Project Titan pivots, again: Apple Car will restrict self-driving features to highways

Apple Car may restrict its self-driving features to highways because a fully autonomous vehicle just isn’t feasible with the current state of technology.

Exterior of Apple's retail store in Taipei's A13 Xinyi district with passing cars on the street shot with long exposure to appear blurred as if speeding
Apple stores will have showrooms for cars, no? | Image: Andy Wang/Unsplash
  • What’s happening? Once again, Apple has refocused its electric car project—internally called Project Titan. Instead of producing a fully autonomous vehicle, an Apple Car is said to restrict any self-driving features to the highways.
  • Why care? Scaling back Project Titan’s ambitions is actually a good sign after nearly a decade of scrapped plans and pivots, meaning the likelihood of an Apple-branded car being released in a few years has increased significantly.
  • What to do? Better start saving money now because Apple’s electric vehicle could have a starting price of around or under $100,000.

Will Apple Car have advanced self-driving features?

According to Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, Apple’s electric car may arrive a year later than originally expected, in 2026 instead of 2025. While the design hasn’t been finalized, the project is reportedly in the “pre-prototype” stage.

The company is aiming to ready the design by next year and have the features set by the end of 2024. It then plans to put the car through extensive testing in 2025.

Gurman reports that an Apple Car could lose advanced self-driving features after management realized that a fully autonomous vehicle similar to prototypes from EV startup Canoo remains the industry’s pipe dream.

Apple had previously discussed launching a car that looks similar to Canoo Inc.’s Lifestyle Vehicle. The idea was to have a limousine-like interior where passengers could face each other. Now the plan is to produce something more like a traditional car, with a driver’s seat.

Thank God Apple abandoned that idea! We don’t need electric cars that resemble those ugly, boring vehicles from the future we often see in conceptual renderings.

Dedicated sensors instead of cameras

The vehicle is said to use LiDAR scanners and ultrasonic sensors to map its environment—similar to Waymo cars and in contrast with Teslas, which rely on cameras. There might even be an Apple-operated command center to assist drivers and control cars remotely during emergencies (Apple does a similar thing for the Emergency SOS via satellite feature). Read: How to use Emergency SOS via satellite

The thing is reportedly going to be priced below $100,000. In comparison, the original plan called for a price tag north of $120,000. The new below-$100,000 price point is still premium but definitely sounds more realistic. It would permit Apple to compete with similarly-priced electric vehicles from established players, including the baseline version of Tesla’s Model S and the EQS from Mercedes-Benz.

Other tidbits from the report:

  • Apple Car will have the traditional steering wheel and pedals after all
  • Apple’s custom underlying technology platform is codenamed Denali
  • Custom chips are comparable to four of Apple’s highest-end Mac chips combined
  • Apple is also discussing offering its own insurance program to customers
  • The Apple Car team is made up of about 1,000 employees
  • Teams in California, Japan and Germany have been working on Project Titan

This bit on Apple’s team in Zürich, Germany.

The company’s team in Zürich is developing a tool known as “Rocket Score” that grades the vehicle’s autonomous system. That core team faced a setback earlier this year when Ian Goodfellow, a prominent developer of AI technology who helped lead the group, left Apple after complaining about its work-from-home policies.

The Cupertino giant will reportedly bring dislocated car teams under one roof in a new campus by the San Jose airport known as Orchard Parkway.