Apple is still working on its self-driving car, but it’s still ‘half a decade away’ at least

One of the long-standing rumors floating around Apple is the company’s efforts to build an automobile. “Project Titan” as it’s known, the Apple Car has been in the works for some time. However, we may be many years away before we see it actually launch.

Bloomberg is out today with a new report detailing Apple’s efforts to build the car. The company details it as a “self-driving electric car”, which lines up with plenty of the rumors we’ve heard in the past. However, while some reports have suggested we could see the Apple Car as early as 2025, this report suggests we’re still “five to seven” years away from its debut.

The main problem? Development on the project apparently stalling due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced Apple to halt work for the time being. But, Apple’s goal is to “eventually ship a vehicle”, and not simply the technology that works in an infotainment system for another automobile manufacturer. To that end, the report states that Apple has hired on other ex-Tesla executives, even as it continues to develop with a “small team” for right now:

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant has a small team of hardware engineers developing drive systems, vehicle interior and external car body designs with the goal of eventually shipping a vehicle. That’s a more ambitious goal than in previous years when the project mostly focused on creating an underlying self-driving system. The company has also added more ex-Tesla Inc. executives to the project.

That stalled development is ongoing, with the majority of the Apple Car team working from home right now. Work on Project Titan has slowed, and this may have had an impact on a planned release schedule. The report says the Apple Car, as it stands right now, is “nowhere near” production stage, and it’s definitely possible that any existing timelines could change.

The report also details additional hires that Apple has made in an effort to help with development on the Apple Car. It notes that the company brought on Steve McManus, a former Tesla engineer, back in 2019. McManus started work on other projects, but, now, he’s working on Project Titan:

Now MacManus leads a development group with several employees focused on car interiors, fabrics, car testing and vehicle manufacturing, people with knowledge of the matter said. He reports to Doug Field, a former top Tesla vehicle engineer who runs the Apple car project day to day.

And it goes on from there:

Apple also recently hired Jonathan Sive, a vehicle engineer from BMW AG, Tesla and Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, as a senior manager on the car project. In 2019, Apple tapped Michael Schwekutsch, Tesla’s former vice president in charge of drive systems, adding to a growing list of former Tesla employees working on the vehicle effort.

Late in 2020, Apple also hired another former Tesla vice president, Stuart Bowers, according to a person familiar with the move. He led Tesla’s self-driving technology team until mid-2019 and was an executive-in-residence at venture capital firm Greylock Partners until July, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Rumors are ramping up

Things went quiet on the Apple Car front for a long while there. However, that is certainly not the case now. Before the end of 2020 there were several new reports detailing Apple’s seemingly renewed interest in the Apple Car project.

That began with the report that John Giannandrea had taken up the lead role for Project Titan development. And then it was reported that Apple may work with TSMC, in the same way that Tesla is, to build self-driving car chips. In December, Reuters reported that Apple’s self-driving car would feature “next level” battery technology, and production would begin in 2024. (Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, did not agree.)

And then, most recently, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo altered his expectations, saying that the Apple Car would not debut until at least 2025. And that seems to line up with today’s report, too.

So, we’re still a ways away from this thing becoming official. If it ever does.