Several reliable news outlets are reporting on the speculation that Apple is in the midst of developing its own vehicle, though rumours of what it might be vary from an electric car to a fully autonomous car that would compete against the already-announced Google car.
The story took flight in the Wall Street Journal, which reported that Apple had assigned 100s of workers to an electric vehicle project code-named Titan.
Undisclosed sources say the vehicle in question resembles a minivan, presumably to better house the bulky electric components, and would carry the Apple branding though it would likely be built by an outside company (other sources link Chinese maker BYD to the project). The WSJ story claims Apple executives have held talks with Magna Steyr in Austria, though comments from both Apple and Magna have been refused, naturally.
The story points to several key personnel movements at Apple, including the hirings of Marc Newson (who had previously collaborated with Ford on a concept car) and Johann Jungwirth (formerly president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America), and the reassignment of Vice President Steve Zadesky (a former Ford engineer who lead the teams responsible for the iPod and iPhone).
The Financial Times confirmed the hirings and the rumours of recruitment talks with various other auto company executives, but pegs the total allotment of human resources at dozens (as opposed to 100s) at a secret lab removed from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. The FT story claims the diverting of resources may be related to CarPlay (Apple’s infotainment system that is already available on existing vehicles) but quotes another unnamed source as saying the people hired (automotive designers and vehicle dynamics engineers, for example) and their senior rankings indicate more than just an auto-systems supplier tie-in.
A Reuters report follows up on the other stories with the notion that an autonomous vehicle is basically a software solution to mechanical problem, and would fit right into Apple’s proven track record of revolutionizing industries and products it takes on.
That outlet also quoted unnamed sources saying Apple had reached out to experts in various facets of car-building, such as robotics and electric and connected car technologies. The source was quoted as saying that Apple doesn’t seem to want a lot of help from car companies themselves.