Apple has a dream; a dream to build its own electric self-driving car and lead the next generation of transportation. And in 2018, the tech giant’s ambitions ran into the reality (albeit delayed, according to the brand).
“I have a dream”
Apple originally began its car project – known internally as Titan and T172 – in 2014. At the time, Apple planned to build a single vehicle that would upend society and industry, in what would be the automotive version of the iPhone. So, the company set to work on an electric driverless car, where passengers face one another instead of the road. It also went on to enlist software programmers, automotive engineers, rocket scientists and the industrial-design team of Apple’s design chief, Jonathan Ive, to reimagine the car.
The Successful Mistake
In 2015, the brand was experimental. It also entertained a series of unconventional concepts, including augmented-reality or holographic displays embedded in windshields and windows, a sunroof made of a special polymer that reduces heat from the sun, and windows with adjustable tints – like those on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner jets.
A year later, the tech giant planned to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build research and development labs around its Cupertino, California, campus, including a machine shop and labs for electric car batteries. Yet members of the car project soon found that even designing and building fundamental parts of a new car was not simple. In turn, those plans quickly shifted to finding a manufacturing partner to build – but not design – the cars.
What is coming is better than what is gone
Almost effectively, Apple sought partnerships with the luxury carmakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz to develop an all-electric self-driving car. But on-again, off-again talks with those companies have ended after each rebuffed Apple’s requirements to hand over control of the data and design.
But last year, Apple found a partner in Volkswagen. Now, at a lab near Turin, Italy, run by a Volkswagen subsidiary called Italdesign, the companies plan to remake the car maker’s T6 vans as electric self-driving shuttles. The frame, wheels and chassis of the T6 vans will remain. However, Apple will be replacing many components, including the dashboard and seats.
Apple is reportedly adding other computers, sensors and a large electric car battery. The shuttles will ferry employees between two of Apple’s Silicon Valley campuses, and will include a driver behind the wheel to take control if needed, as well as an operator in the passenger’s seat tracking the van’s performance.
Executives leading Apple’s car project had told CEO Tim Cook that the shuttle would be completed by the end of 2018, but that deadline will be missed. It is unclear whether Apple’s partnership with Volkswagen will extend beyond the shuttle.