CAR companies look out. Apple is investing more money, hiring more people and spending more time developing an electric car, according to a new report.
The maker of iPhones and iPads is tripling the number of engineers on the project, codenamed Titan, and has set a “ship date” of 2019, the Wall Street Journal says.
The newspaper said that could just be a target for engineers to sign off on the design, not necessarily when a car would be available for sale.
While Apple has never officially confirmed it’s planning to build a car, there are strong indications it’s at least interested in automotive technology. In recent months, Apple has hired a number of engineers with backgrounds in automotive and battery design, especially from electric car maker Tesla.
Apple representatives also met in May with officials at an automotive testing facility located east of San Francisco. Site officials later confirmed to The Associated Press that Apple requested information about using their facility.
And in August, an Apple lawyer met with officials at California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to discuss the state’s regulations for self-driving cars.
A number of automakers and tech companies, including Google and Uber, are working on technology for autonomous and electric-powered vehicles. Google last week announced that it’s hired former Hyundai US CEO John Krafcik to run its self-driving car program.
Analysts say Apple has the financial resources and ambition to design and build a high-end vehicle, although some believe it’s more likely interested in developing software for use in cars made by other companies.
“We believe the auto industry represents a significant opportunity for Apple, but we also expect Apple to be deliberate as always in its product development and testing,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster in a September 1 report. Munster said he believes there’s a “50-60 per cent probability” of an Apple car becoming a reality.
Late last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook also reportedly flew to Germany to meet with car maker BMW. According to Reuters, Apple was particular interested in BMW’s i3 electric car, especially the manufacturing process of the vehicle’s carbon fibre body.
Speaking at CES Asia at Shanghai in May, the head of vehicle development for the Volkswagen-Audi Group, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, told media that designing a car from the ground up — and then selling it and offering customer support — will be more difficult than Apple anticipates.
“Designing and developing a car is quite complex, it’s not so easy to make this and you are (suddenly) a car manufacturer worldwide,” said Dr Hackenberg.
“We know that Apple is a company which is hardware-oriented and software-oriented. If they see a market, a business case for themselves, they will (build their own car).”