Apple’s electric car is real, and it’s almost ready for testing


Apple's Car
Apple Car might be coming, but will it be special?
Photo: Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer

Apple is definitely working on a self-driving car project, and according to some new documents, Project Titan appears to be further along than anyone thought.

Rumors of Apple’s car project first starting surfacing at the beginning of this year, with an announcement not expected until 2020 at the earliest, but the Guardian reports that Apple is already trying to secure a super-secret Bay Area test facility for the electric car.

Apple engineers met with officials from GoMentum Station in May, reports the Guardian, claiming Apple plans to turn the 2,100-acre former naval base in near San Francisco into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles.

In documents obtained under a public records act request, Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote: “We would … like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].”

Details on the Apple Car and it’s features are still unknown. Tim Cook reportedly signed off on the project last year. A team of hundreds of engineers have been quietly working on the project at an anonymous office building in Sunnyvale for the past year, just four miles away from the main campus.

If Apple does use the GoMentum Station, it would have access to the ‘largest secure test facility in the world.’ Mecedes-Benz and Honda have already used the world war two era facility’s 20 miles of paved highways and city streets for their own self-driving car experiments.

GoMentum Station’s testing grounds feature highway overpasses, cattle grids, railway crossings, tunnels and almost everything else Apple could want to test its electric car in a realistic scenario. Best part about the facility is it’s guarded by the military, so any Apple fanboys looking to get a peak at Jony’s car design will be thwarted at all attempts.

  • Michael Smith

    Why would Apple build a car? Wouldn’t they run into the same distribution issues that Tesla is experiencing? Isn’t it more likely that Apple is building an in car system that uses some new technology like eye tracking rather than a whole car?

    • GaelicSoxFan

      I think they’re doing it to test out both in-car systems and battery technology.

    • winstonsmith39

      Perhaps if Apple built a car and sold it in a similar manner to Tesla (and it was compelling enough), then people would petition recalcitrant state governments to allow it. If enough people did so, then they might change their mind (big ask, I know). As to why they would do it, Apple has shown that they like to control the process as much as possible for anything they make, so why would a car be any different?

      • Michael Smith

        Apple is rarely first to market with emerging technologies. It makes sense that they would be working on this as a side project so if and when this takes off they won’t be far behind the competition. My guess is that they might be building self driving transport to be used on their new spaceship campus. Actually taking on the established auto industry this soon is just not the Apple way. Let other companies take all the risk and then wait till the timing is right. I don’t think anyone wants to be the manufacturer of the first self driving car that has to make a split decision on who lives and dies on the road, let Google eat that one.

      • winstonsmith39

        The question you asked was about distribution, not timing. You could be correct about the timing, but my answer to your actual question still stands.

      • MikeSoertsz

        Not first to market, but they’re bloody good at creating markets.

    • Cambel

      Tesla’s distribution issues haven’t really hurt sales. Ok, so New Jersey says you can’t sell direct, but the folks just go to New York or Delaware. In the end, laws like that are going to get struck down.

  • Steve Chavez

    I wonder how emotionally painful it would be to get into a car accident in an Apple Car… I mean you KNOW that sucker is going to look beautiful and be a sweet sweet experience. But having someone smack into your car because they’re checking it out? Oh man… My hands shake at the thought… and not in a good way…

    • James

      I assume that people will drive around in their beautiful Apple cars covered with huge ugly rubber protectors.

  • Vishal S.

    They need to build a car. If they could’ve partnered with other mfrs to use proprietary technology to add software to the car that coud’ve been done years ago. The barrier to entry is the auto mfrs, who don’t want to lose margin over their own systems. Ultimately, these partnerships wouldn’t be sustainable longterm as tech platforms continue to evolve and AAPL would suffer from the hold-up problem of the car mfr not adopting any changes to platforms/tech. The only choice is to vertically integrate and build your own car. Now that being said, the ability of AAPL to actually succeed in doing so without the direction of Jobs is probably unlikely. Just look at the failures to date post Jobs AAPL: Maps, Pay, Watch, Music

    • Fred Cintra

      Maps is jobs failure, as is Power Mac Cube, Mobile Me, iPod Hi-Fi, Lisa, iPhone 4 Antenna, etc

      • dave

        Apple Maps was mainly TomTom’s fault. You can blame Scott Forstall for not realizing that TomTom’s maps sucked, but his main concern was with the UI which was beautiful. The app itself looks and feels way better than google (in my opinion) but the maps obviously had issues early on.

