It’s been a decade since Apple began work on what was to be a self-driving, all-electric vehicle. But, after years of turmoil, Project Titan appears to be delayed again, by at least four years. And it will have far less autonomous driving capabilities than originally planned, according to a new report. More from Headlight.News.
It’s the car of the future and, skeptics are beginning to believe, it always will be. After spending as much as $1 billion over the course of the past decade to develop a super high-tech battery-electric vehicle, Apple has little to show for it.
And now, it appears, it will be at least four more years before the tech giant finally brings the EV codenamed Project Titan to market, according to a new report from Bloomberg. When — make that if — it arrives around 2028, it will be a far less technologically sophisticated vehicle than originally planned.
The ever-secretive Apple has seldom had much to say about its car program which, depending upon your source, was first put in motion around 2014, but only given formal approval by CEO Tim Cook in late 2017.
Since then, it has gone through a number of iterations and, on several occasions, reportedly come close to being abandoned, At one point, around the beginning of the decade, most of the team was either laid off or assigned to different projects within Apple, various sources told Headlight.News at the time.
But Project Titan bounced back, with a goal of putting it into production around 2024, according to numerous reports backed up by vague comments by Apple.
Now, it seems, Apple is scaling things back, notably when it comes to the technology Project Titan planned to use, while delaying the launch of the EV until 2028, said Bloomberg, quoting “people with knowledge of the project.”
Describing the program as “one of the most ambitious endeavors” in Apple history, “and one of its more tumultuous,” the news service cited multiple delays, layoffs and changes in strategy for the latest pushback.
Apple officials have declined to discuss details about the program.
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Change in plans
Even as Apple pushes back the launch date of the program, also known as T172, there’s been a scaling back of expectations in the eventual vehicle’s capabilities.
The initial goal was to aim for at least Level 4 autonomy — the ability to operate without a driver, at least in “geofenced” areas during good driving conditions. The ultimate goal would be Level 5, where a vehicle could go anywhere at any time on its own.
At this point, however, the revised plan is targeting Level 2+ capabilities. That would permit a driver to take their hands entirely off the wheel on certain roads — typically divided, limited-access highways. But they would need to continue remaining vigilant, ready to retake control instantly in an emergency. This is similar to what General Motors offers with Super Cruise, as well as the BlueCruise system from Ford. Tesla’s Autopilot still requires a motorist to retain at least a light grip on the wheel.
A critical program
The fact that Apple is continuing Project Titan at all underscores the importance of the venture. While it has one of the highest market capitalizations of any corporation in the world, Apple has struggled in recent years to come up with the next big thing. It largely depends upon revenue from its iPhone and, to a lesser degree, the Apple Watch. It has failed to gain significant traction in the Internet-of-Things revolution, with Amazon and Google dominating the market for home automation systems.
A successful vehicle program could generate tens of billions of dollars in new revenues each year. That has drawn in a flood of new players hoping to leverage the shift to battery power as a way to crack into a traditionally closed club of manufacturers.
If anything, this transition could play to Apple’s strength since future EVs are envisioned to be “smartphones on wheels,” according to Sam Abuelsamid, lead auto analyst at Guidehouse Insights. These “software-defined vehicles” will generate billions of dollars in revenues for new digital features, including the ability to stream services, much like a smartphone.
Sony revealed an updated vision of the smart car it is developing in partnership with Honda at CES 2024 in Las Vegas earlier this month. It has been billed as a potentially direct competitor to whatever Apple eventually brings to market.
Seeking a partner
As with its smartphones, