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Will We Soon See iCars on Our Streets?

Posted on June 15, 2018 – Car Technology

Granted, Apple has revolutionised our world with the iPad, the iPhone, the iWatch and all its i-prefixed devices. In fact, pretty much everything they create becomes a global success, but their true genius has perhaps been to nurture the strongest brand loyalty on the planet with 80% of Apple customers saying that they wouldn’t buy any other products but Apple’s.

In the recent years, rumours have been circulating about Apple’s intention to break into the car industry, never confirmed or denied by the very secretive tech giant. So is it true, will we soon see iCars on our streets?

Project Titan

Apple’s interest for the automotive world has become obvious with its recent foray into the market with the launch of its CarPlay software, which installs iOS directly in new cars by overriding whatever operating system was there before - a very useful feature if you own i-devices and want them and your car to talk easily.

A year ago, Apple invested $1 billion in China's version of Uber, Didi Chuxing, to gain access to the Board and the company’s autonomous car research. A few months later, Didi were opening a car lab in Silicon Valley near Apple's HQ. Reuters also reported that Apple was in discussion with companies manufacturing electric vehicle charging stations.

Whichever side avenues it is intent on exploring with partners, Apple is also developing its own project, Titan.

With very few details officially confirmed, information about Titan is more about speculation than certainty. What we know for sure is that something is brewing and that the creator of the iPhone is investing funds and human resources into research.

In its initial stages, the project counted 200 employees but, according to rumours, it will be 1,000-strong by the time the team is fully fledged. What is truly interesting, though, is the profile of the people they have been recruiting, which gives us an insight into where Apple might be headed when it comes to cars.

Many employees come from famous names in the automotive industry such as Tesla, Ford or General Motors, and at the more senior level you will find people like Jaime Waydo who used to work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before joining Waymo, the Google subsidiary dedicated to developing autonomous vehicles, where she headed systems engineering.

Other illustrious names from the car industry have joined Project Titan, including former employees of Tesla’s such as its mechanical engineering manager, its senior powertrain test engineer, its head recruiter and its former vice president. Apple also hired staff from A123 Systems, a company specialised in producing electric vehicle batteries, as well as former Ford and GM engineers, Samsung battery experts and research scientists on autonomous vehicles. The team is complemented by former employees of Blackberry, also specialised in automotive software.

So is Apple really building a car?

The line-up of the team assembled by Apple seems to suggest that its ambitions lie more in the technology of future cars than in their bolts and nuts, which is perhaps the most important but, given Apple’s flair for design, a pity too.

This seems further confirmed by a patent application from 2017 for ‘Autonomous Navigation System’ which is meant to reduce the amount of computing power needed to operate driverless vehicles; and the permit Apple received that same year from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test a self-driving car on the streets. In April 2017, a white Lexus emerged from an Apple facility fitted with enough sensors, cameras and radars to make a nuclear submarine jealous.

The current trends in automotive are clearly electric and driverless vehicles and it is likely that it is the pie Apple wants a slice of. At the end of last year, Apple’s head of AI was a speaker at an AI-focused event in California and discussed the advances of Apple in using lidars (3D scanners) to improve self-driving cars’ ability to identify pedestrians and cyclists.

What technology is Apple likely to be working on?

Apple being Apple, there is no doubt that whatever they are working on will come with unique, unusual features. It is believed, for example, that they are developing a new type of battery that could be a game changer for the electric car industry: hollow centre batteries.

Why hollow, you ask? One of the factors that limit current batteries is the amount of heat they generate because of the chemical reaction that creates their power. A hollow centre would improve air circulation and allow heat to dissipate more easily, drastically improving cooling. This will reduce the need to provide additional components to control temperature, paving the way for smaller, lighter and more simple vehicles. It is rumoured that Apple is working on that project with an unidentified South Korean company, and a patent application filed to the European Patent Office for hollow battery technology seems to confirm the truth of it although no official information has been released.

It is also said that Apple was collaborating with Daimler to co-develop or manufacture an iCar but Apple’s policy to store vehicle data on its iCloud was a major obstacle as far as the automaker was concerned as they made wireless security and data protection a priority.

So, if you were getting excited about owning an iCar designed and conceived by Apple to match your iWatch, we are sorry to say that it probably won’t happen and that Apple isn’t planning on manufacturing vehicles. However, in addition to fitting new cars with Apple’s technology, there are noises that they may develop a self-driving platform that manufacturers and individuals could retrofit their vehicles with. Imagine your old faithful steed given a second lease of life and becoming autonomous. You have to admit that it would be pretty cool!

If your car can’t drive itself to our offices to be shipped abroad, don’t worry, we can pick it up from your place! Call us on + 64 9 309 1163 or through our contact form.

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