Everyone is aware by now that Apple keeps working on several projects under the cover and therefore the market is full of hot rumours, this time for cars. Though not confirmed yet by Apple officially, Apple iCar, known as TITAN secretly had been in discussions since long now.
If rumours are to be believed, this project is approved by Apple Ceo himself and assigned to the vice president who happens to be a former Ford engineer, Steve Zadesky in 2014. Mickey Drexler, a board member of Apple stated in Feb 2015 that Steve Jobs had was interested in cars and had discussions around it back in 2008 itself.
Is Apple iCar just a rumour? Let's look at a few major factors that serve as evidence to us.
1- FORMER EMPLOYEE CHARGED BY FEDERAL PROSECUTORS- In mid-2018, Xiaolang Zhang, an ex-employee of Apple who was a part of company's automobile project was charged by the FBI for supposedly stealing trade secrets of Apple's autonomous car project for a Chinese company. As per FBI documents, around 5000 Apple employees are disclosed for this project.
2- AGGRESSIVE HIRING - Since Feb 2015, Apple had been selectively picking veterans and experts from the car industry. Doug Betts, a veteran in this industry with 25 years experience in Toyota and Nissan was hired by Apple in July 2015, as per THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. The former president of Mercedes Benz Research and Development North America, Johann Jungwirth was also hired. The Swiss researcher, Paul Furgale is also known to join the team.
In the same year, Business Insider stated that Apple had been inviting Tesla employees by giving lucrative incentives and successfully did so. Reports also suggested Elon Musk, Tesla Motors CEO said that Apple has been trying hard by giving 60% monetary hike, to lure Tesla engineers. In 2016, Elon Musk said that” It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it."
Similarly, Apple hired Samsung's experts in the battery tech department, as per The Korean Times.Doug Field, Apple's former employee who left the company in 2013 and joined Tesla was back to join Titan project.They also reported that retired hardware engineering executive Bob Mansfield was convincingly brought back for this mega project.Andrew Kim, Tesla senior designer was hired by Apple in Dec 2018.
3- VOLKSWAGEN partnership - As per the New York Times report of May 2018, after alliances with BMW and Mercedes didn't turn out, Apple teamed up with Volkswagen to design autonomous shuttle van for employees. The report stated that " Apple has signed a deal with Volkswagen to turn some of the carmaker’s new T6 Transporter vans into Apple’s self-driving shuttles for employees.”
4- As of 2018 September, In the number of California self-driven vehicle permits, GM's cruise was at first place with 175 and Alphabet's Waymo was 88, Apple stood at third place with 70.
5- During road testing, while it was at the stop, an Apple's driver-less car had been reportedly crashed near Apple's headquarters in Cupertino. BBC at the same time reported that the company owns 66 registered self-driven cars and around 111 registered drivers.
What Apple's CEO has to say-
Tim Cook's statement about the automobile industry in Oct 2015 contributed to the boil, "It would seem like there will be a massive change in that industry, massive change. You may not agree with that. That's what I think...We'll see what we do in the future. I do think that the industry is at an inflection point for massive change."
In June 2017, Tim discussed autonomous driving with Bloomerang. He stated Apple is "focusing on autonomous systems" and that "it's a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects to actually work on". Neither denying nor confirming He further said "We'll see where it takes us. We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.
In Feb 2016, Tim Cook was interviewed by Fortune where when asked about possibilities of Apple automobiles He said, "We don't have to spend large amounts to explore. We explore things with teams of people. And that's a part of being curious,"
A few days later, at a meeting with company's shareholders, He said, "Do you remember when you were a kid and Christmas Eve, it was so exciting, You were not sure what was going to be downstairs. Well, it's going to be Christmas Eve for a while."
Well, now that was more than enough to add spark to the raging discussions. We are somehow believing the rumours and eagerly waiting to see what our favorite tech brand has to offer in cars. As per the reports by THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, the product could be more of a minivan than a car. Production might start from 2020, as per THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD.
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