As per Reuters, the world’s most valuable electronics company, Apple is making plans to launch its first-ever passenger vehicle. Fondly being called ‘Apple iCar‘ by its fans, it is speculated to have a ‘next level’ battery, to take on rivals like Tesla, Volkswagen, and others. Let’s see how Apple will hit the roads by 2024.
Crux of the Matter
Timeline Of Project Titan
- 2014: CEO Tim Cook approves Apple electric car project, codenamed ‘Titan’. It was assigned to a former Ford engineer, VP Steve Zadesky. Later on Johann Jungwirth, former-president of Mercedes-Benz was rumoured to join the R&D
- 2016: Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk hinted at Apple making a ‘compelling’ electric car.
Significant Developments Of 2018
- Apple registers 27 self-driving vehicles with California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Doug Field, former VP of engineering at Tesla, heads Titan.
- One of their prototypes gets involved in a crash during road-testing.
- They have patented a system, which warns riders ahead of time, about what an autonomous car can do.
- 2019: Apple lays off 200 employees from Titan and acquires autonomous vehicle startup Drive.ai.
- 2020: Apple has not made it official but Reuters has quoted two sources, that state the iPhone manufacturer wants to roll out ‘iCars’ by 2024 with its AI lead, John Giannandrea, monitoring it.
With Good Design, Come Good Batteries
Apple is inclined towards the “monocell” design, which bulks up the individual cells and makes more space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches that hold battery materials.
Apple is studying chemistry for lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, as it overheats less, is inherently safer and gives longer car range, than just li-on batteries.
Lidar Sensor Companies’ Stocks Rise
After reports that Apple will partner with outside companies for iCar parts, Luminar and Velodyne, both companies that produce lidar sensors, had their stocks jump to 10% and 14% resp. on 22 December.
What Is Lidar?
Light Detection and Ranging is a mechanism for measuring distances, by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection via a sensor. The Lidar will act as the “eyes” for iCar, as it will continuously scan a 3D image of nearby surroundings and help them navigate.
iCar may feature multiple lidar sensors for scanning different distances. Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models from this year featured lidar sensors.
Challenges Ahead For Apple
For profit, automotive manufacturers often ask for volumes that could be challenging even to Apple, as a newcomer in the automotive market. One of the managing partners at Apple investor Gullane Capital Partners, Trip Miller, said it could be tough for Apple to produce large volumes of cars out of the gate.
Chief economist at Apple shareholder Capital Investment Counsel, Hal Eddins, says “Apple has a history of higher margins than most automakers.”
Existing Self-Driving Car Competitors
- Tesla (Autopilot mode)
- Swift Navigation
- Embark Trucks
- Alphabet Inc’s Waymo is an autonomous driving technology company that has built Robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service. Waymo is run by CEO John Krafcik and has raised $3 billion in two outside funding rounds.
- Tesla Autopilot is an advanced driver-assistance system offered by Tesla that has self-driving features. The driver is responsible and the car requires constant supervision. The company claims the features reduce accidents caused by driver negligence and fatigue from long-term driving.
- Elon Musk said in a tweet that he reached out to Apple during the ‘darkest days’ of the development of Tesla’s Model 3 to talk about a possible deal. Musk said he planned to discuss the possibility of selling Tesla to Apple for ~$60 billion, but the Apple CEO refused to take any meeting.
- Wikipedia – Apple electric car project
- Hindustan Times Auto – iPhone to iCar: Apple car may hit roads by 2024, will get ‘next level’ battery
- Reuters – EXCLUSIVE-Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes “next level” battery technology – sources
- Business Insider – Lidar stocks extend 2-day pop to more than 30% on report that Apple is building its own car