Apple resumed development of its autonomous electric vehicle on its own after failing to secure a major automotive partner, according to a new report. Cupertino supposedly is in touch with global auto parts manufacturers, indicating selection of a supplier(s) could be imminent.
The report, which appeared Thursday in South Korea’s Maeil Economic Daily, summarized Apple’s car plans to date. But it also underlined the company’s commitment to pushing ahead with internal development.
This comes after a rocky history of the Apple car project. The most recent setback saw the departure of the project’s lead executive, Doug Field, to Ford Motor Company earlier this month. Bloomberg reported Thursday that Apple has named longtime Apple Watch and Health software chief Kevin Lynch as a replacement for Field.
Apple’s car project also suffered staff layoffs, leadership changes and attempted partnerships failing to get up to speed.
Report: Apple reopens Project Titan lab
The report cited a source saying Apple reopened its vehicle-development lab, which closed in 2016. At one point it served as the workplace of about 1,000 employees engaged in Project Titan, said to be Apple’s code name for the car-development project.
Project Titan began working on an autonomous vehicle in 2014. At that point, Apple appeared to want to develop a car on its own. But the company seemed to give up on that by 2016 and began looking for one or more car-industry partners.
Apple fails to find a manufacturing partner
Apple’s new focus on its secret car project, as indicated in the report, comes only after numerous stalled negotiations with potential manufacturing partners — including BMW, Hyundai and Nissan.
Apple’s apparent hopes to outsource production to a manufacturer with a track record faltered for various reasons. Many had to do with the industry’s competitive environment and automakers’ own worries about electric vehicle production.
Even after those failures, sources cited Apple making efforts to latch onto a major partner for the car project, a la Foxconn’s iPhone production. However, brands reportedly appeared unwilling to conform to Apple’s standards or subject themselves to it oversight. Talks started and stopped.
2024? 2025? 2026? 2027?
According to the new report, Apple sent Request for Information (RFI), Request for Proposal (RFP) and Request for Quotation (RFQ) documentation to global automobile part manufacturers. That’s considered a signal that final parts supplier candidates are in a selection process for outsourced production.
With the electric vehicle industry taking off, it’s understandable that Apple wants into the market, and soon. The report suggested current market conditions resemble those of the smartphone sector when Apple rolled out the market-disrupting iPhone.
Predictions for the Apple car’s launch range from 2024 to 2027. The report appears to put its money on the latter two-thirds of that period, in line with many analysts’ prognostications.