Apple could select the South Korean carmaker Hyundai as a partner for the development of its rumored self-driving electric car. This is indicated by a statement from the South Koreans, which Hyundai, however, has meanwhile formulated in a more vague manner.
A possible partnership between Apple and Hyundai was first reported by the TV station Korea Economic Daily. Hyundai initially confirmed this report in principle and stated that the cooperation would be “at an early stage”. However, Hyundai later changed the statement twice within a few hours and deleted the reference to Apple – possibly at the tech giant’s insistence. Hyundai’s later statement simply said that the company had been contacted by potential partners for the development of autonomous electric vehicles.
Currently, there are again increasing rumors about an electric car from Apple: According to a report published shortly before Christmas, the tech giant is aiming to start production of an autonomous electric car for the mass market by 2024. At the heart of the strategy is said to be a new battery design that will “radically” reduce battery costs and increase range. Specifically, Apple plans to use a “monocell” design in which the individual cells are integrated directly into the battery pack without the use of modules, the report said. What’s more, production of the Apple Stromer will likely be handled by an as-yet-unknown contract manufacturer.
Rumors of an Apple-created autonomous driving electric vehicle get optional boosts or dampers every few months. Apple has been sending autonomous vehicles onto public Californian roads since 2017, but it had become rather quiet about the “Titan” project in the meantime. After many months of radio silence, the New York Times reported in May 2018 that Apple had apparently decided on a vehicle partner. After allegedly failed negotiations with BMW, Daimler and other car manufacturers, a contract had been signed with Volkswagen to initially turn some T6 vans into self-driving electric shuttles for Apple employees.
In August 2018, Apple veteran Doug Field, who had worked at Tesla in the interim, returned to lead the project. However, he was forced to lay off 190 employees from the project team in 2019. Reuters reported in December, citing insiders, that so much progress has been made since then that Apple now plans to launch its own personal transportation vehicle. In doing so, the Silicon Valley company is taking a different path than, for example, Alphabet offshoot Waymo or Uber-boosted tech company Aurora, which are pushing ahead with the development of robo-taxis. Apple, however, is said to be leaving itself a loophole to just create an autonomous driving system that can be installed in third-party vehicles after all.
The fact is that the major tech and Internet companies are increasingly positioning themselves with an eye on the car market. For example, Chinese search engine group Baidu is apparently looking into entering the production of electric cars and is said to be flirting with existing Geely plants to do so. Baidu rival Alibaba, in turn, has set up an electric car joint venture called Zhiji with China’s largest carmaker SAIC and Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Group and is planning to start production as early as the end of 2021, as reported by ChinaDaily shortly before Christmas, among others. Didi Chuxing is also cooperating with BYD to produce electric cars for ride-hailing services.
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