Sources with knowledge of Apple’s product plans have said on the record that it will take Apple “at least half a decade” to launch an autonomous electric vehicle.
Apple has a small team of hardware engineers that are working on drive systems, vehicle interiors, and external car designs with the goal of eventually shipping a vehicle to customers.
Apple’s car plans have shifted multiple times over the years and just a couple of years ago, rumors indicated Apple had decided to forego development of a full car and was instead focusing on an autonomous driving system that could perhaps be provided to other car manufacturers.
As development has continued, Apple is once again focusing on the more ambitious goal of creating an entire vehicle. The car team is aiming to create a self-driving vehicle that would let a user input their destination and be driven there with “little or no other engagement.”
The car is “nowhere near production stage” and it could be ready in five to seven years, though timelines could shift. Apple is also still pursuing a self-driving car system for a third-party partner, so the company could still opt to end development on its own car.
Apple Car employees are working from home at the current time or spending limited time at the office, which is apparently slowing work on the vehicle project. Apple has a wide range of car experts working on the project, as outlined by Bloomberg.
This includes former Tesla VP of interior design Steve MacManus, self-driving safety expert and former Waymo employee Jaime Waydo, and former Tesla VP Michael Schwekutsch, who worked on motors and transmissions. Apple recently picked up Jonathan Sive, a BMW vehicle engineer who also worked at Tesla and Waymo, and Stuart Bowers, another former Tesla vice president.
Vehicle-related job listings suggest Apple’s hiring is ramping up, with the Cupertino company seeking employees with expertise in wireless communication, LED lighting, high-voltage battery systems, and more.
A recent report from Reuters suggested Apple is aiming to launch a car in 2024, but that timeline sounds ambitious based on the new information from Bloomberg. Reuters said that Apple is developing a new battery design that will reduce cost and increase range, and has also been working with automotive supply companies.
Another report indicated Apple is designing a custom chip for the Apple Car that TSMC will manufacture, and Bloomberg confirms that Johny Srouji’s team is developing a custom Arm-based chip with a focus on machine learning processing to run the self-driving car system.
Apple is likely to use a manufacturing partner to build the vehicles, but it continues to be unclear what company might secure a deal with Apple. 2016 rumors indicated Apple was in talks with Magna International, but the talks ended as Apple’s plans at the time were unclear.