By Stefan Nelis, Norhiko Shirozu and Paul Linert
(Reuters) – Apple Inc. is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to build a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters .
The iPhone manufacturer’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have moved unevenly since 2014 when it first began designing its vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple withdrew the effort to focus on the software and regained its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who worked at Tesla Inc., returned to oversee the project in 2018 and removed 190 people from the team in 2019.
Since then, Apple has made so much progress that it now aims to create a vehicle for consumers, with two people familiar with the effort saying that it will not be named because Apple’s plans are not public. Apple’s goal of creating a personalized vehicle for mass market opposition with rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, which has built a robo-taxi to carry passengers for a driverless ride-in service.
Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that, according to the third person, can reduce battery costs and increase vehicle range, which has seen Apple’s battery design.
Apple declined to comment on its plans or future products.
Making vehicles also represents a supply chain challenge for Apple, a company with deep pockets that make millions of electronics products with parts around the world each year, but has never produced a car. It took Elon Musk’s Tesla 17 years ago, eventually becoming a sustained profit-making car.
A person working on Project Titan said, “If there’s one company on the planet that has the resources to do this, it’s probably Apple. But at the same time, it’s not a cellphone.”
It is not clear who will assemble the Apple-branded car, but sources have said that they expect the company to rely on the manufacturing partner to manufacture the vehicles. And there’s still a chance Apple will decide to reduce the scope of its efforts to an autonomous driving system that will integrate with a car made by a traditional automaker, rather than an iPhone manufacturer selling Apple-branded cars, people Added one of
Two people aware of Apple’s plans warned of an epidemic-related delay, which could lead to the start of production in 2025 or more.
Apple has decided to tap external partners for elements of the system, including LIDAR sensors that help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road, two people familiar with the company’s plan it is said.
Another person said that Apple’s car may have multiple LIDAR sensors to scan various distances. Some sensors can be obtained from Apple’s internally developed LIDAR units, the person said. Both feature lidar sensors were released this year in Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models.
Reuters previously reported that Apple had negotiated with potential LIDAR suppliers, but was also investigating the manufacture of its own sensors.
For car batteries, Apple plans to use a unique “monocell” design that lifts up individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches and modules that hold the battery contents Said one of the people who does.
Apple’s design means more active material can be packed inside the battery, allowing the car to potentially travel longer distances. Apple is also investigating a chemistry for a battery called LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, the person said, which is naturally less likely to overheat and is thus safer than other types of lithium-ion batteries.
“It’s the next level,” the person said of Apple’s battery technology. “The first time you saw the iPhone.”
Apple previously involved Magna International Inc. in talks about making the car, but with Apple’s plans unclear, a person said to be familiar with those previous efforts. Magna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
To turn a profit, automotive contract manufacturers often ask for versions that may also present a challenge for Apple, which would be a new competition for the automotive market.
“To be a viable assembly plant, you need 100,000 vehicles per year to come in greater quantities,” the person said.
(Reported by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco, Norhiko Shirozu in Beijing; and Paul Lijnert and Ben Kelman in Detroit; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Edward Tobin)