There has been a real firestorm of headlines about the so-called Apple Car in recent weeks. Speculation has been rife, but much of it is based on fairly solid evidence that Apple is at least experimenting with electric vehicles and advanced battery technology.
Apple Car set for 2020?
It’s no understatement that designing and building a car takes a very long time, especially when you’ve never made one before. That fact is emphasised by a report from Bloomberg which suggests Apple could aim to have initiated research and development on a car last year, which would allow at least 5 years to finalise the details. As a comparison, the original iPhone took about three years from inception to conception.
Not much is really known about the possible vehicle, and it’s possible that the Apple Car design isn’t even finalised yet. There was a report in the Wall Street Journal last week which noted the design is more like a minivan, which seems unlikely given Apple’s design talent and credentials. There is also a lot of debate over whether the rumoured car would be self-driving, but indications are that it would be entirely electric – as a number of recent hirings from electric vehicle battery make A123 Systems seems to suggest so.
The Apple Car project reportedly goes under the name of Project Titan.
Hundreds of employees working on Apple Car
Tesla, the well known electric car company, has shown that even startups can get in on the car industry fairly rapidly. Even tech companies such as Google have been working on developing electric vehicles – in Google’s case since 2010.
Apple is said to have hundreds of people working on its car project, with senior executives and experts from companies such as Mercedes Benz having joined Apple in recent months. Even though there may be a fairly huge team working on the Apple Car, it’s possible that even if it turns out to be real, Apple may decide to scrap the effort or delay if the executives aren’t happy with its progress, as they have done many times in the past with secret projects.
Apple’s car team is said to already have about 200 people working on the vehicle, with more employees joining over the past few months as the company brought onboard experts in batteries and robotics.
A lawsuit was filed against Apple this month, which does give some clues into the likelihood of an Apple Car. In June last year Apple began quite aggressively poaching employees from A123 Systems LLC, a US-based battery maker which filed the lawsuit this month.
Apparently, Apple hired five key people from A123, and has also attempted to hire experts from LG Chem Ltd, Samsung Electronics, Panasonic, Toshiba and Johnson Controls Inc.
“Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123”, the battery maker stated in a state-court filing.
The recent hires from A123 include Mujeeb Ijaz, a former Ford engineer, who worked in A123’s Venture Technologies division focused on materials research, cell product development and other advanced concepts. He started working at Apple in June last year and began hiring others from A123’s venture technologies division, which he had been the head of.
Perhaps all the sightings of mysterious sensor-laden Apple-owned cars around the US recently just means the company is working on Google Streetview-style improvement to its Maps app. Likewise, the battery technologies Apple appears to be working on may just be to improve the battery life of its portable devices.
Only time will tell if there really is an Apple Car in the works…