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Bloomberg: Apple plans to launch a fully autonomous car as soon as 2025

Published Nov 18th, 2021 2:05PM EST
Vanarama's 3D model of the Apple Car.
Image: Vanarama

The Apple Car rumors returned in early 2021, and we’ve had a steady influx of unconfirmed news about Apple’s most ambitious project to date since then. Apple doesn’t have any expertise in making vehicles, but it has big plans that could help revolutionize the industry if these rumors are accurate. Apple wants to make an electric vehicle that would also drive itself autonomously. Self-driving cars already exist on the market, but they can still be operated manually. Although many are testing such technology in the wild, carmakers have yet to perfect the technology that would allow them to build a safe self-driving car.

The newest report reveals more details about Apple’s audacious car plans. The company has apparently decided to pursue a vehicle that would not feature steering wheels or pedals in what sounds like the most futuristic automotive project we’ll have ever seen. Moreover, Apple reportedly plans to launch its first-generation autonomous car as early as 2025.

Apple’s self-driving car plans

Apple’s car team had explored two different scenarios for self-driving cars in recent years, Bloomberg reports. One involves a vehicle with limited self-driving abilities focused on steering and acceleration. That’s in line with what competitors like Tesla and Google’s Waymo are doing.

The other plan involved a car with full self-driving capabilities that doesn’t require any human intervention. With Apple’s vice president of technology Kevin Lynch now overseeing the car team, Apple opted for the latter of the two plans. Lynch apparently wants the first version of the Apple Car to be completely autonomous. And Apple wants to launch the car in 2025.

How the autonomous Apple car would work

Bloomberg explains that the interior of Apple’s self-driving car will be unlike most cars featuring a self-driving system. Instead, it will resemble Lifestyle Vehicle prototypes from Canoo:

Apple’s ideal car would have no steering wheel and pedals, and its interior would be designed around hands-off driving. One option discussed inside the company features an interior similar to the one in the Lifestyle Vehicle from Canoo Inc., an upstart in the EV industry. In that car, passengers sit along the sides of the vehicle and face each other like they would in a limousine.

Apple reportedly explored interior designs where an iPad-like central console in the middle of the vehicle would let users control certain aspects of the car throughout the ride. The Apple car would also be integrated with Apple’s other devices and services. But even though Apple doesn’t want to install a steering wheel, the company plans to include an emergency takeover mode.

Apple's M1 Max SoC for the 2021 MacBook Pro
Apple’s M1 Max SoC for the 2021 MacBook Pro. Image source: Apple Inc.

Apple’s most sophisticated custom chip

While Apple has never built a car before, it has one massive advantage over traditional carmakers. It has a great deal of expertise in building the brains of smart devices. Its custom chips that power the iPhone, iPad, and Mac are industry leaders. Rivals have yet to top Apple.

The Bloomberg report says that Apple has already figured out the custom chip that will offer customers a fully self-driving vehicle. Apple plans to start testing the chip and new sensors in the fleet of Lexus SUVs it’s been using to advance its self-driving car goals.

The processor is more sophisticated than anything Apple has ever created. From the sounds of it, it’s unlikely that anyone in the industry is going to be able to compete:

The Apple car chip is the most advanced component that Apple has developed internally and is made up primarily of neural processors that can handle the artificial intelligence needed for autonomous driving. The chip’s capabilities mean it will run hot and likely require the development of a sophisticated cooling system.

It’s not enough to have a self-driving car that can operate without user supervision. The autonomous vehicle has to be safe. And the report notes that safety is a significant piece of the puzzle.

Better safety than Tesla

According to engineers involved in the projects, Apple wants to have more robust safeguards in place than Tesla and Waymo. Apple will build plenty of redundancies into the system to prevent issues.

Apple is also looking to ensure the car will work with the combined charging system (CCS) so that the electric vehicle will be compatible with an extensive network of chargers.

These are notable and very difficult goals to achieve. The report points out that Apple continues to hire more talent. The car team has been losing key executives over the years, making the launch schedule more daring.

Hyundai E-GMP
Hyundai E-GMP electric car platform announced in early December 2020. Image source: YouTube

Partnerships with traditional carmakers

If Apple can’t hit its 2025 date, it might launch a car without all the same bells and whistles. The report notes that Apple engineers involved in the project are skeptical about a 2025 release.

As for how Apple will manufacture the car, the company is considering partnerships with traditional carmakers. Apple reportedly discussed deals with multiple companies and has considered making the car in the US. Some of the previous Apple car rumors mentioned a number of these potential partnerships. At one point, Hyundai-Kia might have been a front-runner.

Finally, the Bloomberg report says that Apple has looked at different business models. One of them involves creating a fleet of self-driving taxis that would compete against Uber, Lyft, and Waymo. Previous reports also mentioned such plans. But the more likely scenario would be offering the self-driving car directly to buyers.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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