Update: ‘Sensor galore’ sub-section of ‘Autonomous driving’ updated.
Apple has a history of revolutionizing things for consumers in whichever field it enters. It changed how we access music with iTunes and iPod, combined high-end portable media players and mobile phones into a single device with the iPhone, made professional computers portable and versatile with the iPad – the list goes on.
After succeeding in computers, entertainment, communication, and other sectors in the tech space, Apple is reportedly planning to enter the auto industry with an electric car. Internally called ‘Project Titan’ and commonly referred to as ‘Apple Car’ by Apple fans and media, the Apple EV is just as highly anticipated as the USD 25,000 Tesla EV. However, it will be at the opposite end of the spectrum, targeting luxury car buyers.
The Apple Car has been in the news since rumors about it began circulating on the internet in 2014. Since then, the company’s first-ever car has been expected to be an all-electric one – which makes sense given the rapid growth and market penetration of electric vehicles in recent years. In fact, the global EV market is projected to surpass USD 354 billion by 2028, as per a press release by Vantage Market Research dated March 28, 2022.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook stated in an October 2022 press release, that fighting climate change is among the brand’s most urgent priorities. He also mentioned that the company is working closely with its suppliers with an aim to make its entire global supply chain carbon-neutral by 2030. Therefore, when the time comes for the Apple Car release, we suspect much of its materials and components might be made using efficient and sustainable sourcing, manufacturing & assembly techniques.
Apple Car Project Heads
As expected, there are some big names behind the Apple Car project, which includes former managers from Lamborghini, Porsche, and Tesla. Leading the software development for the Apple Car is ex-Tesla manager, Stuart Bowers. Covering the design department is Ulrich Kranz, who used to be the CEO at Canoo. Meanwhile, Desi Ujkashevic has been handed the responsibility to oversee matters pertaining to the car’s testing, safety engineering, and regulatory mandates. Prior to joining Apple, Ujkashevic was the Director of Engineering at Ford.
According to a report Bloomberg published on December 7, 2022, Apple wants to use a dedicated EV platform, also called a skateboard platform, for its car but is unlikely to develop one on its own. The company is considering licensing the from another OEM. That’s understandable, given that the company is new to the auto industry. Apple had discussed a partnership with Volkswagen Group, but it’s still looking for a supplier.
There’s no word on whether the Apple Car will be a highly aerodynamic sedan/coupe, a high-riding model like an SUV, or something else. However, knowing Apple’s love for sleek and slim designs, our bet is on a four-door coupe. A lower body would also maximize energy efficiency and thus the driving range, too. The aforementioned report states Apple is yet to lock the design.
Apple aims to finalize the car’s design by the end of 2023 and then its features by the end of 2024. These are to be followed up by comprehensive testing of prototypes in 2025.
Bloomberg says Apple is testing the car’s driving system, which we assume means the hands-free driving hardware like sensors and cameras, on Lexus SUVs at a former Chrysler track codenamed “Sahara” and located outside of Phoenix. Internally called “Baja” vehicles, these Lexus SUVs get updates to their onboard systems every 6 to 12 months. Their testing takes place to some extent in other states as well. It’s unclear whether these have been done in a completely driverless fashion and in urban scenarios.
Apple originally intended to offer Level 5 autonomous driving. Its vision was of a truly futuristic car that has no steering wheel or pedals. However, the company has realized that a fully autonomous car isn’t feasible with the existing technology. The latest Apple Car plan is to keep the interior conventional cabin by including a steering wheel and pedals and limiting full autonomy to highways.
The same Bloomberg report also mentions Apple’s intentions to accommodate a wide array of sensors in its car. The company will purportedly make use of cameras, radar & LiDAR. A LiDAR is normally placed at the front of a car, facing forward. This allows it to scan the road ahead for obstacles (including other motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and even animals of various sizes), even in inclement weather conditions, and in complete darkness as well. When combined with its radar and camera systems, the Apple Car could theoretically drive itself.
Based on a report United Daily News released on March 27, 2023, 9to5Mac said the same day that the Apple Car’s LiDAR may come from the supplier contracted for the Apple iPhone – Guangda. The Taiwanese company makes LiDAR for the Apple iPhone using components from WIN Semiconductors, another Taiwanese company, and San Jose, California-based Lumentum.
