Apply brakes to Apple Car expectations, analyst says

The idea of an Apple Car landing in showrooms hit the headlines again last week when a Reuters report suggested the tech giant is aiming to have an electric vehicle (EV) with autonomous capabilities ready for market in 2024.

But a new research note from respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests the car’s precise design specifications have yet to be decided, adding that any such vehicle may not arrive until 2028 or even later.

While acknowledging an earlier note in which he claimed the Apple Car could launch between 2023 and 2025, the TF International Securities analyst said that more recent research “indicates that the current development schedule of Apple Car is not clear, and if development starts this year and everything goes well, it will be launched in 2025–2027 at the earliest.”

But he added that the market appears “overly bullish” about Apple’s launch plans and that “due to changes in the EV/self-driving market and Apple’s high-quality standards, we would not be surprised if Apple Car’s launch schedule is postponed to 2028 or later.”

Kuo was also keen to remind investors that “although Apple has a variety of competitive advantages, it is not always successful in new business.” He cited Apple’s late arrival in the smart speaker space, which reports suggest has left it with a small share of the global market due to lower-than-expected demand.

“The competition in the EV/self-driving car market is fiercer than that for smart speakers, so we think it’s perilous to jump to the conclusion that Apple Car will succeed,” Kuo said in his research note.

Warming to his theme, the analyst continued: “If Apple Car wants to succeed in the future, the key success factor is big data/A.I., not hardware. One of our biggest concerns about Apple Car is that when Apple Car is launched, the current self-driving car brands will have accumulated at least five years of big data and be conducive to deep learning/A.I. How does Apple, a latecomer, overcome this lagging gap?”

Reuters’ report, which cited sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans, said there’s a possibility the company could scale back its ambitions and skip building a car itself, focusing instead on providing its autonomous technology to an established automaker, meaning the Apple Car that so many people would love to see may never come to fruition.

Apple’s EV initiative, known as Project Titan, has been making headlines for around the last six years, though Reuters’ report was the first one in a while. To no one’s surprise, Apple has said next to nothing on the matter, though it has acknowledged in the past that it’s researching “autonomous systems.” Its reported work on an autonomous van, and the filing of a self-driving car patent that could turn Siri into a personal chauffeur, also point to Apple’s interest in the sector.

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