Apple to make autonomous electric shuttle?
Apple is ramping up, or better, reviving its ‘Project Titan’ with a new attempt to build its own electric vehicle it appears. Insiders now suggest that the Apple car could be an autonomous electric van.
The report from German Manager Magazin is not based on any official statement by Apple but references several people familiar with the project. Apple has apparently constructed vehicles with black and silver paintwork in the design of the iPhone group. The US American computer giant is also researching its own batteries, electric motors, select seats and interior components, according to the report.
Until now, it seemed that Apple had discarded plans for its own electric vehicle, and was instead focussing on software for autonomous driving. In its current form, “Project Titan” is a testbed for autonomous driving with a fleet of 66 Lexus SUVs, in the San Francisco Bay Area to perfect the sensors, computer systems, and software required for a vehicle to safely drive itself.
Some of Titan’s technology has been applied into a self-driving shuttle programme titled Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, or PAIL. For this project, Apple has been converting existing vehicles, namely the popular Volkswagen models, the 500 VW Golf and T6 models – the latter based on VWs iconic camping and transporter van.
However, what now seems to concur with the leaked information from Manager Magazin was Apple hiring of a former senior designer for Tesla, Andrew Kim, last December and also ex-Apple employee Doug Filed returned from his stint at Tesla last year reportedly. Most significantly, the company has also added manufacturing experts to its ranks. However, after expanding, the ‘Project Titan’ team recently laid off 200 employees in January this year from the autonomous vehicle group in a restructuring effort.
In January this year when electrive.com visited the CES in Las Vegas, our biggest question was not whether autonomous electric shuttles were going to change the face of transport but when so Apple is likely to jump on that trend. However it is considered unlikely the IT firm can launch any such services before 2023 and considering the many turns Project Titan took so far, some scepticism seems appropriate.
appleinsider.com, manager-magazin.de (original source, in German)
Additional reporting by Nora Manthey.