      • tjwolf

        I think the problem was two-fold: TomToms map data *and* other geo-data (e.g. from Yelp) not being up to snuff. Even today, oftentimes Apple Maps is wrong about the location of businesses (Yelp) relative to the street (TomTom).

      • Mateo

        If I recall, the Lisa was Sculley’s baby and Steve did all that he could to kill that project in favor of the original Mac. Something that became very controversial between them and provided fuel for his ouster from Apple . . . If I remember! Point made nonetheless.

    • dave

      how do you feel that Pay and Watch are failures? As for Music, there are definitely people that feel it isn’t as intuitive as it should be right out of the gate, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to make apple tons of money or be the best streaming service once it’s gotten it’s legs under it. (not saying it will either, just that it’s a little early to say “failure” in my opinion)

      • Vishal S.

        Watch is a failure since the product sold poorly, I would not argue that watch may be positively contributing to EBITDA and thus it would technically be a success. Further, that AAPL is not releasing any figures as to how many units were sold/shipped further adds to speculation of its success. Pay was also a fumbled launch, failing to gain traction in the market. The issue boils down to at the end of the day limited resources for direction and where AAPL is going. Technically, AAPL yes can launch of a bunch of products that may in the short run contribute to EBITDA margins given their scale and vast market channels. But, longterm, are those products sustainable, and further as some fail how wil that detract from the brand of AAPL creating quality no-shit products that is highly built into its share price? Jobs was critical in directing the company from a long-term perspective and maximizing longterm growth. Short term growth with fumbled products is what I mean by product failures, of which all 4 as I enumerated have been following Jobs’ passing.

      • tjwolf

        You’re contradicting yourself: first you state that Apple Watch sold poorly, but then you admit that Apple isn’t releasing sales figures. So how do you come by your “poorly” statement? Obviously, you’re using rumors and guesstimates. Instead you should know facts. The FACT (as stated by Tim Cook and his CFO) is that Apple Watch, in its first quarter of availability, has sold better than either the iPhone or the iPad did in their initial releases. We know both of these products subsequently became blockbuster successes – so how can you label a product that does even better – a failure?

      • Vishal S.

        Americans never cease in their stupidity.

        1. Maps released in 4Q12, Jobs dead 4Q11, 4Q11 < 4Q12.
        2. Not releasing sales figures is a standard CFO ploy to hide a weak selling product that would undoubtedly drive down share price. Please learn how equity is valued, primarily in terms of a P/E multiple and the relation to long-term growth rate of a company, or goto Khan Academy and take an intro to finance.
        3. Apple Music 10MM subscribers is not a real # since the product is free for the first 90 days…how many PAID suscribers are there, how favorable has Press been to the launch?
        4. Apple partnership via CarPlay will never work and AAPL knows this. You really don't understand AAPL's compet advantage in tech, the whole premise of the company, and a mantra of Jobs that great software is built on great hardware, the synthesis of both is required to create market leading products. If you are an AAPL investor, do your homework on how the company looks at markets and products it offers.

      • tjwolf

        None of what you say carries any weight:
        1) Software doesn’t just magically appear overnight. The official release date was after Jobs’ death, but he was alive and well when the work on it began.

        2) Blah, blah, blah…You’re just spouting nonsense and insults to cover up the fact that you have no answer to the FACT that the Apple Watch in its first quarter sold better than iPhone or iPad in their beginnings and your “sold poorly” has, therefore no leg to stand on. Have you ever heard that It’s a sure sign of a little mind that has to resort to insults.

        3) Again, the 10 million is the only real number – paid or unpaid, makes no difference. Your claim that it is a failure is just an uninformed opinion.

        4) More irrelevancies. Yes, Apple would have to build a car and the software to provide the best experience. But who says that Apple wants to make cars? You have exactly zero evidence for it – nothing but hot air. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence – called CarPlay – that Apple wants to widen its ecosystem by letting it’s iOS devices play in and augment the car’s controls.

        Now go back to your mama and have her teach you some manners. But I guess where you come from, that’s not a desirable trait?

      • Mateo

        Reports are wide spread that it did not sell as they had hoped. There was the initial surge, then a trickle. Also, reports are that the return rate was quite high.

        I used one from a lab for a week. No regrets in turning it back in. It offered me very little that a used Pebble wouldn’t do for $50. At least for me. Hope it improves a great deal because for now the price entry/feature set is a non-starter.

