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Is Apple Making a Self-Driving Car?

apple self-driving car

Earlier, the Supplier List of Apple for February 2017 hinted that the Cupertino-based tech firm might be working on its own self-driving car. Recently, the company got its permit to test such vehicles in the state of California, which further fuel speculations.

According to Reuters, the state of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles disclosed that it just allowed Apple to conduct test drives in three vehicles with six drivers. All vehicles to be used are 2015 Lexus RX450h units. It should be noted that the law of the state requires someone to be inside the car so that the person can take over if something goes wrong in the autonomous driving system of the auto.

Apple is yet to acknowledge if it is indeed developing its self-driving car. However, there have been hints that the giant tech firm might be considering it.

Aside from getting Robert Bosch as one of its suppliers, Apple has been signing in major figures in the automotive world like former Mercedes-Benz Research & Development chief Johann Jungwirth as well as Sinisa Durekovic, who is known for his work in developing satellite navigation systems in luxury cars.

Then, Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, also wrote a five-page letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA regarding the regulation of self-driving cars. It was there where he mentioned that Apple is interested in working on many automated systems, including in transportation.

On the other hand, Chris Theodore, president of consultancy Theodore & Associates and former vice president of Ford and Chrysler, said that Apple’s acquisition of a self-driving car testing permit does not necessarily mean it is making a car. He stated that the company might still be toying with that idea, but the most likely reason is the firm could only be developing a software or hardware related to autonomous technology.

 

Development of Apple Self-Driving Car Hinted

apple

There have been tidbits of information pointing to the development of an Apple self-driving car. Details about the matter have always been closely guarded and the Cupertino-based tech giant firm has been mum about it. However, a new clue has been uncovered that suggests the autonomous vehicle program of the company is still alive.

In a document published by Apple enumerating its Supplier List for February 2017, it included Robert Bosch GmbH in it with office address at Tuebinger Strasse 123, Reutlingen, Germany. While the company is known for its production of sensors for electronic devices, power tools, security systems and home appliances, it should be noted that it is also responsible in supplying automotive parts.

According to a source, among the products produced by Bosch’s automotive division are vehicle sensors, electronic controls, power braking systems and steering. The collaboration of the two is in compliance to the guidelines of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in autonomous vehicles. A letter of Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, to the NHTSA was uncovered too wherein he expressed the company’s interest in making automated systems in many areas, including the transport sector.

Other Clues to the Apple Self-Driving Car Project

Apple continues to play coy in the matter. But there have been many clues dropped by its company’s executives as well as their actions as of late pertaining to their involvement in an automotive program.

Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted before that they wanted to expand beyond the integration of their smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems. In addition, there have been a series of high-profile hirings that further fuel speculations about the subject.

In 2015, Apple hired former Mercedes-Benz Research & Development head Johann Jungwirth. Then last year, the firm took Sinisa Durekovic under its wing. He is known for his work in developing satellite navigation systems used by luxury car brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Top 15 Rumors About the Apple iCar

apple-icar

There have been rumors since early last year that Apple is developing its own car, which is either an electric vehicle or a self-driving unit. Although the Cupertino-based multinational company remains secretive about it, there have been hints from inside sources and sightings confirming that the giant tech firm is indeed working on its own vehicle. The mass media currently refers to the auto as the Apple iCar.

Here are the top 15 rumors about the iCar that Macworld gathered:

1. Codename

According to Wall Street Journal, the iCar project is codenamed as “Titan.” It also claimed that several hundred employees are working on it.

2. McLaren Negotiations

Financial Times stated that Apple is negotiating to buy McLaren. It is not clear though if Apple is only considering it as an investment, but it is most likely that Apple is looking to utilize the supercar technology available in McLaren for its iCar.

3. Issues

Apple is reconsidering its strategy in development of self-driving cars. It was reported that the company laid off a number of its staff working on the project.

4. Marketing Strategy

The tech firm is planning on an aggressive marketing strategy for its iCar. It is targeting sales of half a million units annually.

