In spite of 2020 being a middling year for consumer gadgets, Apple emerged with a slew of launches ranging from the pricey iPhone 12 to new MacBooks and iPads. Now, as the year draws to a close, the company is setting even bigger expectations for the year ahead, a year when Apple Cars could arrive.
Of course, as is often the case with Tim Cook's plans, nothing concrete has emerged though news reports claim that these self-driving cars could actually start rolling out in the near future. Some say that the first car may be out by 2024 while others claim that it may launch next year. Both reports are based on information provided by component manufacturers.
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For those of you who dismissed the self-driving cars as science fiction, Tesla already has a few on the roads and could soon have its biggest competitor as well. Apple had shared their automobile dreams in 2017 when Tim Cook confirmed reports of the company working on some self-driving cars.
However, post these announcements, the only news that one heard wasn't exactly favourable to the company's lofty goals. Reports of Apple letting go of 190 people working on the project came early in 2019. Thereafter, only silence prevailed over their ambitious plans codenamed "Project Titan".
As the year of the pandemic, lockdowns and travel restrictions draws to a close, the Titan appears to be showing signs of activity. A report (opens in new tab) by Reuters quoted unnamed sources to suggest that Apple cars would roll out by 2024. And just when we thought we've heard it all, comes another report suggesting that we may only have to wait a further nine months for the first Apple cars to arrive.
Another report (opens in new tab) in GizChina quotes the Economic Daily News of China to suggest that next September, Tim Cook could well be unveiling a new car instead of the customary launch of an iPhone. The sources to whom these media outlets spoke are suggesting that manufacturers and suppliers in Taiwan have been asked to enhance production of Apple Car components from Q2 of 2021.
Of course, one might ask where and when would Apple start testing the cars? We do remember reports that Apple had got the requisite permissions from the California state authorities three years ago to test the battery-operated driver-less cars. Looks like all testing is happening at Apple's Cupertino backyard for now, given that there have been no reports of recent 'sightings' of the automobile.
A unique battery and Lidar sensors
The reports now suggest that Apple's strategy revolves around an innovative battery design that could drastically reduce their costs and enhance the vehicle's driving range. As is its wont, the company could be outsourcing its development to vendor partners. Especially to those who have some spare capacity in the light of moving iPhone production units to India and other geographies.
The unique monocell design that Apple has been toying with enhances individual cells within the battery while freeing up space through removal of the traditional pouches that hold chemicals. The new design ensures that more active material can be packed into the batteries that could result in a longer range on a single charge.
What is still not clear is whether Apple would manufacture its own vehicle or reduce the scope of Project Titan by offering its autonomous driving system to a traditional carmaker. Reports had indicated that Apple could be sourcing elements such as the Lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors to partners who had earlier developed them for the latest iPhone 12 and iPad models.
Since Apple continues to remain silent about Project Titan, all that we can surmise is that the project itself is far from over. And, there could be some cause for Tesla and Elon Musk to worry about. For, it is no secret that if all there's a company that can go full steam on experimenting with autonomous tech, it is Apple, given its huge cash reserves of $192 billion and a few dollars more.