Apple is reportedly spending USD 125 million each year for hosting facilities through Amazon Web Services – an integral part of vehicles relying on cloud-based AI. That might be a costly expenditure, but one which, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights via GlobeNewswire, will be worth over USD 267 billion by 2028.
When combined with the abundance of data harvested over several years and self-learning algorithms of modern-day artificial intelligence programs, Apple might already be evaluating the culmination of the learnings from these, but very likely in an early prototype stage. The Cupertino-based company is also working on a remote command center that can be of assistance to drivers when trying to remotely operate the vehicle in emergency situations.
Apple Denali chip
Apple is using indigenously developed chips in many of its electronics, the list of which includes even the MacBook and iMac since 2020 and 2021, respectively. Now, it’s taking the learnings from their development to create a chip for the car, codenamed ‘Denali.’
Keeping in mind the mountain of data that will be constantly streaming in from various sensors, along with a cloud-based AI and multiple other functions to manage, the Apple Car will require a lot of processing power, and the Apple Denali chip will deliver. Claimed to offer approximately four times the performance of the chips Apple uses in Macs (presumably the Mac Studio’s M1 Ultra with 21 TFLOPs), the Apple Denali chip is at an advanced state of development and considered nearly ready for production.
Just for reference, Apple’s latest and greatest chipset at the moment is the M1 Ultra. The CPU is based on a 5nm process with up to 20 cores, 114 billion transistors, and clocked at 3.22 Ghz. While four of these processors should be able to handle their respective tasks sans much trouble, they will certainly not come cheap. Therefore, the report hints at the possibility that Apple might use a more affordable onboard computer to keep the car’s overall cost from going through the roof.
Comprehensive integration of CarPlay & Siri
During its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 6, 2022, Apple gave a glimpse of what the next-gen CarPlay system would look like. While this iteration is being aimed at cars from other OEMs (Audi, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, etc.), as part of their connectivity feature, we can safely expect an even more comprehensive version to make its way into the Apple Car.
The next-gen CarPlay showcased at the 2022 WWDC not only seems to support a multi-themed digital instrument display for the driver but one that holds the promise of further customization options. It’s a distinct possibility that the App Store could have multiple themes and layouts, along with a whole sleuth of widgets, that Apple Car owners could download and install for a brand-new UI experience. Moreover, since the company would have great levels of control over the hardware and software (like with its other products), we expect seamlessness and smoothness of operation.
Similarly, Apple’s intelligent voice assistant, Siri, is likely to be yet another feature buyers will be expecting in the company’s first car. Instead of just being able to make calls or send text messages, we suspect the Apple Car’s infotainment system to be even more capable. Just like CarPlay, Siri would most probably be well-integrated into the car’s overall system. If that turns out to be true, Siri could be asked to manipulate many of the vehicle’s functions – possibly even directing the car to execute certain functions without requiring much input from the driver.
As reported by Naver on December 22, 2022, Apple is rumored to have approached LG for supplying batteries for its upcoming EV. Coming second only to China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL), LG Energy Solution holds a relatively significant 14% global market share when it comes to batteries for electric vehicles, according to an October 2022 report by Visual Capitalist.
A separate Korean report from May 2022 also mentions how LG is the second-largest supplier of batteries for Tesla. Considering the close ties between the two companies, (LG has supplied camera modules to Apple before), it won’t be surprising if these two titans of the tech industry collaborate once again.
Price & Release Date
Apple wanted to price its car above USD 120,000, but now that it has decided to go for a simpler, more conventional setup without Level 5 autonomy, it is aiming to lower that figure to under USD 100,000. So, the Apple Car will be cheaper than the Tesla Model X, which currently costs USD 109,990 onwards. Assuming there are no further delays, the Apple Car is expected to be introduced in 2026.
Despite the delays that have plagued the company from the onset of the project, the Apple Car would likely not face much challenge when it comes to finding buyers. Being a brand that wields so much power and influence, its first-ever car will be a huge deal for many people. With a truly impressive and long list of achievements in its portfolio that include the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac series of laptops & desktops, the ‘iCar’ seems like a very logical step in the right direction.
Apple Electric car FAQs
What is the Apple Car release date?
The Apple Car will reportedly debut in 2026.
What will be the Apple Car price?
The Apple Car will reportedly cost under USD 100,000 onwards.
Which cars will be Apple Car rivals?
The Apple Car could compete with the Tesla Model S, Lucid Air, and Mercedes EQE.
Featured Image Source: Audi