An iCar? iTruck? Either way, it sounds like Apple is diving into the automotive industry. After months of rumors, Apple CEO Tim Cook has finally dropped some hints about the direction of a much-anticipated Apple car.
In an interview with Kara Swisher for The New York Times' “Sway” podcast, Cook spoke about self-driving startup Drive.ai, which Apple purchased in 2019, and seemingly confirmed an autonomous iCar is in the works.
“The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view,” he said. "If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does."
Cook evaded Swisher's question on whether Apple is planning to produce a car itself or the tech within the car saying, "In terms of the work that we’re doing there, obviously, I’m going to be a little coy on that." He continued, "We investigate so many things internally. Many of them never see the light of day. I’m not saying that one will not."
Yet, he did drop more clues that Project Titan is working on something. "We love to integrate hardware, software and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that’s where the magic occurs,” said Cook. “And we love to own the primary technology that’s around that."
Reports emerged late last year that the tech giant was developing a self-driving car "similar to Tesla." The rumors gained even more traction when Elon Musk revealed Tesla could have been Apple's all along.
Commenting on Apple’s plan to make a mass-produced car on Twitter in December, Musk stated the news was “strange, but true.” He also revealed that he even once tried to get Apple to buy Tesla, but Tim Cook declined.
"During the darkest days of the Model 3 program, I reached out to Tim Cook to discuss the possibility of Apple acquiring Tesla (for 1/10 of our current value)." Musk continued: "He refused to take the meeting."
While Apple missed out on its first chance to join the automotive game, the tech company is still pulling out some secret weapons to get ahead. According to Reuters, Apple is banking on its "unique ‘monocell’ design” to bulk up the individual cells in the battery, freeing up space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches and modules that hold battery materials. This should mean that more active material can be packed inside the battery, giving the car a longer range.
“It’s next level,” a source said of Apple’s battery technology. “Like the first time you saw the iPhone.” On top of the new monocell design, Apple is reportedly investigating lithium iron phosphate as a potentially safer alternative to lithium-ion batteries that would also be less likely to overheat.
According to the same report, Apple is opting to use outside partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors (Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models released this year both feature lidar sensors). This technology could help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road; the vehicle may feature multiple lidar sensors for scanning different distances, with some derived from Apple’s internally developed units.
Sources suggest that Apple is expecting to unveil its vehicles in 2024.