For several years, all signs have pointed to the strong possibility that Apple may be developing its own car.
Dubbed the “Apple Car,” rumors have been swirling among tech analysts, AI experts, and consumer enthusiasts even before Apple had officially hired anyone to begin work on the project.
In fact, this may be Apple’s most talked-about project to date – and here’s everything you need to know about it.
1. It’s Called Project Titan.
Over the years, Apple has given all of its major product development projects individual code names, each of which represents the entire development life cycle of that product.
For example, the iPhone was Project Purple, and the Apple Watch was Project Gizmo. In most reports, the Apple Car project is also called the Titan Project or simply “Titan”.
Of course, Apple has made few official announcements and even fewer confirmations, and what ends up coming to market will almost certainly be quite different than what Apple planned in the early stages – including the name.
2. The Project Is Top Secret – For Now.
At the official internal start of the project in 2015, Apple interviewed and hired a wide swath of top engineers in the self-driving car/ autonomous vehicle industry, many of them recruited from other leading companies in that market.
However, all reports say that anyone connected with the project was immediately sworn to secrecy and was required to sign an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement that strictly forbade the public discussion of any details about the project.
Individuals signed this NDA before even discussing the project with other employees. Details have still leaked, however, because Apple can’t legally keep every detail of their operations completely under wraps.
3. It Calls Sunnyvale, California Home.
According to an early report from the website AppleInsider, Apple leased a small office building in Sunnyvale, CA in late 2014, and may be using a mysterious marketing agency by the name of SixtyEight Research as a shell company for Project Titan’s development.
The company has also purchased a large acreage of undeveloped land around the office building and has been seemingly developing it in relation to the project.
Though there’s no consensus about Apple’s plans yet, many industry analysts believe this strongly implies that they’re not just developing software for autonomous vehicles, but also building out the vehicles themselves and space on which to test them.
4. You May Never Own an Apple Car Yourself.
In the fall of 2018, Apple filed a patent for a set of features for entire fleets of autonomous vehicles.
True to its tradition of giving its projects unique code names, the company calls this group of features “Peloton,” which is the cyclist community’s name for a group of bicyclists all cycling in the same direction, primarily as a way to reduce air resistance.
The patented features of Peloton include the ability to share battery life between two or more vehicles using a “connector arm” to join them as they travel in groups for greater fuel efficiency.
The vehicles also create a spontaneous temporary network that allows them to disconnect according to their passengers’ destinations and individual routes.
Peloton’s caravan-like features have lead many industry analysts to predict Apple may not be intending Project Titan to produce cars for individual private owners, but for commercial fleets instead.
5. It May Be a While Before We See One.
Apple is known for taking its time to develop exactly the product it wants, and Project Titan is no different.
In 2015, several major industry sources such as Bloomberg published reports that Apple intended to roll out its line of electric (and at least semi-autonomous) vehicles by the year 2020.
Less than a year later, however, insiders were reporting that its introduction date had been pushed back to some time between 2023 and 2025.
6. The Apple Car Will Run on Electricity.
Seeking to compete with other electric vehicles already succeeding on the market, such as the Tesla, Apple is designing Project Titan to run on a rechargeable battery that runs on electricity.
This presents an immediate challenge, of course; one of the known shortcomings of electric cars is the fact that it’s possible to run out of charge when you’re nowhere near a charging station – but Apple is working on that, too.
7. It’ll Be Able to Recharge Far From Home.
In late 2016, Reuters reported that key Apple engineers associated with Project Titan had started openly asking vendors and manufacturers, many of them direct Apple competitors, about charging technology at existing charging station infrastructure for electric cars around the US.
Though these conversations were all strictly private, and what they contained has not been shared publicly, what the talks were not about is a different matter: reports say Apple’s investigations were not about providing charging stations for their employees’ existing electric cars, strongly hinting that they were researching for Project Titan instead.
8. Apple Hired Only the Best.
For Project Titan, Apple hired a robust team of top experts in AI, autonomous vehicles, electric charging infrastructure, policy strategists, and software engineers from all over the world.
This includes poaching talent from its current competitors in the industry, including Google, Tesla, BMW, General Electric, and Siemens.
9. It’s an International Effort.
In addition to spending several years building its own internal team of experts, Apple has invested in numerous companies overseas to help speed along with the project’s development.
Most notably, Apple has been investing in the Chinese ride-sharing and self-driving car conglomerate DiDi Chixung since 2016, with Tim Cook making several visits to their corporate headquarters in Beijing over the last several years.
10. It Will Probably Be At Least Somewhat Autonomous.
Apple has been investing in research and development for autonomous vehicles for several years now, and in 2017, Tim Cook finally admitted that Apple was working on “the mother of all AI projects.”
