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 (as we continue to be today). 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 users to compare drive times, distances and fuel economy on routes. “Postcard” let you send your current location to friends, while “Photo” sent photos inside the car to social networks. “Reader” read new text messages and social media posts.
Apple car remains a dream
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.
Today, Cupertino is reportedly still busy working on an Apple car — although it’s not clear whether this will be an Apple-manufactured vehicle or an iBeetle-style advanced software framework. Nonetheless, Apple continues to spark rumors about its automotive ambitions. For example, the company published a research paper in 2017 describing how neural networks can improve accuracy in lidar technology used in autonomous vehicles.
Apple also operates a fleet of self-driving cars, and reportedly used a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles facility in Arizona to test autonomous vehicles. And the company reportedly wants to develop next-gen lidar sensors — which help autonomous cars make their way down busy streets — that are smaller, cheaper and easier to manufacture.
Oh, and Apple wants its “revolutionary design” for lidar sensors to look better, too. (There’s no word on when if ever it will launch, though, if ever.)
Meanwhile, Apple reportedly talked with several potential partners for manufacturing an electric vehicle. And the company continues to pursue patents related to futuristic vehicles and poach 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.”
The latest Apple car rumor indicates 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.
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