Project Titan: Everything we know about Apple’s self-driving car

Update (2020-12-22):

Reuters: Apple wants to start building cars with new battery technology in 2024

According to the news agency Reuters Apple has decided to build a self-driving car and the goal is for it to be launched in 2024.

The large traction patch is a new type of battery that will provide longer range and be safer compared to today’s batteries.

According to an anonymous person that Reuters has spoken to, the new battery technology should be as revolutionary as the first model of Iphone.

Apple has been working on its car project since 2014, but there have been many different bids about what it’s really about.

If you want to know more about “Project Titan”, just scroll down.

Previously (2020-02-25):

Patent applications, employment, secret subsidiaries and tests on public roads of systems for self-driving cars all point to something being developed in Cupertino (or perhaps more precisely in San Jose where Apple rents offices and according to rumors has placed the project).

Data from Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, CBS, Business Insider and other magazines has come in waves and it seems that Apple has not really been able to decide what the goal should be: an entire car, or just the technology for a self-driving car made by someone else?

The people behind Apple’s car

Apple is said to have slowed down Project Titan several times, laid off some of the staff and changed its mind. In September 2016, the New York Times wrote that dozens of employees were allowed to leave, but that the project still had around 1,000 employees, and in January 2019, around 200 people should have been allowed to leave.

Doug Field
Doug Field, according to information current head of Project Titan.

Apple has recruited a lot of staff from existing car manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and not least Tesla. But also from companies in other industries such as Nvidia, Blackberry, Texas Instruments and Bosch. From Tesla come, among others, engineers such as David Nelson and John Ireland, the recruiter Lauren Ciminera, the automotive industry veteran Chris Porritt and Steve MacManus who worked with the technical side of exteriors and interiors.

Who is in charge of the project is also said to have changed. It started with former Ford engineer Steve Zadesky. In 2016, retired Bob Mansfield was lured back to lead “special projects” which was interpreted by many as Project Titan. In August 2018, Apple recruited Doug Field from Tesla to take over the project and as far as we know he is still the manager. He previously worked with Machårdvara at Apple.

Car or not?

One of the questions that has hung around since the first rumors is whether Apple will build an entire car or whether it is instead an ai-pilot that can end up in other manufacturers’ cars.

In 2017, it looked like Apple had at least for the time being put the plans for a full-fledged car on ice, but in 2018 came new information that this is after all what Apple is planning. Often well-informed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said he believes the plan is a launch between 2023 and 2025.

Several hires, such as Steve MacManus and Doug Field, also point out that it really is a car Apple is developing.

Car interior

A completely different rumor came from Manager Magazine and claimed that it is not a car Apple is working on but a minibus for carpooling or taxi traffic, which would first start driving Apple employees to work and between the company’s various offices. The New York Times also wrote about this in 2018, claiming that Apple already has a name for the service: PAIL (“Palo Alto to Infinite Loop”). According to the newspaper, the buses themselves will be rebuilt Volkswagen T6.

The technology behind Apple Car

Apple is definitely developing technology for cars, it is very clear. The company has filed a large number of patent applications relating to self-driving systems, safety and the connection between the iPhone and the car.

One of the most interesting is a technology that will help other road users understand what the self-driving car will do. Apple points out in the patent that how people behave behind the wheel is useful information for other drivers, but since self-driving cars have no visible driver, that information is missing.

Patent

Apple’s solution is an electronic sign that shows what the car plans to do, for example “turn right 500 meters” or “continue for 25 kilometers”. The sign can also be used to warn others of dangers the car has discovered that may not be visible, such as a car accident later on.

In June 2019, Apple acquired Drive.ai, a small business started by MIT students who developed self-driving minibuses that were in operation in several Texas cities. The company’s operations were shut down and Apple absorbed the employees.

Cars on the roads

The most important component in Apple’s car is probably the ai that will drive, and there the company has come so far that it has a number of test cars out on the roads in the home state of California. Apple received permission from the state Department of Transportation in 2017 and registered 27 cars in January 2018. In September of the same year, the number was up to 70, more than all competitors except GM and Waymo (Google).

Apple test car

A leaked report in February 2019 showed that Apple’s cars handed over to the human driver more often than all competitors’ systems, but the very next day it emerged that the numbers can vary extremely much depending on how the companies calculate. Apple itself changed from reporting all the times the driver took over from the computer (for whatever reason) to only the times the driver took over to avoid an accident or a rule violation.

With the new way of counting, Apple is significantly better off with 3200 kilometers per intervention. But it is still a long way behind Waymo, which reported 17,950 kilometers per intervention.

Rearview mirror

When will Apple’s car launch?

When it’s done. When rumors of an Apple car began to appear, analysts and others speculated that the car would appear “no earlier than 2020”, but given that we have not even seen a sketch of what the car might look like, the launch learns – if the car actually becomes reality – be far away yet.

Ming-Chi Kuo’s guess is as we wrote above 2023–2025, but for a product that is so far in the future, it is hard to believe that his sources among Apple’s subcontractors will have any further control. So we see it as a good guess from someone who has followed the company for a long time, but no more.

In fact, we simply have no idea when Apple’s car may be fully developed. When it starts to take shape a little more and we start to see more concrete rumors, maybe we can make a better guess.