So while it may not fully drive itself right out of the gate, it’s almost certain that even the first iteration of the Apple Car will have some autonomous features. Project Titan still remains shrouded in secrecy, so reports vary to what degree.
11. Alas, There Are Some Logistical Setbacks.
The iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple Watch were all successful and adopted by millions of people all over the world within a very short period, but it won’t be that easy for Project Titan.
For one thing, self-driving cars are a technology with which most people are still unfamiliar and of which many people are still wary, so widespread adoption may occur at a much slower rate than for Apple’s previous product lines.
But even if Apple is able to overcome consumers’ personal reservations, it will take a huge amount of effort, expenditure, legislation, and infrastructure to enable a fleet of electric vehicles to easily roam the streets of America.
In Apple’s home state of California alone, consumers would need 13 to 25 times more charging stations than they currently have in order to support just a million electric vehicles on its roads.
Additionally, Apple may face the same legislative roadblocks that other would-be manufacturers of self-driven cars have faced, as laws, regulations and political allegiances continue to shift in this brand-new market.
12. It Could Be What Turns Apple into a $2-Trillion Company.
Apple took 42 years from its founding in 1976 to become a trillion-dollar valuated company.
In early 2018, renown Apple analyst Ming Chi-Kuo reported that Apple could achieve a $2 trillion market valuation in just the next ten years, and Project Titan is expected to be a significant contributor to that.
Direct product sales will be part of this bottom line, but potentially so will secondary services like vehicle financing, training and, potentially, related service businesses such as auto insurance and vehicle maintenance.
13. Steve Jobs Started the Idea.
Before his untimely passing, Apple founder and visionary Steve Jobs had often talked about the possibility of his company developing a car.
In fact, he first mentioned the idea in public as far back as 2008. But Jobs was famous for his singular vision, and any plans he had for starting development on an Apple car were ultimately shelved to allow him to focus exclusively on developing the iPhone product line.
14. No One Knows What the Car Will Look Like.
Many forecasters and artists have tried their hand at creating concepts, project boards and visual prototypes for what the exterior and interior of the Apple Car might look like, but Apple has yet to even confirm that it’s developing a physical car, let alone release any product images.
However, that hasn’t stopped industry watchdogs and Apple fans alike from piecing together some of the features the company has been working on, which most agree will go well beyond the company’s current popular Apple CarPlay.
For example, according to the registered patents, the car may have silent motorized doors and spherical wheels, and its interior may have no foot pedals or steering wheels, both of which are unnecessary for a vehicle that can drive itself and doesn’t need you to steer it.
Excluding the gas pedals and steering wheel will also make the interior of the car that much more spacious.
Additionally, industry analysts fully expect Apple to maximize the cross-promotion opportunities and integrate its existing successful products into the vehicle, such as augmented reality screens.
15. It Will Probably Be Extremely Safe to Ride.
Likely anticipating many consumers’ hesitations about riding in self-driving vehicles, Apple has invested heavily in proprietary safety technology for Project Titan.
In the fall of 2018, Apple filed safety-focused patents that roughly outline an advanced three-point passenger safety system.
First, the vehicle will sense a potential hazard and automatically adjust its headlamps to illuminate it more, which will help to avoid accidents more quickly and accurately.
Part of Apple’s patent includes an artificially intelligent database of recognizable shapes and objects to help its powerful sensors quickly identify a broad variety of potential road hazards.
Additionally, the car could warn other drivers and pedestrians of its intended path or any other oncoming hazards using its beams.
Finally, its windshield and display could warn drivers and passengers of difficult-to-see dangers by superimposing more familiar shapes and images onto the screen over the objects’ locations.
16. Apple Is Looking for a Few Good Drivers.
In April 2017, Apple began accepting applications for staffers to test its secretive “automated systems” on California roads.
Having already secured permits to test its project from the state of California, Apple then sought to staff these tests with qualified drivers.
However, the company’s definition of “qualified” includes more than just a clean driving record: most of the candidates the company considered had advanced graduate degrees, and the majority of them were experts in machine learning.
The selection process was quite rigorous, as well: applicants had to pass up to seven different tests to be considered for a spot on the testing team.
Once selected, drivers received detailed training in safety and operation, as well as a length user’s manual, in which Apple devoted a long section to operator safety.
For instance, the manual included detailed information for how the driver could quickly and safely regain control of the vehicle in case of an emergency. This was a requirement of the state of California for issuing the testing permits in 2017.
17. It’s Sure to Be Revolutionary.
Whatever the project’s end result may be, many Apple analysts expect it to completely revolutionize the auto industry, as well as American transportation and policy.
Industry experts agree that whatever Apple has planned for Project Titan, it’s going to change the way we view and use cars to the same dramatic degree that the iPhone changed how we view and use the telephone.