The ongoing “Apple Car” saga took another turn on Wednesday when a new report claimed the expected electric vehicle (EV) will be fully autonomous and designed to operate without the need of a driver.
“These will be autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile,” an unnamed source with knowledge of Apple’s plans told CNBC.
As the news outlet notes, this means the tech giant’s first vehicle could be used for deliveries of meals and other items, as well as robotaxi services similar to those being tested by autonomous-vehicle specialist Waymo. In other words, don’t think you’ll be rolling down the street in your own Apple-made car anytime soon.
Apple’s highly secretive EV initiative has been making headlines for around the last six years, with speculation about its plans ramping up in the last couple of months.
In January 2021, Hyundai confirmed it was in talks with Apple about the possibility of partnering on the project, though the Korean automaker quickly withdrew its statement — possibly after Apple got in touch.
Since then, insiders claiming to have knowledge of the plans have said that Kia, Hyundai’s sister company, is now leading the project, with sources telling CNBC this week that both it and Apple are pushing toward a deal that would see the iCar manufactured at Kia’s facility in West Point, Georgia.
Sources have also cautioned that depending on how the current talks proceed, Apple could end up partnering with another automaker alongside Kia, or even without Kia.
Apple appears intent on building its vehicle in the U.S. and wants to use the facilities of an established automaker to do so, CNBC said in its report. The deal must also allow Apple to use its own software and hardware, the insiders said, ensuring the finished product will be a true “Apple Car” rather than a vehicle from an automaker that merely incorporates Apple-made software.
For Hyundai and Kia, working with the Cupertino, California tech company could allow it to speed up its plans for bringing its own autonomous vehicles and EVs to the market — it’s currently aiming to launch seven EVs by 2027.
Recent reports have suggested Apple’s autonomous EV, which may also feature “breakthrough battery technology,” could launch in 2024, though respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in December 2020 that the vehicle’s exact design specifications have yet to be decided, suggesting that we may not see it until 2028 or even later.
The situation appears to be moving quickly, so expect more updates on this story soon.