        What do I know

      • tjwolf

        “…as they had hoped”. Who is “they”? It is true that the watch is widely rumored to not have sold as well as various *analysts* were projecting. There is exactly zero evidence that it did not sell as well as Apple was expecting. Quite the contrary – as I mentioned earlier, public statements made by Apple officials – which could be held libel if found to be untrue – show that not only were they happy with Apple Watch’s progress, but that its first quarter sales exceeded those of either iPhone or iPad at their introductions.

        Everyone is all to eager to call the watch a failure – without ever defining what that is. And without questioning the facts behind negative reports. For instance, dozens of reports proclaiming Watch’s failure were based on a research company’s findings that Apple Watch sales has collapsed 90% after a strong introduction. Not only did the research not include important sales channels (e.g. Stores and sales outside the US), but the whole collapse theory was not supported by facts given in Apple’s last earnings call, where Tim Cook publicly stated that in every month of the quarter Apple Watch sales increased – how does that jibe with the 90% sales drop proclaimed by this one outfit??? Tim Cook and Apple executives can incur heavy penalties or go to jail for lying to investors – what risk do these “news” outlets run for publishing incorrect but sensationalist articles? None – because they don’t really publish news – they publish rumors.

      • Mateo

        Hi tjwolf.

        Thanks for replying to my post. I have no doubt that you are entirely capable technically of googling the articles, analysts, and pundits that have commented on the Apple watch. They are “THEY”. I neither endorsed their opinions or attacked them. They can stand or fall on their own.

        What I did say and still defend is my right, privilege and ability to make my own observations. And I point out, they were not based on casual observations but the hands on, every day use of the Apple Watch for a week. I found it over-priced, limited in functionality and very much “Apple hype” . . . for me! This is keeping in mind that a MBP is my primary machine (purchased on my own dime as my employer would not provide one), MPA, iPhone (and my family(5)) and several iPads. I AM more than a casual Apple customer/user.

        You pointed out that the Apple Watch may not be for me. I believe that this is the point of my post.

        I hope and expect that Apple will improve their product every version. Currently, I can not imagine a “killer App” that would entice me to buy a consumer electronic watch (I say this to differentiate from a single function, traditional watch which will still be a watch tomorrow, next year and passed down to my children . . . if they aren’t using Apple Watches 8) ) which will be worth almost next to nothing in a couple of versions because it won’t support the current software, etc. I know that Apple does better than most to reach back to support older hardware products. But look at the original MBA (which I own) or my current MBP ( Late 2011) which will not support Airdrop.

        Will the next Apple Watch be water proof? I really need this as I swim rather than walk or run. Thew current fitness tracker is useless. Will it support “tether-less” functions? Significantly better battery performance? What about new nightstand functionality, more watch faces, new email functionality, and new Digital Touch messaging features?

        I certainly hope so. Just pointing out that it IS a consumer electronic device and suffers from all the obsolescence we have come to know and love.

        Rambling off . . .

      • tjwolf

        Hi Mateo, if by “they” you meant the pundits, analysts, etc. rather than Apple as I had assumed, I would ask why it matters at all what “they” have hoped? *They* were obviously wrong when believing the 90% fall-off in demand that one research company claimed (see Tim Cook and CFO’s statement which refutes it). *They* were likely wrong with regards to the high return rates too (google Apple Watch satisfaction ratings being higher than even the iPhone’s).

        As I said, the Apple Watch isn’t meant for everyone. If you don’t find the large number of features it has over a used Pebble handy, then you’re not (yet) their target audience.

        With regards to Apple Watch being a gadget soon to be obsolete: if it has functions you find useful now, the watch will not become obsolete unless you no longer find those functions useful. I fully expect Apple to support the OS on this watch for 5+ years – as they do with all their devices. But even beyond that, the watch won’t suddenly stop functioning. It’ll work for years after that – it just won’t get a new version of the OS….and, over the years, probably less and less of the newer apps will work on your watch – but the old ones…the ones you bought the watch for, will continue to work.

        As a side note: it looks like our families are very similar – between my wife, my daughter, and I, we have an MBP (2010), an MBA (2012), two iPad Airs, 3 iPhones, and a couple Apple TVs (not counting the old iPods that are laying in a drawer, collecting dust). Just mentioning it because I have the same “problem” as you with regards to AirDrop not being supported on my MBP. But I don’t blame Apple for that – because AirDrop depends on hardware features that didn’t exist in Apple products pre-2012 (don’t quote me on that, but it’s either Bluetooth LE or peer-to-peer wifi that’s needed by AirDrop). You can’t expect Apple (or any company) to limit feature development to only the hardware that came with its first Macs?! And our old Macs STILL work with the newest OS Apple makes. My 5+ year old Mac is running El Capitan (beta) beautifully!

