Project Titan, aka The Apple Car is quite possibly the most hotly anticipated rumor of this decade and last decade. Years in the making and still years from its first appearance.
What do we know about the Apple car?
Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was said to be thinking about the company’s involvement in the automotive industry way back in 2008, the era of iPhone 3g.
Fast forward a few years and the Project Titan name begins to get thrown around – an Apple project destined to bring autonomous transport to life. More than 1,000 employees were transferred onto this project in its early days.
Apple seemingly put all its eggs into this basket though, because in 2016 rumors’ had it that Project Titan was getting axed. After major staffing changes and leadership issues, the Project remains in operation today with John Giannandrea at the wheel – Apple’s artificial intelligence and machine learning chief.
Above anything else, people want to know one thing, when will the Apple car join our roads?
Reuters expects this to be as soon as 2024, while renowned Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo expects 2025 – 2027 to be a more realistic deadline. Others write off this entire decade before we are likely to see any substance.
Domains purchased by the company suggests that it’s certainly in the pipeline – namely apple.car, apple.cars and apple.auto. Critics exclaimed that these though could be more closely related to its ventures into current car software Carplay.
What the car will look like is as much your guess as it is ours. Various renders have entertained an eagerly awaiting audience but it wasn’t till September 2017 that a business insider report indicated some of the car key features. The interior would resemble a lounge without any sign of steering wheel or pedals rendering the car completely autonomous. This coincides with CNBC’s claim that the first Apple car will be driverless and destined for use in delivery services and robot taxi operations.
Automatic doors would open and close silently while Virtual or Augmented Reality would be built into the displays for entertainment purposes. This level of distraction suggests that would be zero driver involvement. Refinements would be made to the sensor modules such as the clunky lidar sensors currently used by auto manufacturers.
Boasting some of the strongest software, processing hardware and artificial intelligence algorithms of any tech company, Apple is already making good progress for a fully self-driving vehicle.
What the company lacks, is the hardware to make this a reality. While the tech giant is said to be working to establish a factory in the US, more immediate partnerships have begun to emerge.
Early 2021 has been plagued with rumors of a partnership with Hyundai or Kia sister companies with an extensive track record for making reliable cars and some of the most popular electric vehicles on the market today including The Nero and Ioniq.
However, neither company is as experienced with EVs as Nissan, whose Leaf hit the mass market by storm over a decade ago. Apple isn’t ashamed to borrow and learn from others, a partnership with Volkswagen has been struck to modify the T6 transporter for use as a self-driving shuttle vehicle for employees on its campus.
The company has also entered talks with multiple Lidar sensor manufacturers – key instrument to help detect and map an autonomous vehicle’s surroundings. While the hardware is essentially undecided, Apple is not letting this hold it back.
Borrowing from others, the company has been running a fleet of 62 self-driving vehicles and 87 drivers to gather data in anticipation for an increase in pace on the project. The streets of California have often been home to sightings of heavily equipped Lexus RX-450h SUVs.
Self-driving is a notoriously difficult technology to master as proven by market leader Tesla and requires millions upon millions of miles of testing.
Almost unwritten yet implied in every mention of Project Titan are the eco credentials of the Apple car. As an electric car, it will have to push the boundaries of current technology and introduce faster ranges and larger capacities.
As revolutionary as the iPhone when it launched, the company is said to be working on a new type of mono-cell battery. This design should allow individual cells to bulk up while freeing space inside the battery pack thus increasing its energy density.
Although the design has been publicly criticized by Tesla CEO Elon Musk as electrochemically impossible, we can say for certain Apple is working on some sort of technology to increase the efficiency of batteries. Although manufacturing partners are undecided, it seems that Cook’s company has a few ideas up its sleeve.
Patent 2018001734 for example determines optimal comfort conditions that optimize the perceived temperatures of various occupant body parts and maintain various climate characteristics within one or more sets of thresholds.
There’s only one reason Apple would file such a patent and although the company refuses to admit it’s working on its own car, our suspicions are virtually confirmed here. Another patent refers to lighting systems of vehicles seats. It describes fiber-connected LEDs and OLEDs which interlace in such a way that their source is concealed.
These could be used as in-car displays mounted on interior panels and display messages such as seat belt reminders.
Although this sounds like an unrealistic speculation, it indicates the active interest of Project Titan’s research and development department.
When Gian Andrea isn’t filing for patents, his team is busy recruiting staff. In December 2018, Tesla Senior Designer Andrew Kim joined the company. Apple has also reportedly employed Doug Betts, a car industry veteran with a quarter of decade of experience at Nissan, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler automobiles.
If this isn’t enough, Musk claims that Apple is offering signing bonuses worth a quarter of a million dollars and 60% pay increase to Tesla engineers. He publicly shamed this move as a Tesla graveyard. A project worth an unimaginable amount of money will surely end in a tangible car by the end of the decade or soon after, but how much will it cost?
Tech analysis are taking a guess at $55,000 dollars. While this is significantly less than the model S that Tesla used to launch itself to the mass market, it could be possible owing to the fact that the car flips what we know about transportation and is less car-like than anything we are familiar with today. Equally, it could make the Model S look cheap and tip the scales at over $100,000 dollars.
Guessing the car’s technology is hard work but it is possible thanks to analyzing each and every move the company makes. Guessing the design and price tough is virtually impossible at this stage.
Regardless of what we know and what we don’t know about Project Titan, it will revolutionize the automotive industry. It will reconfigure what we know about cars and rewrite their future communication, health and now transportation. The company will sell this as an experience not just a car. Apple’s direction is clear full of autonomy.