Over the past several months, questions surrounding the so-called Apple Car have switched from “Will they or won’t they?” to “When will it show up?” and “What will it look like?” Despite the company’s secretive ways (or perhaps because of them), the rumor mill is working overtime for “Project Titan,” and all signs point to the vehicle touching down sometime in the next half decade.
To keep our readers in the loop, we’ve compiled all the relevant rumors, evidence, and speculation surrounding the forthcoming vehicle all in one place. We’ll keep the newest information toward the top of this page, so whether you have questions about the car or just need your daily Apple fix, this is your one-stop shop.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler have been in rumored talks with Apple for some time, but German newspaper Handelsblatt claims the negotiations have dried up. Apparently, Apple’s preference for storing vehicle data in the iCloud was a major sticking point for the automakers, both of which have put wireless security and customer data protection on the forefront recently. According to insider sources, the leading candidate for Apple’s automotive partner is now Canadian-Austrian vehicle engineering group Magna.
A new report by Electrek claims that Apple has hired Tesla’s Vice President of Vehicle Engineering, Chris Porritt. The news has not been confirmed by either Tesla nor Apple at this point, however Project Titan is likely in need of a new leader, as the program’s former head, Steve Zadesky, allegedly left Apple in January.
Porritt’s tenure at Tesla lasted three years, and during that time, the former Aston Martin and Land Rover engineer reportedly worked on the platforms for the Model S and Model X. He also helped design the chassis for the upcoming Model 3. According to sources close to the matter, Porritt was hired by Apple to work on “special projects.”
As with most Apple products, Project Titan has been shrouded in secrecy from the get-go. It’s only logical, then, that the brand’s first car would be developed in a secret lab, and that’s exactly what German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is claiming.
The paper reports that 15 to 20 Apple employees are developing the vehicle at an undisclosed location in Berlin, Germany, with the group consisting of software developers, engineers, and sales specialists. The team is “relatively young” and “progressive,” the report states, however they are also responsible for obtaining regulatory approval from the German government and keeping tabs on the competition. Does this mean the Apple Car could actually be built in Europe?
In an interview with Apple Car Fans, Apple financial analyst Gene Munster said Project Titan could cost a Tesla-rivaling $75,000 when it arrives sometime around 2021. Apple continues to remain silent as far as official details, but the price would establish the supposed EV as a competitor to the Model S 90D, which costs $73,700 before incentives.
Muster also said that despite the departure of project leader Steve Zadesky, there is still a “greater than 50-percent chance” that the Apple car will come to fruition, however he noted that the vehicle may not be sold directly to consumers.
Project Titan head reportedly jumps ship
Steve Zadesky, leader of Apple’s electric car program and 16-year veteran of the company, is reportedly leaving Apple. The news comes from a report by The Wall Street Journal.
According to sources familiar with the matter, Zadesky’s decision to leave stems from personal reasons and was not related to his performance on the job. His exact date of departure is not known at this time, as the report states he is still with Apple at the time of this writing (1-22-2016).
In 1999, Zadesky left an engineering position at Ford to work for Apple, and since that date, he has accumulated design credits on both the iPhone and the iPod. He began working on Project Titan in 2014.
Apple CEO stays tight-lipped, but hints at something more
In a recent interview with Independent.ie, Apple CEO Tim Cook declined to comment on his company’s automotive aspirations. He did outline the direction the car world is moving, however, possibly hinting at Apple’s place in it all.
“I don’t have anything to announce about our plans,” he said. “But I think there’s some significant changes in the automobile industry over the next several years with electrification and autonomous driving. And there’s a need for a focus on user interface. And so I think there’s a lot of changes that will go on there.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple’s debut electric vehicle is codenamed Project Titan and has a targeted shipping date of 2019. In anticipation, the electronics giant is tripling the project’s team size from 600 to a whopping 1,800 individuals.
Despite a previous dispatch that stated Apple execs had met with California DMV officials to discuss self-driving regulations, the latest information says the Apple Car will not be fully driverless. Semi-autonomous tech is almost a given, though.
In August, The Guardian reported that the development of Project Titan was further along than most had suspected, claiming Apple had been scouting car-testing sites near San Francisco. More specifically, the brand is said to have its eyes on GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre decommissioned naval base that is both privately owned and guarded by the military. Featuring some 20 miles of roads that simulate a variety of conditions, the facility has been used by Mercedes-Benz and Honda to test self-driving cars in the past.
Randy Iwasaki, Executive Director for the Contra Costa Transportation Authority that owns GoMentum Station, stated that Apple was interested in the site but declined to elaborate due to a nondisclosure agreement. There’s no official confirmation here, but it’s enough to get our wheels turning.
BMW and Apple have collaborated on smaller projects in the past, but nothing concrete has come to fruition in terms of an entire vehicle. However, a German publication called Manager Magazin wrote in July that Apple was considering the BMW i3 as the platform for its first car, predicting that it would utilize the German brand’s manufacturing, sales, and service resources to bolster the vehicle’s debut.
Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, reportedly visited BMW’s Leipzig factory to assess the i3’s production process earlier this year.
Perhaps the most promising sign of life for the Apple Car came back in July, when the multinational tech company hired Doug Betts, the former quality control chief at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Betts is a true industry veteran, having spent a total of 21 years in similar roles at Nissan, Toyota, Michelin, and General Motors. Apple has also brought Paul Furgale, a prominent autonomous vehicle researcher based in Europe, and Jamie Carlson, a senior engineer from Tesla, onto the team as well.
The project is reportedly being led by Steve Zadesky, a former Ford engineer and 16-year veteran of Apple. Zadesky’s current title is Vice President of iPod/iPhone Product Design.
We’ll update this page as more information trickles in, so keep it locked right here for all things Apple Car.
Updated 10-23-2015 by Andrew Hard: Added quote from Apple CEO Tim Cook about vehicle electrification, autonomous driving, and user interfaces.
Updated 1-22-2016 by Andrew Hard: Added information about Steve Zadesky reportedly leaving Apple
Updated 3-15-2016 by Andrew Hard: Added pricing rumor from Apple analyst Gene Munster
Updated 4-18-2016 by Andrew Hard: Added information about the vehicle’s rumored development site in Berlin
Updated 4-19-2016 by Andrew Hard: Added Apple’s rumored acquisition of Chris Porritt
Updated 4-25-2016 by Andrew Hard: Added info about BMW and Daimler exiting development talks