According to Mark Gurman over at Bloomberg, more details have emerged about Apple’s electric car plans.
Unnamed sources are saying Apple’s self-driving electric vehicle (EV) plans are still many years away:
Apple Inc. will take at least half a decade to launch an autonomous, electric vehicle because development work is still at an early stage, according to people with knowledge of the efforts.
Bloomberg says Apple has a “small team” of engineers working on drive systems, interior and exterior vehicle designs. The goal is to ship a car, and not a self-driving system. Apple has also poached more Tesla executives to its project.
Unnamed Apple engineers said a vehicle could debut in 5-7 years, but a car is “nowhere near production stage”, say these sources.
Apple wants to differentiate itself from other electric car rivals like Tesla, with its self-driving system. Sources note Apple’s goal is to have an autonomous system with little to no engagements when driving between two destinations.
While an actual Apple car is being planned, the company is also still developing a self-driving car system for third parties.
Apple’s vehicle project is being led by former Tesla executive, Doug Field. Another ex-Tesla engineer, Steve MacManus, is now leading a group to design a car, reporting to Field, say unnamed sources.
Other Tesla hires in 2019 and 2020 include Michael Schwekutsch (he was in charge of drive systems) and Stuart Bowers, who also worked on self-driving tech for Elon Musk.
Bloomberg says Apple’s car team has “dozens” of former Tesla hardware and Autopilot engineers. The project itself has “hundreds” of people working on a car, with most developing the autonomous driving system, instead of the car itself.
As for the rest of the car team, they are working on “vehicle dynamics, drive trains, safety mechanics and battery technology,” says Bloomberg, alongside designing a new vehicle interior for a self-driving vehicle.
Evidence Apple is ramping up car plans? Recent job postings are looking for a lead engineer to tie in “audio drivers, tuners, speakers, microphones, wired buses, power supplies, wireless communication, and antennas” into autonomous vehicle systems.
Apple is also looking for engineers related to LED lighting and battery systems.
As for the brains of an Apple car, the company has been working on a custom Arm-based chip to power the system since 2018, led by Apple chip unit executive Johny Srouji.
Apple also has been testing its self-driving system on the streets of California, which has taken place since 2017, with 66 cars in the fleet.
According to a recent research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, an Apple crystal ball holder, he says Apple’s car won’t come to light until at least 2025 or 2027 at the earliest. A previous report from Reuters said an Apple car could make its debut in 2024 or 2025.
The electric vehicle space is the new frontier for tech companies, as cars are becoming the new smartphone. It’s unclear how Apple will be able to catch up to or exceed Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technology in five year’s time. Competition is a good thing for consumers.