Apple Car: the Open Secret

Apple Car: the Open Secret - Lovefone, London

Rumors are swirling about Apple’s intentions to develop its own electric vehicle. The alleged project even has its own cool, secretive internal nickname - Project Titan. From that name, I’d be expecting an electric boat, but maybe they’re just trying to throw us off the trail. Though the tech giant has always been secretive about its new releases, and rumors regarding their products are frequently proven to be unfounded, there may just be something to this one. There’s no denying that- if true, this will be a big, innovative project. Bigger than bendable smartphones. Bigger than the Apple Watch, for sure. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, an electric vehicle that would rival the apple car, spilled the beans about this open secret. “It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it,” Musk told the BBC. 

Early Indications

Apple has shown some signs of moving toward integration in the automotive industry already. There is a lot of potential for collaboration between the smartphone and auto industries, from keyless entry advances to smart entertainment systems. Its recent soirée into in-car computing, CarPlay, is evidence to this effect. CarPlay transforms dull onboard computer operating systems with the familiar functionality and aesthetic of the Apple UI, right down to the rich app ecosystem. All the user needs to do is plug their iPhone 5 or later into the dash of a compatible vehicle, and the phone will treat the car’s infotainment center as a monitor of sorts. All the computing still takes place in the phone, but it’s broadcast to the bright, convenient display of the vehicle. It’s a system that has been built from the ground up to work around the way we use cars and their onboard computers, emphasizing safety, accessibility, and fluid voice commands. Could this be a test run of a system originally designed to be incorporated into Apple’s own car model?

Potential Testing Areas

Further suspicion has arisen from the fact that Apple has recently leased several buildings and industrial areas in Sunnyvale, California. Residents of these areas say they see delivery trucks coming and going at all hours of the night, hear strange noises not unlike the sound of an electric motor being pushed to its limit, and are even tailed by security guards while out walking their dogs. Clearly, there’s something going on there, and Apple does not want people to know what. Even the city of Sunnyvale local government is in the dark, with the only clue to the company’s activities coming from the city manager’s blog in a post from June, 2014 that said Apple had been granted a permit for an auto testing facility.

Even More Evidence

While the CarPlay link is tenuous evidence at best, there is more evidence of Apple’s impending involvement in the automotive industry that cannot be so easily dismissed. Recent hiring sprees have added more than 1,800 names to Apple’s payroll, many of whom are top minds in the auto industry. These new hires include Doug Betts, the former quality control chief at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Jamie Carlson, a senior engineer from Tesla, and Paul Furgale, a European autonomous vehicle researcher, among others. Apple has tried to write these hirings off as part of a research project designed primarily to expand their knowledge and not actually build anything, but it seems that this magnitude of new people signals something a little more than idle curiosity.

In light of all of this, it seems that a new and exciting Apple product is once again on the horizon. While Apple has not formally committed to the project, insiders believe that the Apple Car will be ready for shipment as early as 2019. But for now, Project Titan will just have to remain a source of mystery—a secret that, like a fistful of sand, Apple tried to hold too tightly and instead let it slip away. We only hope that when the Apple Car does finally hit the market, Apple will have remembered to build a backdoor. It will really help bring a whole new meaning to Apple’s “storage space.”

Blueprints and specifications for an official retail model have yet to be confirmed or released (or even finalized), but one thing is certain and that is that an Apple Car (or at least a very expensive prototype) is coming down the road in less than five years.

April 08, 2016