After fresh reports of an “Apple Car” began circulating in late December, analysts quickly advised people to pump the brakes on expectations. That may have been justified, as a new Bloomberg report claims Apple will take “at least half a decade” to launch the car, which is widely expected to be electric, possibly with some degree of autonomous driving capability.
While a Reuters report said Apple could launch a car as early as 2024, development work is proceeding more slowly than outsiders might think, according to the Bloomberg report, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. Those sources quoted five to seven years as a more realistic timeline, but also noted that the time frame could change.
“The car is nowhere near production stage,” the report said. A small team of engineers is working on “drive systems, vehicle interior, and external car body designs,” the report said, adding that most of the team members are either working from home or in the office for limited amounts of time due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Reports of an Apple Car have been circulating since 2014, but the company’s interest has been erratic. In 2018, Apple brought in Tesla veteran Doug Field to oversee the automotive team, known as “Project Titan,” but then laid off almost 200 employees from the team in 2019. In recent months, however, Apple has hired several more Tesla veterans for the car project, Bloomberg noted.
It’s still unclear exactly what the Apple Car will be, and what will set it apart from the electric cars of Tesla and others. Earlier reports suggested Apple’s signature feature would be an autonomous driving system, and Apple has been testing the technology on public roads in California since 2017 using modified Lexus RX SUVs. However, the most recent report cited next-generation battery technology as the Apple Car’s secret weapon.
Apple would likely partner with another company for car manufacturing. That’s not unheard of in the auto industry, as contract manufacturing deals have been used for vehicles like the Jaguar I-Pace. Foxconn — one of Apple’s most prominent existing manufacturing contractors — has even developed its own electric car platform, and is now providing cash and manufacturing expertise to Chinese EV startup Byton. So perhaps Foxconn and Apple will team up to make cars as well as iPhones — but only if the Apple Car actually sees the light of day.
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