      • Mateo

        Sure wish they wouldn’t have excluded my original MBA from os x upgrades. Wouldn’t be such an issue except that I can’t get any app updates either because the require latest os. It will be downstairs with my Mac G4 soon . . . Yes there was some sort of Bluetooth issue with older macs but I am skeptical that they could not have found a way. Is a feature in the os. It’s only a late 2011.

      • Mateo

        Oh how oh how oh how I wish they would redo iTunes. It’s interface becomes more confusing to me each release.

        Another painful point for me, iCloud notes sync. Is there no way to sync my notes via iCloud? Every time I try to add them in, it demands that I create a new iCloud account. I have one already and it is configured on my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro and Mini. Aaaaarrr!

      • tjwolf

        I really don’t use iTunes anymore (I’m even confused about the name – I think you’re talking about the desktop app? There’s also an app on the iPhone called iTunes – don’t use that either :-) I back up to iCloud and everyone in my family shares the same Apple ID, so we’re essentially each other’s backup :-)

        Hm, I have no idea why you’re having trouble with notes – I see my Notes on all our devices. Maybe it’s time for a Genius bar visit.

        I do have a minor irritant: one of Apple Watch’s gimmick-but-highly-advertised features – sending your heartbeat to someone else with an Apple Watch doesn’t work for me and my wife. Why? Because it requires unique Apple IDs! Those dumb engineers at Apple assumed that an Apple ID is an “individual” thing and used that as the unique identifier for Apple Watches! We don’t use that feature, of course, but it’s irritating as heck to see something so ill-thought-out from Apple.

      • Mateo

        Oh the bugs!
        I have tried to use my iCloud for music. Dang thing ate my play lists and about 75% of the songs come back with a server is not configured correctly or some such. Double whammy there.
        They moved the audio books from the music app to the iBooks app. Someone should be fired there!! Was there no regression testing or usability testing?!?! I think not. The change has removed all the ff & rr buttons a save for a 15 sec rr or 15 sec ff. The scrubber bar does not move during playback. You can not tell which chapter you are on unless you go to the top right drop down. The most aggregious thing is that damn app doesn’t keep track of where I left off if I close or change to another app. It starts me right back at the start of the book. Totally useless. Basically, I have been an apple advocate but I can no longer recommend them to my family, friends and coworkers until they wake up and get their basic feature set fixed and stable. At the current rate I fear 9

      • Mateo

        I forgot my other prickly issue. If I try to sync my notes via iCloud, it come up with a window requiring my to create a new iCloud account. I HAVE AN ICLOUD ACCOUNT! My research has lead me to believe that it is a holdover bug from when notes where part of the mail apps. Can’t find a work around.
        A company that I have known for “it just works” has becomes a company of I might work . . . Bad direction

    • tjwolf

      Uh – Jobs was alive and well at the time Apple Maps first appeared. Apple Pay is quite the opposite of a failure – perhaps you’re thinking of Google Wallet?. Apple Watch sales have never been divulged, so for you to call it a failure already is absurd (especially since even the most pessimistic tumors have sales making it the most successful wearable by far). Apple Music got over 10 million subscribers in its first month – and, again, since no real numbers beyond that are available yet, you calling it a failure already does nothing but identify you as a fandroid.

      As far as Apple having to build a car because car manufacturers not adopting platform changes: you are aware that lots of these manufacturers have agreed to incorporate CarPlay, right? In my opinion it would be foolish for Apple to compete with car manufacturers – if Apple became a competitor, it would have zero chance with CarPlay going forward.

  • tjwolf

    Apple would be foolish to get in the car manufacturing business. This comes from the same dumb-a$$ analysts that thought Apple would go into the TV set business!

    Why foolish? Because they don’t need to! Are these analysts not paying attention? Apple is enjoying tremendous adoption by car manufacturers for its CarPlay platform. If Apple were to become a competitor to those same manufacturers, how quickly do you think CarPlay would disappear from those dashboards??? In my opinion, Apple just wants to take over more and more of the software that gets put into these cars. I think the rumors of Apple experimenting with self-driving cars are probably true – but they’re testing SOFTWARE that they can then sell as part of a future CarPlay to those car manufacturers!

    Judging by the recent car hacking fiascos, those car manufacturers should be lining up at Apple’s door to let them handle this software.

  • HowmaNoid

    I want to see the unboxing experience!!

  • Polyglot1960

    “This Apple Car charging cable is not certified for this device and may not charge properly.”

