You might think that you’ve heard it all when it comes to
Apple rumours, but the latest and most out-there yet is the idea that the company is working on a car, or an iCar as it’s often called.
But the number of rumours about the iCar and the mounting evidence is beginning to convince us that maybe an Apple Car really is being built. Here, we bring you all of the rumours about the Apple Car, including iCar UK release date rumours, feature rumours and images of what the iCar might look like.
While Apple still hasn’t confirmed it is working on an iCar, it is definitely working on a driverless car OS, having recently set up a Canadian unit for the task for which it has poached several software engineers from QNX, a subsidiary of smartphone maker BlackBerry.
When will the Apple Car be released?
Of course, there’s nothing specific as it’s early days, but Bloomberg has said that the Car could arrive in 2020, after speaking with sources who say that’s when it will begin production of its own electric vehicle.
It tends to take automakers around five to seven years to develop a car, so 2020 sounds like a good bet to us. The Wall Street Journal, however, says that the Apple Car could appear as soon as 2019.
However, on 17 October 2016 Apple halted its developments of an electric car, and instead put its focus on an ‘autonomous self-driving car’ – as
reported by 9to5Mac.
It’s said that part of the problem was with the manufacturing process of the cars, whereby Apple couldn’t source components, presumably at a good price –
as reported by Bloomberg.
Whenever the iCar comes out, we would expect it to support TouchID to be opened and used, where you would use your
fingerprint as a car key. This innovative, but interesting way of unlocking a car is a popular idea among techies who see the Apple iCar being launched. This would provide better security to those who own a car and be a means of never losing your keys!
Apple Car: How many will be made?
A report by
Autocar suggests that Apple is planning on producing half a million cars a year. A (rumoured) target that is set to be ten times higher than the sales accomplished by Tesla.
Within the report, Autocar also predict the iCar to be available by 2021 with a fully autonomous car available by 2026. It’s expected for Apple to make radical design changes and shake up the car industry – at least that’s what the rumours say.
Will there be an Apple Car? The evidence for the iCar
Apple Car hype has been fuelled by the company’s own Steve Cook at a shareholder meeting, in which he
reportedly said of the rumoured Apple Car: “Do you remember when you were a kid, and Christmas Eve… it was so exciting. You weren’t sure what was going to be downstairs. Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.”
Cook is clearly attempting to build hype around the idea, which means Apple’s almost certainly got plans for an iCar.
There has been talk about a mysterious Apple Car for a long time now, but in February 2015 the rumours really picked up the pace after Business Insider
claimed to have spoken to an Apple employee who claims the company is working on an “exciting” new product that will “give Telsa a run for its money.”
According to the anonymous source, around 50 former Telsa employees had been “jumping ship” to work at Apple as part of its vehicle development team, and LinkedIn backs up that claim.
The new employees specialise in mechanics, manufacturing and robotics. That said, Telsa has apparently hired about 150 Apple employees, so it sounds like the two companies are in a bit of a war.
Other Apple employees that hint at a future car include Doug Betts, who has 25 years of experience working for Nissan, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler. Swiss researcher Paul Furgale, who led the V-Charge project that developed self-parking cars, is also now working for Apple.
The Wall Street Journal
says that Apple has several hundred people working on a vehicle development project codenamed Titan.
The Guardian also references Project Titan in a report claiming that Apple has made a self-driving car that’s ready for testing. Google and Telsa have been testing their self-driving vehicles on public roads, but Apple has apparently found a top-secret testing location called GoMentum Station, a World War II-epoch disused naval base just outside of San Francisco.
The base is believed to have 20 miles of everyday public transport scenarios for Apple to test its cars on, including cattlegrids and highways. There are said to be armed soldiers patrolling the base at all times to stop anyone getting a look inside.
More evidence fuelling the theory that Apple is building an iCar stems from rumours that Apple is working with a Korean battery developer to develop a battery for Project Titan.
The car that Apple could be working on is rumoured to borrow some tech from BMW, which has been meeting with Apple according to reports. Apple seems to be particularly interested in the carbon-fibre-reinforced BMW i3 electric car.
Of course, it could just be working on a deal to move its CarPlay project forward, as BMW has been an early partner for Apple’s in-car tech.
In an interview in May 2012, Apple board member Mickey Drexler said that Steve Jobs had wanted to rethink the automotive industry, which is solid proof that it’s something Apple is interested in, but whether or not that means an actual car or simply in-car tech remains to be seen.
Also in May Apple’s research and development (R&D) budget increased from $3bn in 2012 to $10bn in 2016, a massive rise. Many suspect that this new rise in budget has more significance than a new iPhone, iPad or Mac, where rumours suggest that Apple are developing something a lot bigger, an iCar.
interview with the BBC, Ford boss Mark Fields believes Apple is building a car. This comes
after the news of Chris Porritt, the former Tesla VP of Vehicle Engineering being employed by Apple. There is therefore strong evidence that Apple is building a car and is committing serious investments towards an autonomous, tech-centred car.
