Apple already has plenty of devices ranging from smartphones, laptops, and watches. But believe it or not, Apple has plans to take over the electric vehicle space.
Apple’s project codenamed Titan has been going on for years now, and with a cash balance of 100 billion dollars, the company has plenty of money to spend on new projects.
In this article, I’m going to cover Apple’s secret plan to outsell Tesla and evaluate whether or not the company has a chance.
To undercover Apple’s plan to outsell Tesla, we need to backtrack into Apple’s history with its electric car project.
The involvement first started in 2014 when Apple CEO Tim Cook created project Titan with the mission to dominate the electric and autonomous driving space.
Cook assigned former vice president of Ford Steve Zadesky in charge of the project. He also hired other prominent auto executives, including the former president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz’s research and development department, Johann Jungwirth.
Rumors began to go around with Apple’s secret project as Carl Icahn; a famous American businessman stated that he believed Apple would release a car in 2020 and that it would be the ultimate mobile device.
The Sydney Morning Herald, which releases daily compact newspapers, also caught on to the rumor stating that production would start as soon as 2020.
By August 2015, the Guardian newspaper reported that Apple was looking to use a testing ground for autonomous vehicles.
This testing ground is the former concord naval weapon station in concord California, also known as Gomentum stadium. While it became evident that Apple was working on an autonomous car, Tim Cook attempted to keep the project secret.
Randy Iwasaki, the Gomentum stadium owner, stated, “We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Apple we can’t tell you anything other than they’ve come in and they’re interested.”
One month later, Apple began meeting with the California DMV to obtain a self-driving permit.
This confirms the fact that Apple was working on an autonomous driving car. However, while Cook was developing Apple’s autonomous driving software, he still had more solid plans for the future.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was working on a battery-electric car that would be released in the next four to five years.
In October of 2015, when talking about the car industry, Tim Cook stated, “it would seem like there will be a massive change in that industry, massive change. You may not agree with that.
That’s what we think… we’ll see what we do in the future. I do think that the industry is at an inflection point for massive change”.
Shortly after, Apple created another project codenamed Baja in partnership with Torque Robotics to attach sensors with Lexus SUVs. By this time, it became evident that Apple was working on an electric vehicle.
Tim Cook’s effort to keep the plan secret had failed, and Elon Musk took notice. In 2016 Elon Musk told the BBC that it is evident that Apple was making a compelling electric vehicle. He told them, “it’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it.”
Apple’s ambitions continue to grow further, as, in May of 2016, reports show that Apple was looking to create electric charging stations. On July 29th, 2016, Apple hired Dan Dodge, the former CEO of blackberry’s automotive software division.
According to Bloomberg, Dan shifted project Titan’s focus on creating the autonomous driving software for its electric vehicles. In this reboot, Apple had dozens of layoff rounds, but the team still consisted of 1000 engineers.
In June of 2017, Tim Cook told Bloomberg that Apple was currently focusing on autonomous systems, which may or may not lead to the development of an Apple car.
A few months later, Apple employees Yinzo and one saltuzal published a paper about using a convolutional neural network for detecting 3d objects with lidar.
This paper unveiled Apple’s vision to dominate autonomous vehicles with lidar technology. By 2018 it started to become clear that Apple was serious about its involvement in electric vehicles.
Apple had 70 self-driving permits, and also had 27 self-driving vehicles registered with the California DMV.
It was around this time that Apple decided that it couldn’t complete this project alone, an article by the New York Times announced that Apple attempted to partner with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, BYD auto, Mclaren and Volkswagen.
However, only one automaker decided to accept Apple’s partnership with Volkswagen.
In this partnership, Volkswagen would produce a shuttle van based on the G6 transporter platform, and Apple would help with the autonomous driving software.
While Apple poured millions if not billions of dollars into projects Titan, for the most part, nobody knew how much progress they made.
As a result, a former Apple employee attempted to leak trade secrets about Apple’s secret autonomous driving project. However, this employee was caught by the FBI and was charged by federal prosecutors.
By this time, Apple had 5,000 employees in project Titan, but all of these employees had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
At this time, Apple was still attempting to get some employers from Tesla. In August 2018, Apple succeeded as we saw Doug Field, the former senior vice president of engineering at Tesla, become the leader of projects Titan.
With Doug at the helm of projects Titan, Apple began to file patent applications. For example, Apple filed a patent based on the fact that Apple’s autonomous cars warned riders of what the car would do before it made them.
Apple also bumped up their driverless cars, as BBC reported that Apple had 66 driverless vehicles that were registered with the California DMV and 111 drivers to operate these vehicles.
A few months later, in January of 2019, Apple laid off more than 200 employees in projects Titan, making it seem like Apple’s plans for its self-driving car had diminished.
However, the truth is that projects Titan still has thousands of employees and maybe nearing the release of its vehicle.
In June of 2019, Apple acquired an autonomous vehicle startup named drive.ai, which manifested the fact that project Titan is not only still here but is still growing.
We’ve covered the leaks that we know about so far in project Titan, but how close is Apple to its new car? In short, Apple plans to release the vehicle or software very soon, whichever one comes first.
Originally Apple had plans to release the vehicle in 2020, but new reports show that Apple plans to debut the vehicle in 2021.
Rumors are that Apple’s car will be named the i-car, and if it follows Apple’s previous plans, it likely won’t be able to have level 5 autonomy yet.
Because Apple’s plans are incredibly secretive, we don’t have much information on project Titan.
However, given the fact that Apple has a huge cash pile of 100 billion dollars, it is likely spending a decent amount of money on the project.
I don’t believe that Apple stands a chance in making a significant dent in the electric vehicle space. Apple phones are heavily reliant on outside suppliers, and they will likely outsource the manufacturing for the Apple car.
When it comes to Tesla, a lot of the manufacturing process is vertically integrated to improve margins, and Apple doesn’t have the same experience with manufacturing and designing each part.
Another issue I see is the economies of scale, as Tesla has had plenty of experience with scaling from the Tesla Roadster to the Model 3 and Model Y.
On the other hand, Apple doesn’t have much experience scaling with electric vehicles, and it’ll be difficult for them to catch up with Tesla at a fast pace.
Now don’t get me wrong. Apple’s involvement in the vehicle space is undoubtedly exciting, I’d love to see Apple’s integration of its ecosystem with the i-car, and it’s all just a part of Elon Musk’s goal to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energies.
However, project Titan seems to be an attempt by Apple to get a piece of the autonomous future ahead of us. It is similar to google’s entrance into smartwatches and smartphones.
Google’s upcoming pixel watch and phone may be enticing, but it lacks the years of branding and development that Apple has in the smartphone space.
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