It seems that Apple is expanding its technological reach to more than just iPhones, Macbooks, and other handheld gadgets and gizmos. Its new ambition is to make a name in the electric car making industry. Way back 2014, CEO Tim Cook first introduced the idea of Apple going into the vehicle manufacturing business, naming the idea Project Titan. With $100 billion in the bank, Apple has the financial freedom to kickstart new projects. Project Titan aims to have a healthy market competition with the currently reigning EV giant, Tesla, which has successfully dominating the EV business and is making good progress on self-driving cars.
Cook initially wanted the project to be kept under wraps whilst ongoing developments, but that hasn’t worked out in his favor. Apple’s first step was to originally develop an operating system specially designed for autonomous cars, but is now looking beyond and is in talks of integrating the system into an actual Apple car.
Apple has gathered some of the brilliant minds in the automobile business to collaborate on the project. Steve Zadesky, once an engineer who worked for Ford, spearheads Project Titan. Johann Jungwirth from Mercedes-Benz is also part of the team, along with a transmissions engineer whose identity is kept secret by Apple. There have been reports of Tesla employees making the switch to Apple due to various reasons. A thousand engineers were also employed to work on Apple’s latest project.
Apple also made deals with Gomentum Stadium, a previous naval base in California, to use the place as a testing facility for the said project in 2015. A non-disclosure agreement was signed by stadium owner Randy Iwasaki, in an attempt by Apple to keep the project on a down-low.
The next step for Apple was to secure a test permit, which the state of California granted. This only confirmed Apple’s discreet moves in building self-driving cars. Tim Cook has also teased the company’s plans on an electric-powered car, which is supposedly set to be released sometime between 2023 to 2025.
Project Baja was also born from a partnership between Apple, Torc Robotics, and Lexus, which aimed to integrate sensors into SUVs. In 2016, the news had reached Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who seemed rather unfazed, saying that Apple’s moves were ‘obvious’, especially with the hiring decisions. Musk simply wished the best for the company’s endeavors.
Apple now moved further to the creation of electric charging stations in 2016. Being a tech company, Apple would have to partner with established car companies to make their vision a reality. In 2017, the company directed its manpower towards perfecting the software for EVs, which caused job cuts for several employees.
Not long after, Apple employees Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel published research on a cloud-based 3D object detection system which included autonomous navigation, household robotics, and virtual reality as potential areas of application.
With 70 permits and 27 vehicles registered on California DMV, Apple decided to collaborate with carmaking giants such as BMW, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, McLaren, and Volkswagen. The only positive response came from Volkswagen and is now in talks of developing a self-driving shuttle.
Details about the project were spilled by a former employee, who subsequently faced charges. With promising developments, Apple began to file a patent on the project. By January 2019, the number of registered vehicles rose to 66, with 111 drivers to operate.
Following the famous brand trademark, Apple’s EV will be reportedly named iCar.
Tesla has a large advantage in the market, with years of experience and the fact that it remains to be the biggest name in the EV industry today. Apple still has a long way to go, as far as what the world knows about the project that the company is so desperately trying to keep secret.
This is positive news in the name of sustainable energy. It resembles Google’s move in developing Pixel watch and phone that is meant to be Apple’s close competitor. It's an ambitious goal for a first try. However, in that aspect, Apple’s iPhone prevails by experience and never-ending upgrades.