Apple Car Latest Rumors: What to Expect From Project Titan
By all indications, the Smartphone market has become saturated. So much so, that in 2016 a slowdown in iPhone sales caused Apple’s revenue to decline for the first time in 13 years. Predicting that the golden goose that is the iPhone would not continue to lay forever, Apple had already started looking in other directions. For its next revolution, Apple placed its bet on the auto industry, kick starting the Apple Car or what they codenamed Project Titan.
As early as February 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had hired hundreds of engineers and technicians to work on an electric car, which had been green-lighted the previous year. After leading the revolution in the Smartphone and music industry, Apple had decided to try on car making for size.
The biggest question is whether the largest tech company in the world can beat Musk’s Tesla Motors in an area where Tesla is proving itself quite adept. Apple has a long way to go and when it gets there, chances are they will find a market dominated by Tesla’s mass market electric cars.
So, how far has apple gone in making Project Titan a moneymaking reality? In this article, we go through the latest rumors and reports regarding project Titan. These include expected features, design, launch date and pricing.
A Bit of History on Apple’s Car Project
Apple was thinking about getting into the auto industry as early as 2014. In early 2015, it seemed like the company had decided to commit to the project. More money was diverted to the R&D department and recruitment started in earnest. Reports suggested that Apple was poaching employees form Tesla and other auto companies such as Ford and General Motors. Apple also recruited high profile engineers, especially in the electric car field, to head Project Titan.
In late 2015, rumors surfaced that Apple was not just planning to build an electric car, but an autonomous one too. This is after reports that Apple had met with California officials about using an unused military space for autonomous car testing.
To ramp up work on the electric car, secret headquarters were set up near Apple’s Cupertino base. They also bought several other real estate in an action thought to be in preparation for a full dive in auto manufacturing. There were even rumors that Apple was carrying out parallel research in a lab facility in Berlin, Germany.
Over the last several months, the project has undergone some restructuring but seems to be still on track. At this point, there is no turning back for Apple. They have fully committed and the stakes are high. Unlike other smaller projects the company has taken on in the past, the iCar (as the epithet goes), is on the same level of importance as the iPhone. This is Apple’s next golden goose on which the company has gambled its future. It cannot afford to lose.
One of the rumors being floated around is that Apple could join up with another motor company to create the electric car. In 2015, there were reports that Apple was in talks with BMW on the subject of a potential partnership. BMW has its own all-electric car, the i3. It was a partnership that could work, with big results. Forbes even had an interesting piece listing all the reasons why Apple should work with BMW.
Unfortunately, Apple seems to have hit a bump when BMW politely excused itself from the future partnership. The German automaker, Daimler, also refused to join up with Apple for its project.
To speed things up and make a bigger market entrance, it is unlikely that Apple will go it alone. For now however, it is still searching for a willing suitor. If the search is not successful, Apple has enough money to buy a car company or two and use it to launch its own auto business. In fact, experts calculate that the iPhone maker has enough cash on hand to buy GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler.
Apple Car Design Rumors
One of the biggest things to look forward to is the design of the Apple Car. Knowing Apple’s obsession with design perfection, it is worth holding our breath for the look Apple comes up with.
One problem with electric cars has been their rather geeky look. For years, they were seen as a hippie’s accessory, not something for the masses. Elon Musk came along and solved the problem by introducing an electric car that people actually loved. The Tesla Model S has a luxury design, perhaps one of the reasons it sold over 100,000 units despite the high price tag, usually going over $100,000.
For Apple to find success, it has to come up with a design that is unique yet ‘normal’. There are no concrete reports on what the Apple car will look like. In fact, there are barely any rumors at all. Seems for the moment, the focus in on the main features the car will spot and not on the look. All that we have are artist renderings, which are as good any one’s guess. So on the issue of design, we just have to wait and see.
Whatever the case, Apple knows its way around design. With the Model S having acted as an example for other aspiring electric carmakers, it is a good guess that Apple will not drop the ball in this area. What we might get is a cross between a slightly futuristic car to set it apart from other gas-using vehicles and a luxury car that appeals to the mass market.
It is not just about the look, the construction design matters a great deal too. For example, the Model S from Tesla is already famous for saving five teens from injury when their vehicle rolled over in Germany. While the car sustained a lot of damage to the front, the roof did not crash in, thanks to the car’s unique design. The Model S is also known for having an impressive level of stability due to the low center of gravity caused by the placement of the batteries.
Therefore, how Apple designs their car can determine not only its style, but also its safety.
There is still a lot of unknown when it comes to Project Titan. While we know quite a bit about Project Titan, the car itself remains shrouded in mystery. Most of the expected features listed below are either educated guesses on which direction Apple might take or well-placed rumors and reports.
