Apple’s Electric Car Could It Be a Game Changer?-Rumors have long suggested Apple is actively working on a variety of different automotive projects that could ultimately lead to an “Apple Car.” The entirety of the research falls under the catch-all title “Project Titan.”
The term has been used to describe several different elements and technologies but falls into two broad categories: self-driving vehicle systems and car design.
Apple’s Electric Car Could It Be a Game Changer?
What is Project Titan?
At present, only speculation has been made about Apple’s automotive ambitions. The company has two divisions focused on automotive research: Project Titan and Project Mars.
Although these two endeavors have been steadily shrinking since Project Titan first materialized in 2015, both divisions are still ongoing with new hires and the occasional news story about breakthroughs or rumors about imminent advancements.
Project Titan is Apple’s automotive arm. It is composed of teams that are working to develop “the world’s greatest driver assistance systems,” including the first fully autonomous systems. Project Mars, on the other hand, focuses on developing a car that “will change how people and goods move in the future.
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The History of Apple’s Research into Automotive Research
Apple has been working on autonomous vehicle research since at least 2014. It was a partnership between Apple’s Special Projects team and the project Titan.
The Project Titan team built its first vehicle in partnership with Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Although the vehicle never hit the road, it was a test vehicle for a fully autonomous system that QUT’s Marc Wulfraat believed would lead to a Level 4 self-driving vehicle.
“It’s not a car, it’s not an EV, it’s not a motorbike,” Wulfraat said. “It’s some sort of new concept, it’s computerized and it’s going to move.”
Wulfraat went on to say the technology would have been deployed in 2018. Wulfraat’s predictions have since been proven wrong.
The State of the Electric Car Market
Despite early predictions, most of the auto industry agrees that the electric vehicle will remain an “emerging” market for some time to come, as the cost of EVs (particularly battery-powered vehicles) is still significantly higher than the internal combustion engine.
For the record, I also believe the competition will come in the form of the recently-debuted Tesla Model 3, which will come with a base price of $35,000 (before tax credits), making it competitive with the very cheapest EVs. In my view, EVs will continue to be a niche market for some time to come, but they are undoubtedly going to have an impact.
The Case Against Apple
In addition to the aforementioned issues, the general public has also turned their noses up at electric cars.
The Future of EV Research and Development
Recently, various outlets have reported that a $1 billion California location is now under construction, capable of housing 250 employees and a dozen or more machines. The scope of Project Titan is expected to ramp up substantially as Apple officially initiates operations at this new facility.
Should Apple successfully make it past the prototype stage, the question remains: what might an “Apple Car” look like? What are the top contenders in Apple’s electric vehicle competition?
Apple Car Design
Apple’s current crop of self-driving technology is best described as early-stage and therefore extremely limited.
I believe Apple has embarked on Project Titan for three main reasons:
It’s a high-margin business that will increase with new developments and increased adoption. Apple’s partners are major manufacturers, rather than OEMs, and they enjoy their brand awareness. Apple’s suppliers have deep enough roots within the company to build a solid foundation.
Apple has been quiet about what it’s working on, but if the automotive business is indeed part of Project Titan, Apple will likely roll out a vehicle and are close to production.
The big question is whether or not Apple would try and put their Car of Tomorrow design in a car. My take is it’s highly unlikely.