Apple is building an autonomous vehicle, also known as a self-driving car, according to documents obtained by The Guardian. The company has quietly been building a team of car designers, engineers and battery experts to work on a car-related special project, which taken now taken the shape of such a vehicle.
According to The Guardian, Apple has signed a deal with GoMentum Station, a former naval base 50km northeast of San Francisco outfitted with a network of roads and highways spread across 2,100 acres. The plan is to quietly test the self-driving cars on its roads, which avoid having to disclose information to any municipal government, as Google has had to do with its own fleet of autonomous vehicles.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has been quietly exploring the automotive industry, meeting with executives from Fiat-Chrysler and BMW over the past few months. Apple’s auto ambitions were well established before it began building an actual car, partnering with automakers for an in-dash infotainment system called CarPlay.
While Project Titan, the supposed internal name of Apple’s car project, is not expected to go on sale for another five or so years, The Guardian reports that prototypes are further along than most people anticipated, and may be able to begin testing phases as early as next year. It’s unclear whether the car will be entirely autonomous or whether it will, as analysts have assumed, be a hybrid with some self-driving features.
Unlike smartphones, tablets and computers, the automotive industry is heavily regulated, and a self-driving car would take years of behind-the-scenes political maneuvering before becoming mainstream. At the same time, car makers have sat idle for years ignoring the realities of urban living, pushing gas-powered cars while resisting the inevitable growth of electric and fuel cell-powered vehicles.
With Google and Apple now squarely in the disruption camp on all consumer fronts, it will be interesting to see how Chryslers, Fords and Hondas of the world respond.