1. Self driving?
Let us get one obvious feature out of the way; the proposed Apple Car is electric. Like Tesla, it will likely be equipped with rechargeable batteries to power it. What most people are not sure of is whether Apple is planning to make the car autonomous too?
A few reports here and there seem to indicate that Apple is doing research into autonomous driving. The aforementioned meeting with Californian officials is one example. But other rumors indicate that Apple is more interested in electric cars than self driving ones.
It is a big deal which way Apple will go. It could take one of two directions.
- Self-driving technology is very much in its infancy, with Google leading the way forward. If Apple decides to join the fray, it will make an already heating up industry even hotter. Apple will not only be in direct competition with Tesla but it will also go up against Google for the prize of creating the ultimate self-driving car.
- If Apple decides that the money and effort to build an autonomous car is not worth it, it remains with Tesla as the main competition. In many circles, this could come as a disappointment, an indication that Apple is not willing to take bigger risks.
From a different perspective, the second option could be a good move for Apple. Building an autonomous car takes money and time and Apple does not have much of the later. It needs to break into the market soon before Tesla grows too dominant and before the iPhone sees further tumbles. Building an electric car could serve as a platform that introduces Apple as an automaker and puts it on a course toward making an autonomous vehicle.
Current reports all point to Apple deciding to keep the driver behind the wheel.
The focus right, it seems, is on creating the best electric car that can best Tesla’s Model S and the yet to come Model 3.
2. Battery and charging technology
In 2015, a battery manufacturing company known as A123 Systems sued Apple on claims that it poached its employees. Apple hired 5 employees from the company, with at least one of the engineers being a specialist in electric vehicle (EV) battery technology.
So it seems Apple would rather make their own batteries rather than get them from external suppliers. One reason for this could be that Apple is aiming to improve EV battery technology, even beyond what Tesla has been able to achieve thus far.
This is a tall order for a company that has never dealt in batteries before. For its range of devices, Apple has always relied on other companies, pushing them to create better and longer lasting batteries. Furthermore, if the company were planning to make its own batteries, it would have already started manufacturing operations. While they could already have secretive manufacturing operations going on, there are chances they could opt for an external supplier.
What they could be putting in place is a foundation on which they can develop and manufacture their own EV batteries in the future. Remember that they are looking to get a foot in the market as soon as possible, and sourcing batteries from outside will help speed things along.
In addition to the batteries, Apple also needs to think about charging, an area that has always been a challenge to electric vehicle manufacturers. While there are no reports whatsoever on what Apple’s plan is, experts predict that they will go the way of Tesla; build a network of charging stations.
The newest iteration of Model S, released in 2016, has a range of around 300 miles on a single battery charge. This is quite impressive and is the highest range among any electric-only vehicles. When it comes to Apple Car, one of the biggest questions is whether they will try to best this range or do something totally different.
Chances are that Apple will not try to match this range, especially in the beginning. The first Apple Car will likely be designed for urban users, a group of people who are not so concerned with a car’s range. For now, Apple might focus on creating a great EV with a long enough range for urban driving. Then, as they expand their market, they might create long-range iterations for use on longer trips.
Whatever the case it will certainly be interesting to see what sort of battery technology they unveil. Knowing Apple, they might just bring about a revolution in battery tech.
This is another area we know little about. Being so early in the development process, it is hard to guess what kind of price Apple will put on their car. The best estimate is a price matching that of the Model S: which starts at $70,000.
If this is correct, it will leave Apple at risk from lower-priced EVs that will surely have come up. Tesla is already gearing up to launch the Model 3, which will start at $30,000. There is a possibility that Apple could sacrifice short-term profits by developing a lower priced Apple car (between $30,000 and $50,000). In exchange, they benefit from a faster and larger market penetration.
Several possible release dates have been floated, some going as far as 2021. Many experts, including Elon Musk, predict that Apple is going to launch its car by 2020. Other reports give 2019 as the most possible release date.
While most people, by virtue of Apple being Apple, believe that the company could enter the auto market by 2020, others are a bit skeptical. They claim that it will take much longer for Apple to develop a unique electric car from scratch. Even if they do manage to do it by 2020, it could take many more years to perfect their products to the level of the iPhone. This means taking huge financial hits until the auto business becomes profitable, which could take years.
Project Titan – Last Words
Of course, the Apple Car may never become a reality. Large tech companies often start promising projects only to ditch them halfway through. But at the point we are, it is a safe bet that Apple will go through with their latest gamble. But can they find the same success in electric cars as they did in Smartphones and tablets?
What do you think the Apple car will look like? What would you like to see in it? Leave your comment below, and if you know any other tidbit about Project Titan that may have bypassed our ever-sharp radar, let us know in the comments.
Image credit: carwow