Apple may be working on building autonomous electric cars, according to a senior auto industry source. While the company itself has not commented on the matter, both the Wall Street Journal and Reuters have independently confirmed that the company has been actively gathering information and expertise on automobile manufacturing.
The initial report from the Wall Street Journal spoke of a top secret project in Cupertino called “Titan”. The group, numbering several hundred, are working on the design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan. Apple executives have also flown to Europe to hold talks with contract manufacturers for high end cars like Magna Steyr unit of Canadian auto supplier Magna International Inc.
Apple itself is only gathering advice on parts and production methods, mainly focusing on electric and connected car technologies. It appears to be preparing to build the cars itself, as there has been no word of any partnerships being discussed or brought up.
Both newspapers warn that Apple has been known to explore projects that are later discarded, although in this case the company can afford to experiment as much as it wants. Building the necessary facilities to manufacture cars could easily cost some U$1 billion (about RM3.6 billion); although that is comparatively pocket change to the US$178 billion (about RM637 billion) that Apple has in cash.
Reuters has also reported that sources indicate that Apple is recruiting auto industry experts, particularly those well-versed in the area of robotics. It has also assigned product vice president Steve Zadesky to lead the new team; as Zadesky is a former Ford engineer with experience in the automotive sector.
It is tempting to hope that Apple is preparing to bring its revolutionary design and methods to automobiles, especially with Google also exploring the autonomous vehicle sector. However, it is still much to early to speculate on what the company is actually doing. For all we know it could simply be learning more about cars to improve the CarPlay service.