While it may seem fanciful to imagine Tim Cook tootling onto a San Francisco stage behind the wheel of an Apple-made electric car, a broad grin on his face as he introduces a new product category for the company, news from the Wall Street Journal on Monday suggests the tech giant is edging ever closer toward such a scenario.
So what’s the story? Well, the Cupertino company now has on its team Doug Betts, former quality control chief at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The car executive has also spent a combined total of 21 years in similar roles at Nissan, Toyota, Michelin, and General Motors. No, we don’t think he’s gone to Apple to work on the next iPhone, either.
Betts’ LinkedIn profile now shows him as an Apple employee, with a suitably vague “Operations-Apple Inc.” title. Well, it’s hardly going to say “Apple’s electric car team,” is it.
Of course, without clear confirmation – and that’s the last thing we can expect from the tech firm when it comes to unreleased products – we can’t be 100 percent sure what’s going on behind the tinted windows of 1 Infinite Loop, but reports over the last few months indicate that Apple’s has been building a team to research and possibly develop an electric vehicle.
As part of an Apple-run project apparently codenamed “Titan,” a team of experts in Cupertino has reportedly been researching “different types of robotics, metals, and materials consistent with automobile manufacturing,” while the company’s top brass are also believed to have been in talks with Austrian contract manufacturers for high-end vehicles, among others.
Apple has also hired Paul Furgale, a prominent autonomous vehicle researcher based in Europe, who since joining the company earlier this year has been “recruiting students and researchers to work with him,” according to the Journal. However, despite Furgale’s background, Apple isn’t thought to be building a self-driving car like those being developed by Google and Uber, though its vehicle could of course incorporate a number of autonomous features.
Building an electric car is of course a monumental undertaking, but Apple, swimming in nearly $200 billion of cash, clearly has the finances to research, develop, and hire the very best experts to take on such an ambitious project. Watch this space.