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.
Unnamed sources say Apple has a small team of engineers working on all aspects of a self-driving vehicle, from interior to exterior and autonomous technology.
These anonymous Apple engineers say a car could debut in 5-7 years, but is “nowhere near production stage”.
The report says Apple wants to focus on self-driving tech to differentiate itself from competitors like Tesla. The Apple car would eventually allow for travel between two destinations with little to no interventions.
Despite planning for an electric vehicle, sources say Apple is still working on self-driving tech that could be implemented for third parties.
Apple’s EV project is being led by former Tesla executive, Doug Field, while another ex-Tesla engineer, Steve MacManus, now leading a group to design a car, reporting to the former.
Back in 2019 and 2020, Apple also poached Tesla’s Michael Schwekutsch (he was in charge of drive systems) and Stuart Bowers, who also worked on self-driving tech for Elon Musk.
Bloomberg says there are “dozens” of ex-Tesla employees working on Apple’s car team, while the project itself has “hundreds” of people tasked to build a self-driving vehicle.
Apple recently posted job listings seeking engineers for its LED lighting and battery systems. As for the control unit of the vehicle, Apple is creating its own custom Arm-based chip, led by the company’s executive Johny Srouji since 2018.
While Apple has been spotted testing Lidar-based cars on the streets of California, the numbers are low, as data shows only 66 cars were on the roads collecting data. Now compare this to Tesla’s fleet of millions of cars on the road, getting data for the company 24/7. How will Apple compete with Tesla in 5-7 year’s time?
Recently, Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted he tried to meet with Apple CEO Tim Cook to discuss selling the automaker, back in 2018, during the darkest days of the Model 3 launch. Cook snubbed the meeting apparently.
Back in 2015, Musk told German newspaper Handelsblatt, Apple is the “Tesla graveyard”, when asked about Apple’s said car plans at the time.
“They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard’. If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding,” said Musk.
“Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch?,” Musk said in the interview. “No, seriously: It’s good that Apple is moving and investing in this direction. But cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches. You can’t just go to a supplier like Foxconn and say: Build me a car.”