Other strong evidence comes in the form of
Apple patents relating to cars, including one from early 2012 that tries to solve the problem of how multiple people can all use one car but still be comfortable. It uses preferences stored in your iPhone that could automatically adjust the position of the seat, headrest and steering wheel.
It seems as if Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has ‘confirmed’ the existence of Apple’s iCar in an January 2016
interview with the BBC. When discussing Apple’s car project, he called it an “open secret” that the company is developing a rival car and that “it’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it”.
He continued to say that “companies like Apple will probably make a compelling electric car, it seems like the obvious thing to do”. Although in our opinion, this seems more like a hunch rather than somebody with inside knowledge on the subject.
Even so, Musk isn’t too bothered – when asked if he was worried about Apple entering the automotive industry by a German magazine, he replied sarcastically “Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch?”.
While some car manufacturers are already writing off Apple’s car-related efforts, it seems as if Ford was welcoming the competition, thinking it could be great for the automotive industry.
Speaking to Trusted Reviews, Don Butler, Executive Director of Ford Connected Vehicles said “We welcome others joining. We welcome the activity that’s in the space. We think it’s exciting. It’s actually change that we are embracing.“
He goes on to mention Apple and Google by name, stating that he thinks the tech companies can ‘do it’. “So I think Apple can do it. I think Google can do it.” he continued. Though this isn’t confirmation that Apple is working on a car, it seems to be common knowledge throughout the automotive industry that
Apple is working on something automotive related.
Apple pens letter to US transport regulators
While many had believed that Apple was stepping away from the autonomous car project (which we go into more detail about below), a letter penned to US transport regulators by Apple’s director of product integrity Steve Kenner may suggest otherwise.
Apple has apparently said that it was “excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation” and that there were “significant societal benefits of automated vehicles” to be realised.
An Apple spokesman has confirmed that the letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was prompted by its “heavy investment in machine learning and autonomous systems” and that it wanted to help define best practises in the industry going forward.
The letter urges regulators to not introduce too many rules regarding the testing of self-driving cars, claiming that “established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally“. Kenner also suggests that companies should share data from crashes and near-misses to build a more comprehensive picture than would be possible by one company alone, helping to improve the systems.
Of course, with Apple being so focused on user privacy, it’d be out of character not to mention it in the letter. Kenner notes that an individual’s privacy should not be compromised by the sharing of data, and that regulators “address privacy challenges associated with the collection, use, and sharing of automated vehicle data“.
Will there be an Apple Car? The evidence against the iCar
You might be feeling pretty convinced that an Apple Car is in the works now, but as with any story, there are two sides to this one.
For one, most big companies work on hundreds of projects that never actually make it to market, so even if Apple is working on an iCar it doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to buy one.
Plus, we’re fairly certain that Apple is creating its own version of Google Street View, so the project in question might actually relate to Maps. In fact, in July, Apple confirmed these suspicions when it published a web page called
Apple Maps vehicles that reads: “Apple is driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates.”
Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche says that he doesn’t think Apple will make a car, but even if it does he won’t be losing sleep over it. “If there were a rumour that Mercedes or Daimler planned to start making smartphones then [Apple] would not be sleepless at night. And the same applies to me.”
Zetsche isn’t the only car company boss that thinks an Apple Car wouldn’t be a good idea. GM vice president Bob Lutz told CNBC that the iCar could be a “gigantic money pit,” because “Apple has no experience.” He said: “There’s no reason to assume Apple will do a better job than General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota or Hyundai.”
He also said that the automotive industry is a low margin business, particularly when it comes to electric cars. “You can’t show me one company in the world that, to date, has made one nickel from electric cars,” Lutz said. “They are generally money-losers… there is absolutely no reason to assume that Apple is going to be financially successful in the electric car business.”
If that wasn’t enough, according to a report from the New York Times in September 2016, Apple is said to be rethinking its self-driving car strategy as other tech giants like Google and even Uber appear ready to start road testing their competing efforts.
According to three people briefed on Apple’s move (that aren’t allowed to speak about it publicly, of course), the company has laid off dozens of employees working on the project, signalling issues with Apple’s ambitious car project.
It’s not the first time that Apple’s car project has been in trouble, as the company had to draft in Bob Mansfield, Apple veteran, in July 2016 to oversee the project and drive it forward as no real progress had been made.
Apple is said to have told affected employees that the layoffs were a part of a “reboot” of the project, and of course, Apple has refused to officially make a comment.
Instead, the Project Titan team has allegedly re-focused on developing an autonomous driving system that gives Apple the flexibility to either partner with existing car manufacturers, or revisit the development of its own car in the future.
Bloomberg report goes on to claim that Apple execs have given the team a deadline of late 2017 to prove the feasibility of the self-driving system and to decide on a final direction.