Today in Apple history: Apple teams with Volkswagen for iBeetle car


The first Apple car, a collaboration with VW known as the iBeetle, rolls onto the scene.
The first Apple car, a collaboration with VW known as the iBeetle, rolls onto the scene.
Photo: Volkswagen

April 22: Today in Apple history: Apple teams with VW for the iBeetle. It's the first Apple car! April 22, 2013: The world gets its first Apple car. Well, kind of. In reality, the iBeetle is a collaboration with German automaker Volkswagen that offers a car “stylistically linked” to Apple.

This means Apple-inspired colors, a built-in docking station for your iPhone, and a special app that lets you control the car’s features.

The iBeetle: An iPhone on wheels? Sort of.

The iBeetle debuted at the Shanghai Auto Show. At the time, the world was very excited about a possible Apple car. Apple had been interested in getting into the automotive game since all the way back in 1980. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs seemed keen on the idea, although he died before the iBeetle became a reality.

Unfortunately, the iBeetle — like some of Apple’s other half-baked collaborations — didn’t quite live up to the hype.

It came in several different muted exterior colors reminiscent of the iPhone. These included Candy White, Oryx White Mother of Pearl Effect, Black Monochrome, Deep Black Pearl Effect, Platinum Grey and Reflex Silver.

It also boasted a built-in iPhone dock and custom Beetle app. Features included the ability to stream songs from Spotify and iTunes; check lateral acceleration; monitor oil and coolant temperature gauges for the engine; and access a compass.

A “Trainer” feature, meanwhile, allowed iBeetle owners to compare drive times, distances and fuel economy on routes. “Postcard” let them send their current location to friends. “Photo” sent photos inside the car to social networks. “Reader” read new text messages and social media posts.

Inside the VW iBeetle, a collaboration between Apple and Volkswagen
Inside the VW iBeetle, a special dock put the iPhone at the heart of the driving experience.
Photo: Volkswagen

Secret Apple car project ends

Ultimately, the world viewed the iBeetle as a missed opportunity. Apple clearly remained interested in automotive technology, however. The following year, the company introduced an improved in-car operating system called CarPlay.

In 2017, the company published a research paper describing how neural networks can improve accuracy in lidar technology used in autonomous vehicles.

The company reportedly wanted to develop next-gen lidar sensors — which would help autonomous cars make their way down busy streets — that were smaller, cheaper and easier to manufacture than existing options. Oh, and Apple wanted its “revolutionary design” for lidar sensors to look better, too.

Apple also operated a fleet of self-driving cars, and reportedly used a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles facility in Arizona to test autonomous vehicles.

Meanwhile, Apple reportedly talked with several potential partners for manufacturing an electric vehicle. The company pursued patents related to futuristic vehicles and poached key executives from automakers.

A March 2022 rumor indicated Apple’s automobile team had been “dissolved for some time” — but said the company hoped to “achieve the goal of mass production by 2025.”

Eventually, the company scaled back its grand plan to produce a totally self-driving car. “The company is now planning a less-ambitious design that will include a steering wheel and pedals and only support full autonomous capabilities on highways,” Bloomberg wrote in late 2022.

More than a decade after the iBeetle, Project Titan comes to an end

However, Apple’s automotive dreams came to a crashing halt in 2024. After spending a decade, and a reported $10 billion, in its secret effort to produce a self-driving electric vehicle, Apple pulled the plug on Project Titan.

Still, Apple continues to work on making CarPlay an advanced software framework for other automakers.

Were you excited about the possibility of an Apple car (other than the iBeetle)? Let us know your thoughts below.

The iBeetle isn't the end of Apple car experimentation.
The iBeetle wasn’t the end of Apple car experimentation.
Photo: Volkswagen


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