Apple electric car project

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The Apple electric car project, codenamed "Titan",[1] is an electric car project allegedly undergoing research and development by Apple Inc.[2] To date, Apple has yet to comment on any plans to make an electric car.

It is rumored a substantial number of Apple employees are working on this project.[3][4][5]

The project was rumored to be approved by Apple CEO Tim Cook in late 2014 and assigned to Vice President Steve Zadesky, a former Ford engineer as project in-charge.[6] In January 2016, Steve Zadesky was reported to be leaving Apple for personal reasons after 16 years.[7][8] For the project, Apple was rumored to have hired Johann Jungwirth, the former-president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America (Jungwirth is now working for Volkswagen Group),[9] as well as at least one transmission engineer.[10][11][12][13]

Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs had plans to design and build a car, according to Apple board member and J.Crew Group CEO Mickey Drexler, who said that discussions about the concept surfaced around the time that Tesla Motors debuted its first car.[14] Former Apple iPod Senior VP Tony Fadell confirmed that Steve Jobs was interested in an Apple car back in 2008, shortly after the original iPhone was introduced.[15]

Reports indicate that the company has been offering incentives to Tesla employees to join Apple.[16] The Wall Street Journal reports that the product would resemble more of a minivan than a car,[3] and The Sydney Morning Herald says that production could start as soon as 2020.[17][18]

History[edit]

2015[edit]

In May 2015, Apple investor tycoon Carl Icahn stated that he believed the rumors that said Apple would enter the automobile market in 2020, and that logically Apple would view this car as "the ultimate mobile device".[19][20]

In August 2015, The Guardian reported that Apple were meeting with officials from GoMentum Station,[2] a testing ground for connected and autonomous vehicles at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord, California.[21]

In September 2015, there were reports that Apple were meeting with self-driving car experts from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.[22][23][24][25]

According to The Wall Street Journal, it will be a battery electric vehicle, initially lacking full autonomous driving capability, with a possible unveiling around 2019.[26][27][28]

In October 2015, at The Wall Street Journal's WSJDLive conference at The Montage resort in Laguna Beach, California, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated about the car industry that: "It would seem like there will be massive change in that industry, massive change. You may not agree with that. That's what I think..."We'll see what we do in the future. I do think that the industry is at an inflection point for massive change." Cook enumerated ways that the modern descendants of the Ford Model T would be shaken to the very chassis—the growing importance of software in the car of the future, the rise of autonomous vehicles, and the shift from an internal combustion engine to electrification.[29]

In November 2015, various websites reported that suspected Apple front SixtyEight Research had attended an auto body conference in Europe.[30]

Also in November 2015, after unknown EV startup Faraday Future announced a $1 billion U.S. factory project,[31] some speculated that it might actually be a front for Apple's secret car project.[32][33]

2016[edit]

In 2016, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk stated that Apple will probably make a compelling electric car: "It's pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it"[34]

In May 2016, there were reports indicating Apple was interested in electric car charging stations.[35]

The Wall Street Journal reported on July 25 that Apple had convinced retired senior hardware engineering executive Bob Mansfield to return and take over the Titan project.[36][37]

A few days later, on July 29, Bloomberg Technology reported that Apple had hired Dan Dodge, the founder and former chief executive officer of QNX, BlackBerry Ltd.’s automotive software division. According to Bloomberg, Dodge's hiring heralds a shift in emphasis at Apple's Project Titan, in which the company will give first priority to creating software for autonomous vehicles. However, the story said that Apple will continue to develop a vehicle of its own.[38]

On September 9, The New York Times reported dozens of layoffs in an effort to reboot,[39] presumably from a team still numbering around 1,000.[40]

The following week, reports surfaced that Magna International, a contract vehicle manufacturer, had a small team working at Apple's Sunnyvale lab.[41]

2017[edit]

After a period of no new reports, car project news flared up again in mid-April, 2017, as word spread that Apple joined a host of other companies (some widely known, others obscure) permitted to test autonomous vehicles on California roads.[42]

