Just a month ago, hardly anybody entertained the notion that tech giant Apple might one day build its own electric car. Yet in the past few weeks rumors like Apple trying to poach key automotive employees from Tesla, as well as battery maker A123, make it seem all but certain that Apple is working on some kind of automotive project…and it could be ready soon.
According to Bloomberg, Apple has an internal launch date for Project Titan of around 2020, which says two things to me. One, if an Apple car is indeed in the works, it is in the earliest design stages. A123 accused Apple of stealing key EV battery project employees beginning last summer, and even the best-established automaker typically takes between three to five years to bring a project to fruition, even if there are “hundreds” of people working on Project Titan. Given that this is Apple’s first go-around at making a car, the 2020 timeline seems appropriate.
Even though it’s still early, other rumors indicate that the Apple car will be a mostly-autonomous minivan with an emphasis on a customer-cradling interior deeply ingrained with Apple’s software ecosystem. Emphasis on aesthetic appeal and user friendliness would be welcome in the auto industry, which has traditionally struggled to integrate software into its vehicles (anybody who has fought with the largely-loathed MyFordTouch and SYNC systems can relate). With Apple having developed excellent hardware and software solutions though, it’s not too difficult to imagine an extremely intuitive Apple-designed car interior. Just how autonomous the Apple Car will be though will rely heavily on what sorts of regulations are passed in the next five years.
One thing I’m not sure of is if Apple realizes just how difficult and highly-regulated the auto industry really is. Building an iPod or iPhone is one thing, but there are probably more regulations regarding headlight placement than there are for all of Apple’s products put together. There’s a reason veteran auto journalists have been crying that all cars look the same these days, though Apple’s outsider status could give it a fresh look and perspective on the market. As long as Apple doesn’t try to buy Tesla though, I’ll be happy.
Yet so much can change in just five years, and while an Apple Car seems all but certain to happen today, by 2020 the marketplace could be totally different. Stay tuned for more developments as we get them.
Image: Denis Premasi