indeed still working on the Apple Car and had even given estimated dates for its release (2023-2025).
In January 2019, Apple moved 200 of their employees from ‘Project Titan’ to other projects. Apple made a statement saying that the project was still ongoing and that resources were needed elsewhere for their 2019 release slate, as reported by CNBC. Internally, employees stated that this was no surprise as the team was being restructured after Doug Field joined to help lead the project with Bob Mansfield. Field was a former Tesla engineer, leading further credence to the fact that Apple were not focused solely on self-driving technology.
In 2020, Mansfield returned to retirement and left the leadership of ‘Project Titan’ to John Giannandrea. This handing over of the reigns to Giannandrea was reported by Bloomberg to be a part of Apple’s commitment to a self-driving system as Giannandrea was previously Apple’s chief of AI and machine learning. Apple still continued to say that ‘Project Titan’ was all about self-driving and all the evidence we had at the time seemed to corroborate this statement.
By December 2020, Reuters received confirmation from Apple that they were indeed working on an Apple Car and are optimistic that it will see release by 2024. It seems Kuo was right, but Kuo has since estimated that the actual release date will be closer to 2025 – 2027 at the earliest.
In the first half of 2021, several top managers left the self-driving team which will likely result in delays for the production of the Apple Car, according to Bloomberg.
In June 2021, Apple hired former senior executive of BMW’s electric car division, Ulrich Kranz, to lead the project, according to Bloomberg. Ulrich has been heavily involved in several company’s electric car projects and self-driving projects. He was also the CEO of Canoo Inc., another developer of self-driving electric cars. Apple seem more confident in the project now than they ever have up to this point.
It seems that we can put to bed the idea that Apple are focusing on just self-driving technology. It’s clear that an Apple Car is indeed coming, but when is now the real question. Rumours will continue to circulate as the hype only grows the closer we get to the Apple Car’s release.