It feels like rumors about Apple building a car have been swirling forever.
We know that it’s been working on an automobile because of various leaks about the project, as well as news of auto-related hires over the years, but the company has never made any official announcements about the initiative.
After a quiet period, the subject is back in the news again after Apple tipster Mark Gurman wrote for Bloomberg on Tuesday that the tech giant has switched to a less ambitious design for its automobile compared to its original plan.
At the start some 10 years ago, Apple was believed to be working on building a fully driverless electric car. But then it watered down the ambition by planning a vehicle with advanced driverless features for highways. Now, the company has pivoted again with a new plan to create an electric vehicle with even fewer self-driving features, Gurman said, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
The Cupertino, California-based company is said to be working on a vehicle with “basic driver-assistance features in line with current Tesla capabilities,” the Bloomberg reporter claimed.
Sources said the automobile would have Level 2+ autonomy (steering and brake acceleration support for things like lane centering and adaptive cruise control) instead of the originally planned Level 4 technology, which is close to full autonomy, and the even earlier planned Level 5, featuring full autonomy.
Gurman also stated that Apple is aiming to launch the car in 2028 at the earliest — two years later than the most recent estimate that appeared two years ago.
Notably, the report claimed that the move to a less ambitious design is a make-or-break moment for the project, and that if it can’t deliver on this latest plan, then “top executives may seriously reconsider the project’s existence.”
Executives hope that the Apple car now on the drawing board will, when it hits the road, grab attention for its “sleek design, safety systems, and unique user interface,” Gurman said in his report, which made no mention of whether Apple would partner with another automaker to manufacture the car, or go it alone.
Apple’s work on building a car has apparently been fraught with challenges, with layoffs and changes in key personnel causing disruption and delays along the way.
It means that caution should be applied when considering this latest plan for the vehicle. The day when Apple CEO Tim Cook tootles onto stage in an Apple car is still a ways off. If it ever happens, that is.