Apple Inc. is reportedly building a full-size passenger vehicle. The iPhone manufacturer has a top-secret Silicon Valley facility outside of its Cupertino headquarters where hundreds of employees are reportedly working on an electric vehicle.
Managers from Apple’s iPhone unit have been tasked to oversee the design, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The car runs solely on electric power, but currently has no plans for a “self-driving” or autonomous vehicle, the report said. The project is code-named "Titan". Rival Google Inc. has worked on a self-driving car which it says will hit the road in 2020.
It “resembles a minivan,” and may not be ready for production for several years, the report said. Apple has built multiple working models for products which never made it to the consumer market, which it could decide to do with Titan. It might also use the car to test out other products like CarPlay, but the size of the staff its using shows that its serious about the project.
Apple has more than enough money to spend on the project, with $180 billion in cash, nearly as much as the market capitalization of GM, Ford and Volkswagen combined, The Verge noted Friday.
CEO Tim Cook signed off on the project almost one year ago, allowing former Ford Motor Company engineer and Apple VP Steve Zadesky the ability to pull staff from any of the manufacturer’s departments, the WSJ said. Zadesky previously was part of the design team of the iPod and iPhone. It would be “several years” before Apple could complete the car and obtain the necessary safety certifications, according to the report.
Apple employees have visited contract manufacturers that could build a car or its components, including Magna Steyr, which has built cars for Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The Financial Times reported earlier Friday that Apple created a top-secret lab for such a project, located in Silicon Valley away from the company’s Cupertino headquarters.
“Look at the car industry; it's a tragedy in America. Who is designing the cars?” Apple board member and J. Crew CEO Millard Drexler said in 2012. Apple’s late founder and former CEO Steve Jobs’ “dream before he died was to design an iCar,” Drexler said.
If Apple brings its electric car into mass production, it could potentially help the company maintain its explosive revenue growth. The task of getting a vehicle on the road is extremely expensive, and would require hundreds of millions of dollars to move forward. Business Insider reported earlier this week that an anonymous email purporting to be from an Apple employee discussed the project.
"Apple's latest project is too exciting to pass up," the person said. "I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.
Apple has recruited 50 employees from Tesla from areas such as mechanics, robotics and manufacturing, according to LinkedIn data. Bloomberg claims Tesla previously poached 150 Apple employees.
Apple has already deployed a fleet of minivans equipped with an elaborate system of cameras and sensors. The vans were spotted earlier this month, and were thought to be part of a mapping or self-driving car project, but now appear to have been made so that Apple could collect data about vehicle usage.