Nearly three years ago, the Project Titan initiative went from building an Apple-branded electric vehicle to the creation of an autonomous driving system, but a new report out of Germany on Thursday alleges that Apple could instead be building an electric-powered van.
According to multiple unnamed sources that spoke with German-language Manager Magazin, the mythical Apple Car could end up being an electric-powered van.
One of the prototypes Apple engineers reportedly created uses black and silver paint. Additionally, the Cupertino technology giant has researched its own batteries and motors, as well as special seats, interior components and more.
Not only have these electric vans been engineered and tested, the report also claims that Apple is currently working on the vehicle’s interior.
The New York Times said last year that Apple and Volkswagen singed a deal permitting the former to outfit Volkswagen’s vans with sensors and cameras, turning them into self-driving vans for transporting employees around its office buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that an Apple-branded electric vehicle would come within 5-7 years, adding it’d use in-house chips and an advanced driver assistance system supporting either high automation (Level 4) or full automation (Level 5).
The reasons for the Apple Car, as per Kuo:
(1) Potentially huge replacement demands are emerging in the auto sector because it is being redefined by new technologies. The case is the same as the smartphone sector ten years ago; (2) Apple’s leading technology advantages (e.g. augmented reality) would redefine cars and differentiate Apple Car from peers’ products; (3) Apple’s service will grow significantly by entering the huge car finance market via Apple Car, and (4) Apple can do a better integration of hardware, software and service than current competitors in the consumer electronics sector and potential competitors in the auto sector.
Apple recently laid off or reassigned more than 200 Project Titan employees, according to CNBC. The company doesn’t talk much about the project but it also doesn’t shy away from acknowledging its interest in autonomous systems and associated technologies.
“As the team focuses their work on several key areas for 2019, some groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple,” a company spokesperson said in response to the layoffs.
Apple calls these systems “the most ambitious machine learning project ever”.
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Image: Apple’s special LiDAR-equipped vehicle for gathering Maps data