  • Ke_Loh

    Apple is in the Industrial Design business. they design there products they don’t build them. I see them designing a car and releasing it as a Ford, or a GM, or etc. to take advantage of the existing dealer and service infastructure. Don’t forget, once you build a care, you have to service it. they will design a car, and develope a partership like they did with AT&T when they released the Iphone.

  • Mateo

    I certainly hope that Tim is not vering off the tried and true path which Jobs maintained and even counseled Google . . . Do fewer products but do them very well. Does a car really fit into an adjacent space for Apple?

    To me, a simple customer, I think I see where Apple could do so much more with what they have to be outstanding. Instead I see rivals encroaching and even surpassing Apple. Things like the languishing Apple TV, Siri needs some serious work – really, Apple Watch offers little for me, more comprehensive iOS and OS X upgrades (bragging about emojis the last conference . . . Really!?!?). I still get almost daily panics on my Mac Mini.

    I don’t know how a car fits into that business model, but hey Tim is not returning my calls! =8)

    • David Gilmore

      It’s the “go simple with fewer, more focused products” that built the enormous cash horde they now have to think of something to do with. You can’t just let it sit there. When you’re bigger than Exxon, there’s no better time for attempting to completely dismantle/disrupt a lumbering, established behemoth like the auto industry. Especially when you’re as well positioned as Apple is for something like that. They already have battery suppliers. They already have software. They already have brick and mortar locations performing service. Makes pretty good sense to me.

      • tjwolf

        99% of the cash is offshore. Yes they have to do something with it – but the question is “how”? It’s not clear to me how that money could be used wisely to disrupt the car manufacturing business. Build or buy car factories overseas? As the OP pointed out, Apple doesn’t do its own manufacturing, so buying/building seems far fetched. Some suggest buying Tesla – which would be easy if Apple could bring its money to the US. But it doesn’t look like Elon is willing to throw in the towel – at least not just yet.

        I think that Apple simply wants to provide existing car manufactures the “smarts” behind their cars – in the form of CarPlay (where a future version can even drive the car). And Apple doesn’t even have to make a boat load of money on that endeavor – as it helps to sell ever more iPhones.

      • Mateo

        Well, it is difficult to argue your observations . . . they certainly are true.
        First and foremost I would like to see Apple more dedicated to fixing and accelerating current products and apps. I am quite frustrated at recent decisions like killing off Aperture with what for me is a much underpowered “photos”. The recent changes to iTunes, moving audio books to iBooks and at the same time removing features or rearranging functionality, Siri . . . please don’t get me going!
        Second, aggressive expansion into directly adjacent markets makes more sense to me. Tim Cook is not calling for my opinion. I guess that speaks volumes, doesn’t it? Perhaps Apple IS the one that could disrupt the auto industry but I fear there is far more than batteries and Apple apps that make a car. I hope they are successful in what they do

  • Brady Wurtz

    Sure they are. I bet they’re also working on a new Apple TV. I’ve been hearing that from you guys for about 5 years, and every year is only a few months until it’s ready.

  • Rob

    Self driving car??? What kind of idiot would spend $75K+ for an Apple “car” with a company that has absolutely no credibility or track record?! If you think Apple’s watch (sales) were disappointing, wait to you see those figures! Oy. I don’t care how much of an Apple fan you might be, but take a moment to consider how much time, money and resources Apple had to figure out a much simpler ambition as the television? After all the promises and hype they ultimately were forced to pull the plug! Now, a car that drives itself… sounds like a coffin.

  • Rob

    After a few decades have past, I’m sure those rims in the illustration will no doubt be as cool as a really bad hair cut in the 80s;)

  • Roman

    I looks really nice, i wonder how much would it cost!!!

  • js290

    “People who design airplanes and machines… no matter how much they believe that what they do is good, the winds of time eventually turn them into tools of industrial civilization. It’s never unscathed. They’re cursed dreams. Animation, too. Today, all of humanity’s dreams are cursed somehow. Beautiful, yet cursed dreams… What I mean is, how do we know movies are even worthwhile? Most of our world is rubbish… It’s difficult.” –Hayao Miyazaki, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

  • AAPL.To.Break.$130.Soon>:-)

    AppleCar will be Apple’s new hobby. Apple doesn’t necessarily have to compete against Tesla’s high-end vehicles. They could build slightly more practical electric vehicles if that’s what they’re working on. I don’t blame Apple for trying something new, but I’m sure like everything else Apple does, investors are going to hate the idea of an electric vehicle. They’ll say how Apple is trying to sell an overpriced product into an already saturated market.