According to people familiar with the matter, Apple is working hard to accelerate the development of its electric vehicles and refocus the project on fully autonomous driving capabilities, aiming to solve the technical challenges that plague the automotive industry.
In the past few years, Apple’s automotive team has explored two paths at the same time: creating a model with limited autopilot capabilities focused on steering and acceleration—similar to most Tesla’s current cars—or one with The fully autonomous version does not require human intervention.
Under the leadership of the new leader of this work, Apple Watch software executive Kevin Lynch, engineers are now focusing on the second option. People familiar with the matter said that Lynch is pushing for the introduction of a car equipped with a fully autonomous driving system in the first version, because the discussion is private and they requested anonymity.
This is just the latest change in automotive work, known as the Special Project Team or “Project Titan”. Since it started around 2014, it has undergone strategic changes and executive turnover. In September, the former team leader, Dougfield, left his tenure for three years and worked for Ford Motor Company. When choosing Lynch as his replacement, Apple chose an internal executive who was not a car veteran.
In trying to master self-driving cars, Apple is chasing the holy grail in the industry. Technology and auto giants have spent years on self-driving cars, but their functions are still elusive.
As a leader in the electric vehicle market, Tesla may be a few years away from providing fully autonomous vehicles. Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo has encountered a series of resignations in its efforts to develop this technology. Uber Technology agreed to sell its autonomous driving unit last year.
Apple’s internal goal is to launch its self-driving cars within four years, which is faster than the five to seven-year timetable that some engineers planned earlier this year. But the timing is uncertain, and achieving the 2025 goal depends on the company’s ability to complete the autonomous driving system-an ambitious task in the plan. If Apple fails to achieve its goals, it may postpone the launch or initially sell low-tech cars.
A spokesperson for Apple Inc., based in Cupertino, California, declined to comment.
Apple’s ideal car will have no steering wheel and pedals, and its internal design will revolve around driverless driving. The interior of an option discussed within the company is similar to the Lifestyle Vehicle of Canoo Inc., an upstart in the electric vehicle industry. In that car, passengers were sitting on both sides of the car, facing each other as if they were sitting in a limousine.
Apple also explored the design of placing the car’s infotainment system (perhaps a large touch screen similar to an iPad) in the center of the vehicle, allowing users to interact with it throughout the ride. The car will also be highly integrated with Apple’s existing services and equipment. Although the company is pushing for the absence of a standard steering wheel, Apple has discussed equipping the car with an emergency takeover mode.
People familiar with the matter said that recently, the company has reached a key milestone in the development of the car’s underlying autonomous driving system. Apple believes that it has completed most of the core work of the processor, and it intends to eventually ship it in the first generation of cars.
The chip was designed by Apple’s silicon engineering team-the team designed processors for the iPhone, iPad and Mac-rather than within the automotive team. This work includes honing the underlying software running on the chip to support autonomous driving functions.
These advancements will soon enter the road test. Apple plans to start using new processor designs and updated autonomous driving sensors in modified cars that have been tested for many years. According to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, the company currently has a fleet of 69 Lexus SUVs and is testing its technology.
Apple’s car chip is the most advanced component developed by Apple, mainly composed of a neural processor, which can handle the artificial intelligence required for autonomous driving. The function of the chip means that it generates heat and may require the development of a complex cooling system.
It is hoped to develop a vehicle that can save customers from driving fatigue during long-distance travel. But building real cars for laymen in the auto industry like Apple requires partnerships.The company has discussed deals with multiple manufacturers and is considering making the vehicle in the United States
Even with recent progress, the creation of fully self-driving cars by 2025 is still considered very radical within Apple. Some people in Project Titan are skeptical of the timetable.
Security is the main part of this puzzle. Engineers involved in this work said that Apple is seeking to establish stronger protection measures than Tesla and Waymo. This includes creating a lot of redundancy-the backup system layer can be activated to avoid safety and drive system failures.
Apple is actively seeking to hire engineers to test and develop security features. “The special project team is looking for an accomplished mechanical engineer to lead the development of mechanical systems with safety-critical functions,” Apple wrote in a recent job posting. “You will use your passion for problem-solving to help design safety systems and lead the testing and countermeasures of these systems.”
As part of its efforts to accelerate the project, Apple is hiring more autonomous driving and automotive hardware engineers. This includes the recruitment of CJ Moore, Tesla’s former director of self-driving software.
In recent weeks, Apple has also hired climate system experts from Volvo Cars AB, managers from Daimler Trucks, battery system engineers from Karma Motors LLC and other automakers, sensor engineers from General Motors Cruise LLC, and automotive safety engineers. According to information provided by LinkedIn and people familiar with the matter, from companies such as Joyson Security Systems and many other engineers at Tesla.
According to Apple’s recruitment information, the company is also hiring software engineers to study the “experience of human interaction with autonomous technology”, which shows that it is in-depth development of automotive user interfaces. This list means that the software being developed will be based on technology similar to the iPhone operating system.
In order to power the vehicle, Apple has discussed compatibility with the combined charging system or CCS. This will allow Apple to enter a vast global charger network. But this method is different from the more proprietary charging systems it has developed for the iPhone and Apple Watch.
Apple has internally debated several different business models for its cars, including creating a self-driving fleet to compete with companies such as Uber, Lyft Inc. and Waymo. The company has discussed an exterior design similar to Canoo if it is to adopt a fleet approach. However, it is more likely that Apple provides cars for personal ownership.
It is not easy to reach this point. Apple’s car project has suffered development challenges, leadership struggles, layoffs and delays in its seven-year history. Field’s arrival from Tesla in 2018 brought a wave of excitement, but ultimately ended in failure. In addition to Field himself, at least four senior managers of the project will leave in 2021.
Some members of the organization believe that after former boss Bob Mansfield retired, Field was annoyed by reporting to John Giannandria, the head of artificial intelligence. Mansfield reports directly to CEO Tim Cook in a part-time job, overseeing automotive work.
Lynch is now the fifth executive responsible for the project in about seven years. This turnover rate is rare in Apple. For example, since the project started at about the same time as the car, its virtual and augmented reality team has had a leader.
Nevertheless, given Lynch’s ability to help transform the Apple Watch into a core product, some engineers on the automotive team viewed his appointment as a bullish sign. Lynch reports to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
Lynch is a software manager and has no experience in car hardware or autonomous driving, but the project’s former Tesla executives—including Michael Schwekucci and Stuart Bowles—play a key role. Earlier this year, Apple also hired Ulrich Kranz. He previously led Canoo and helped oversee the development of BMW electric vehicles.
When Lynch was selected to take over the car project, he was still in charge of the Apple Watch operating system and some health software teams. He has been involved in high-level decision-making, while focusing most of his time on automotive projects.
The question now is whether an executive in charge of Apple’s last major event-smart watches-can turn the car into the next car.