In mid-June, Tim Cook appeared in an interview with Bloomberg TV, in which he said Apple was "focusing on autonomous systems" but not necessarily leading to an actual Apple car product, leaving speculation about Apple's role in the convergence of three disruptive "vectors of change": autonomous systems, electric vehicles and ride-sharing services.[43]

In mid-August, various sources reported that the car project was focusing on autonomous systems, now expected to test its technology in the real world using a company-operated inter-campus shuttle service between the main Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino and various Silicon Valley offices, including the new Apple Park.[44][45][46]

The next notable round of Titan news, at the end of August, was about 17 former Titan team members, braking and suspension engineers with Detroit experience, being hired by autonomous vehicle startup Zoox,[47][48] described as "a robotics company pioneering autonomous mobility as-a-service".[49]

Oct. 2016 reports claimed the Titan project has a 2017 deadline to determine its fate - prove its practicality and viability, set a final direction.[50][51]

In November 2017, Apple employees Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel published a paper on VoxelNet, which uses a convolutional neural network to detect three dimensional objects using lidar.[52]

Transportation/tech website Jalopnik reported in late November that Apple was recruiting automotive test engineering and tech talent for autonomous systems work, and appeared to be surreptitiously leasing, via third parties, a former Fiat Chrysler proving grounds site in Surprise, Arizona (originally Wittman).[53]

2018[edit]

In May 2018, a New York Times article reported on major project news.[54] After proposed partnership arrangements with Germany's high-end brands BMW and Mercedes-Benz failed, as did potential alliances with Nissan, BYD Auto, McLaren Automotive, and others, Apple has reportedly partnered with Volkswagen to produce an autonomous employee shuttle van based on the T6 Transporter commercial vehicle platform (available in Europe in diesel and gasoline versions), transformed into autonomous electric versions at VW's Italdesign subsidiary.

List of names claimed to be working on the unconfirmed project[edit]

  • Jamie Carlson, an engineer on Tesla's Autopilot self-driving car program, and before that he worked on automotive vision systems for Michigan-based supplier Gentex Corp.[55]
  • Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen AG engineer with expertise in automated driving.[55]
  • Vinay Palakkode, a graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, a hub of automated driving research.[55]
  • Xianqiao Tong, an engineer who developed computer vision software for driver assistance systems at microchip maker Nvidia Corp NVDA.O.[55]
  • Paul Furgale, former deputy director of the Autonomous Systems Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.[55]
  • Sanjai Massey, an engineer with experience in developing connected and automated vehicles at Ford and several suppliers.[55]
  • Stefan Weber, a former Bosch engineer with experience in video-based driver assistance systems.[55]
  • Lech Szumilas, a former Delphi research scientist with expertise in computer vision and object detection.[55]
  • Doug Betts, former global quality leader at Fiat Chrysler.[56]
  • Johann Jungwirth, former head of research and development at Mercedes[57] – left for VW in Nov. 2015.[58]
  • Mujeeb Ijaz, a former Ford Motor Co. engineer, who founded A123 Systems's Venture Technologies division, which focused on materials research, electrical battery cell product development and advanced concepts (who helped recruited four to five staff researchers from A123, a battery technology company)[17]
  • Nancy Sun, formerly vice president of electrical engineering at electric motorcycle company Mission Motors in San Francisco.[59]
  • Mark Sherwood, formerly director of powertrain systems engineering at Mission Motors.[59]
  • Eyal Cohen, formerly vice president of software and electrical engineering at Mission Motors.[59]
  • Jonathan Cohen, former director of Nvidia's deep learning software.[60] Nvidia uses deep learning in its Nvidia Drive PX platform, which is used in driver assistance systems.[61]
  • Chris Porritt – former Tesla vice president of vehicle engineering and former Aston Martin chief engineer.[62]
  • Alex Hitzinger is a German engineer who until 31st of March 2016 was the Technical Director of the Porsche LMP1 project.[63] He previously worked as Head of Advanced Technologies for the Red Bull and Toro Rosso Formula One teams.[64]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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