Apple self-driving electric car 'five to seven years' from production, could still revert to systems-only approach –

Tech giant Apple was reported to have its Project Titan self-driving electric car programme back in development, now with the tech firm set to incorporate its own breakthrough battery technology in the forthcoming vehicle. Its launch remains some way off, however, as Bloomberg reports that development is still in its early stages, and a debut is at least five years away.

The California-based company has a small team of hardware engineers tasked with developing drive systems, vehicle interior and exterior body designs, according to people with knowledge of Apple’s car-building efforts. A complete vehicle ready for launch could be ready in five to seven years, the people said, though they also added that timelines could change.

This is a ramping up of development which aims to build a complete vehicle, which is considerably upscaled from Apple’s previous direction of providing autonomous drive systems, which itself was a downscaling of the original Project Titan that aimed at building a complete car. More recently, Apple has also hired more former Tesla executives for its self-driving EV endeavour.

The majority of the self-driving EV development team has been either working from home or at the office for a limited time, which is limiting the tech company’s capacity for developing a complete vehicle, Bloomberg reported, while an Apple spokesperson declined to comment.

Apple had hired former Tesla engineering vice president Steve MacManus in 2019, who initially worked on projects unrelated to the car. Now, he leads a development group of several personnel focusing on car interiors, fabrics, testing and vehicle manufacturing, according to people with knowledge of the matter, reported Bloomberg. MacManus reports to Doug Field, also ex-Tesla, who now runs the Apple car project.

Late last year, Apple had also hired a former Tesla vice president Stuart Bowers, who led the EV manufacturer’s self-driving technology until the middle of 2019, before moving on to a venture capital firm, according to Bloomberg.

Apple’s car development team is comprised of dozens of other former Tesla hardware and autonomou driving systems engineers, and several hundred engineers in total are working on the car project, with most tasked with developing self-driving systems rather than the car itself, Bloomberg reported.

The smaller team dealing with hardware is tasked with vehicle dynamics, drivetrains, safety mechanics and battery technology, notes, Bloomberg, along with designing an interior where occupants ride passively in the vehicle rather than actively operating it.

The news site also notes that the ramping up of development work on the Apple EV is indicated by new job listings, namely an engineer for the integration of audio, wireless communications and antennas into autonomous systems, along with an engineer with experience in LED lighting for “a fully validated system ready for vehicle production”, which reaffirms the car’s mass production objectives, it said.

The chip development team at Apple has also been developing an Arm-based chip with a heavy emphasis on machine learning processing in order to power the car’s autonomous driving systems, Bloomberg added.

That said, Apple has continued to also to research the development of autonomous driving systems for an OEM partner rather than for a complete vehicle, people close to the project said, which means that the tech giant hasn’t ruled out abandoning, yet again, the development of a complete car.

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