The Wall Street Journal quotes unnamed sources “familiar” with the project that kicked off late last year, known internally as ‘Project Titan’.
The model is reportedly based on a ‘minivan’, leading to speculation that a group of Chrysler Grand Voyagers seen moving around last year with numerous cameras on the roof were, in fact, Apple test vehicles.
While it seems Apple is yet to design and build its own car from scratch, there’s little doubt the company is keen to be seen keeping pace with Google - if for no other reason than to steal some of the limelight.
The test vehicles were almost certainly petrol-powered, but Apple may yet decide to follow Google, Tesla and others into the field of electric vehicles; which would arguably be a better fit with Apple’s current market image.
Ex-Ford engineer and long-time Apple employee Steve Zadesky is said to be leading a team of 1,000 employees on the project, but Apple is also reportedly looking to external sources for assistance - including Magna Steyr and established carmakers.
The report stops short of declaring a future Apple car as a certainty for mass-production, and even suggests that Apple may eventually downscale the operation to a simple test-bed for its in-car infotainment devices (Apple CarPlay, at present).
On the flipside, recent reports suggest Tesla is poaching the best from the Apple team to switch sides and work for the EV-maker, which would no doubt be a hindrance to Apple’s plans if it is indeed developing an autonomous car.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk pointed to Apple’s almost limitless wealth, saying “they’re running out of ways to spend money - they spend it like it’s water”.
There’s no question Apple can afford to design, test and build almost any car it pleases, while easily wearing the losses if it never goes to market or never turns a profit.
An ‘iCar’ could also be another product that entices Apple diehards to convert, and then maintain the Apple experience in future models without considering any rivals.
Not everyone accepts the idea on an Apple car however, with retired General Motors CEO, Dan Akerson, telling Bloomberg that Apple should stick to electronics and avoid getting caught up in a car-building war.
Mr Akerson said industry outsiders can’t appreciate the sea of regulatory red tape involved with building cars, nor the laws governing minimum safety standards.
A separate report suggests battery manufacturer A123 Systems has commenced legal action against Apple for poaching some its key employees.
Those employees were engaged in a long-term electric vehicle battery project, and A123 Systems believes their contracts have been breached through Apple’s actions.
No doubt there’s more news to come on this topic. Stay tuned to TMR.
Images via claycord.com
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