Apple Car autopilot module and other custom chips should be completed in 2023

Work on an Apple Car autopilot chip module and other custom chips should be completed in 2023 after having been underway for almost a year.

A photograph showing an aerial view oof the Apple Park headquarters
  • Development work on an autopilot module, one of the semiconductor parts which will form a single custom chip powering Apple Car, will reportedly be completed in 2023. An Apple Car is rumored to launch no earlier than 2025.
  • A previously unreported project, the development work on an Apple Car autopilot module started in 2021. It’s been underway for almost a year now.
  • Apple apparently commissioned an unnamed South Korean outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) company to help develop chip modules and semiconductor packages for the mythical Apple car.

Autopilot chips for Apple Car to be completed in 2023

A new report from The Elec suggests that Apple has cleared another hurdle in plans to develop an autonomous vehicle, with the company’s South Korean branch reportedly working with a Korean supplier on an autopilot module for a custom chip that will power an Apple Car. Apple even gave its regional office in South Korea the bill of material rights for the project. Read: How to customize Apple Maps

The South Korean OSAT firm was working on the module for a chip that operates the autopilot function, much like those used by Tesla, sources said.

OSAT in this context refers to “outsourced semiconductor assembly and test” rather than a specific company. The report doesn’t name the supplier in question.

Sources said Tesla, when developing its autopilot chip module, used Samsung’s memory and gave the assembly work to South Korean firm JCET STATSChipPAC Korea. Apple was taking a similar route in its project, they said.

The development work on this chip module, which wasn’t previously reported on, began in 2021. The project should be completed in 2023.

Why an Apple Car will be powered by custom chips

The rumored self-driving vehicle is said to use custom chips like other Apple products such as iPhones and Macs. The company will be basically integrating multiple chips onto a single semiconductor die, which is called system-on-a-chip.

Such chips, which oversee AI computations, usually integrate a neural processing unit, CPU, GPU, memory as well as camera interface among other functions.

Apple’s favorite chipmaker is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which has been exclusively building the iPhone, iPad and Mac chips for years. When the time comes to kick off mass production of the Apple Car chips, probably in 2023 or 2024, Apple will likely seek help from TSMC once again because TSMC has earned a name for itself with its sophisticated process technologies and capacity.

The move coincides with Taiwan’s Foxconn reportedly planning to build a dedicated assembly line in Thailand for Apple Car, which Cupertino is rumored to be planning to launch in 2025.

Apple has basically opted for the same approach that has turned it into a technology powerhouse. Instead of bothering to operate expensive manufacturing plants to actually build components and assemble its gadgets itself, the  Cupertino company works with a vast network of Asian suppliers and contract manufacturers who build Apple products on the company’s behalf based on its in-house designs. Read: 40+ suggestions for how to maximize battery life on your iPhone