5. Battery

The iCar battery will be sourced from a major Sourth Korean battery developer according to Neil Cybart, founder of analyst firm Above Avalon. The source said the anonymous Korean company just signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with Apple.

6. Unveiling

Appleinsider said the completion of the iCar is tentatively set in 2021 due to major setbacks.

7. Development Cost

Apple spent $10 billion in research and development as of late. Previously, the company only allotted $3 billion for that. The sudden bubble in R&D costs indicates that it is working on something more than smartphones, tablets or computing devices.

8. Commitment

Tim Cook appears to be committed to it. Despite not confirming the project, he left hints in his interviews that they are into something bigger outside the products they have now.

Wall Street Journal revealed too that Bob Mansfield is overseeing the electric vehicle division of the company. Mansfield is a former senior vice president of Technologies at Apple. He reportedly extended his tenure from a planned retirement from the company in 2012 to lead the special project.

9. Noise in Apple Facility

Residents in Sunnyvale, California said that engine noises could heard in an Apple campus at 11PM based on Appleinsider.

10. Domain Names

MacRumors found out that Apple bought domain names related to cars in December 2015. However, it is also possible that the domains will be used for the in-car system of Apple called CarPlay.

11. Apple Covering Its Tracks

Reports surfaced that the car manufacturer Faraday Future might be a front of Apple for the development of its iCar. This is to divert the attention of the public from the iCar and keep the project away from the prying eyes of the media.

12. Digital License Plates

Among the cool technologies equipped in the iCar will be digital license plates.

13. Big Car and Tech Firms Sense a New Player in the EV Scene

Elon Musk revealed Apple has been offering Tesla engineers to jumpship with $250,000 signing bonus and 60 percent increase in salary. Korea Times claimed Apple is luring Samsung tech experts into their yard too.

14. Apple is Testing Cars Rigged with Sensors

Cars registered with Apple were seen in the roads fitted with a lot of sensors. The tech firm ruled out the development of autonomous car though by saying that the cars are only being used to test their mapping technology.

15. Apple’s Acquisition of Johann Jungwirth

The best evidence pointing to the possible development of the iCar is the hiring of Johann Jungwirth in Apple. Jungwirth is the former head of R&D at Mercedes-Benz. He is rumored to be spearheading the development of the iCar.

Is A 2021 Apple iCar In The Works?

apple-car

Apple is trying to replicate what it did with the iMac G3 in the late 90s and apply its “i” in the automotive industry. There’s nothing official yet, but there’s a growing evidence that Apple is building an all-electric car with advanced autonomous capabilities.

According to a report, a product like that will be a real game changer, especially since Apple has always been known to build innovative products. Plus, can you imagine the Apple technology inside of that car?

Just like the iPhone and the iPad, an Apple iCar might very well set the standard by which all other rivals will be judged. Hopefully, the rumors are true. The evidences are still a lot of unexplainable jumble, so there’s no real explanation if the leaks are actually true.

In an article published in 2013 by the New York Times, it was said that Steve Jobs’ secret dream is to build a car based on Apple’s technology. Even Mickey Drexler, an Apple board of directors, backed this claim.

Phil Schiller, senior VP of product marketing, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal during the Apple vs Samsung trial that Apple wanted to make “a camera… (making) a car, crazy stuff.”

In 2010, The Guardian alleged that Jobs met with the head of the V-Vehicle to check out an upstart company’s low-cost prototype. He apparently talked about materials and design, though there were never any details that came out.

What is only clear is that Apple has an interest to build its own car. But how far has this interest taken the company?

In February 2015, the Business Insider wrote a story about a claim from an anonymous Apple employee that the company was in the midst of developing a prototype that would “give Tesla a run for its money.” The employee furthered that Tesla employees were jumping to Apple to be a part of a project that was “too exciting to pass up.”

But it was the Wall Street Journal that gave the project, supposedly an autonomous minivan, a name. It said Apple is calling it “Project Titan.”

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