Apple products are typically small enough to fit in a pocket, on your wrist, in a bag, or at worst atop a desk. But the company’s next big thing may be truly massive indeed – a car. Well, reportedly.
Apple car rumours have been popping up for years, with Steve Jobs even considering building one in 2008. Things picked up incredible steam in 2015, with major publications reporting details on Apple’s supposed plans to create electric, and maybe eventually self-driving cars. Then things went quiet for a while, but reports are starting to surface again thanks to Apple’s commitment to its CarPlay software.
Want to get caught up on everything Apple Car? Here’s a look at the top details we’ve heard about the Apple Car, followed by all the stories that have popped up over the last few years on the subject.
A work in progress: What we know about the development so far
We’ll get the freshest news out of the way first. As reported by Bloomberg, Apple has scaled back its plans for a self-driving car to 2026 at the very earliest. The company also aims to keep it under $100,000. There is also, of course, the small matter of regulatory approval and testing, which could delay the whole thing for several years.
We’ve heard rumours about an Apple Car since the start of 2015 from many different reports. While the specifics have changed, we know for certain that Apple is working on some kind of car. Codenamed Project Titan, the vehicle is likely an electric car. And, it might be a self-driving car – although later reports suggested that going autonomous is more of a far-off goal.
In a 2021 interview, Tim Cook acknowledged the existence of the Apple Car project. If Apple’s CEO publicly mentioned it, we know it’s a sure thing. Whatever the first form may be, if Apple really is working on a car of its own, that’s obviously huge news.
In July 2022, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman revealed that Apple had hired former Lamborghini vehicle dynamics expert Luigi Taraborrelli. The 20-year Lambo veteran had worked on some of the Italian firm’s most iconic modern supercars, including the Aventador and Urus SUV. He now looks set to transplant those skills to Cupertino.
Apple’s automotive team was further bolstered with the September 2022 hiring of Gregory Baratoff as its Sense Architecture Lead. Baratoff formerly spent several years at Hyundai, most recently as VP of its Autonomous Vehicles Lab, and spent almost four years at the manufacturing company Continental as Head of Camera Sensors Development. At Continental, he headed up development of the company’s worldwide computer vision and camera sensor architecture.
The latest rumours in March 2023 from Autoevolution suggest that Apple is actually beefing up its self-driving efforts by hiring more test drivers to use its fleet of 67 autonomous vehicles which have reportedly been bumping curbs a lot (a total of 16 incidents were reported) suggesting that a chunk more work is needed on the software. Apple is not yet testing its car without a driver behind the wheel.
Another suggestion that Apple is continuing to work on its automotive project is the filing of a patent for “a vehicle video system to aid in navigation”. Apparently it’ll let you pick a stopping point based on camera feeds from around the car, rather than from a generic post or ZIP code and a 2D map. Pull into a shopping centre, for example, and you’ll be able to point to a space for the car to drive into. Assuming the Apple Car does arrive with fully autonomous functions, of course. Apple also filed a patent for something called ‘doors with adaptive positioning.’ In translation, that describes a smarter version of the sliding door, but whether it will eventually feature on the Apple car is unconfirmed.
Titan isn’t a pet project. In September 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple would triple the size of its car team. At that point, it already consisted of around 600 people. Since then, Apple has continued to grow the car team by poaching employees from other automakers, such as Tesla, Ford, BMW, and more. That’s a ton of talented folks working on something big.
In 2015, reports claimed that Apple was in negotiations with BMW to base the Apple Car on the BMW i3. EV fans might remember how similar this is to the initial Tesla Roadster being based on the Lotus Elise. However, that deal reportedly fell apart as Apple didn’t want to cede control over the software.
So, the company might be considering a different route. Reports in September 2016 claimed that Apple was in talks to acquire McLaren and put its considerable design prowess into building a car for a surely less-wealthy audience.
Since then, Apple has been in talks with Volkswagen, Hyundai, Lucid Motors, and Canoo, as recently as the start of 2022. Any potential partnership between the tech giant and an automaker seems to have fallen flat. For the time being, it seems Apple is without an auto-partner.
Is there any good news? A report from the Korea Times in 2021 revealed that LG and Apple were in talks for EV components. There’s been no word on the collaboration either way yet, so we assume this isn’t official. Apple also continues to hold a permit from the Californian DMV to test self-driving cars in the state, and has pushed for exemptions from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be able to release a car that lacks a steering wheel or brake pedal.
More recently. According to Wayne Ma of The Information, Apple is apparently targeting four inward-facing seats, with a curved roofline and boot that rises up for easier access to what’s inside.
Tech on board: Potential features for Apple’s vehicle
In 2021, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman detailed Apple’s potential plans for the car. According to the report, Apple is going full tilt on a self-driving car that doesn’t need any driver interaction. Apparently, the plan is for the car to come without any steering wheel or pedals at all. While that sounds pretty wild, it has been done before. Gurman compared the ambitious plan to Canoo’s driverless tech.
While ditching the steering wheel and pedals sound cool, it might cause a bump in the road (pardon the pun) for Apple. Legislators are sticklers for vehicle safety, so might not give the go-ahead to a car without these manual controls. A steering wheel and pedals may be required for emergency reasons.
Apple’s demonstration of 2023’s CarPlay update at WWDC in 2022 gave us the best look yet at Apple’s infotainment system plans. In the new version of CarPlay, Apple’s designs sprawl over all screens in the car. Apple Car would likely include a similar version of the OS, but without the requirement of a connected iPhone.
The latest rumours suggest Apple’s CarPlay push will supersede the need for the firm to launch a car at all: the interface wants to fully take over the infotainment and digital dashboard of any car it boots up on, even replacing the speedo and information like remaining electric range or engine oil temperature. It will eventually be able to let you pay for gas directly from the car, saving you the need to visit a cashier or insert a credit card into the pump. Dallas-based HF Sinclair is reportedly first in line to accept these payments when the new version of CarPlay rolls out alongside iOS 16 later this year.
As for the battery, Apple is designing its own battery technology, set to improve performance by miles. That’s not so good for the more impatient of us, as it means we have no way of predicting how good it’ll be. But, it does mean we’ll likely see a battery that boasts better range and charging. As for the charger, Apple Car will likely support the standard Combined Charging System.
Beyond this, there’s not all that much more we know about Apple Car.
Around a few corners: Potential release dates (well… years) for Apple Car
A report in 2015 claimed that Apple wanted the car “ready to ship” in 2019. But it was unclear whether that meant just finalising the design or quite literally getting it to consumers. A later report claimed that a 2021 debut was more likely, but we know that came and went. Building a car from scratch isn’t easy as Dyson found out, and Apple will surely want to get it right before showing anything to anyone.
In August 2018, Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that the Apple Car will release sometime in the 2023-2025 window – but now we think 2025 or 2026 is much more realistic which some others agree with. Apple analyst Mark Gurman still chalks up 2025 as a realistic year for the car’s announcement.