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Apple’s secret project Titan aims to build a minivan-like electric vehicle

Hold onto your seats, Tesla: Apple is reportedly building a minivan-like electric vehicle. There are already hundreds of employees dedicated to the clandestine project, code-named “Titan.” That name, of course, will inevitably have to change, as it’s owned by Nissan.

The project to build an Apple-branded electric vehicle is the result of CEO Tim Cook’s approval nearly a year ago, according to The Wall Street Journal. Product design vice president and former Ford engineer Steve Zadesky was given the green light to hire a 1,000-person team from outside and inside the company. The hope is to build the equivalent of the iPhone for the electric vehicle market.

“Working from a private location a few miles from Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, the team is researching different types of robotics, metals and materials consistent with automobile manufacturing,” according to the WSJ, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Additionally, Apple executives have reportedly met with Austria-based contract manufacturers for high-end cars. The company’s industrial design team also includes former employees of European automakers, according to the WSJ.

The cost of manufacturing cars is titanic (pun intended), but flush with $178 billion in cash at the end of 2014, Apple seems capable of entering the game.

While Apple’s interest in building an electric car is serious, the ultimate result of Titan may not be a market-ready car. The research and development of electric car batteries and in-car electronics could be leveraged to improve Apple’s other products, according to the WSJ. Benefits for Apple’s CarPlay, the vehicle-friendly version of iOS, also seem likely.

Earlier this month, there was a sighting of an Apple-leased minivan topped by numerous cameras in the Bay Area. A technology analyst said the minivan was equipped with too many cameras to make it a mapping car. Rather, he guessed it was a test for a self-driving vehicle. However, Apple is not one of the six companies owning the necessary permit to test a self-driving car.

For now, Apple has no plans to follow Google and Uber into the realm of self-driving cars, according to the WSJ report.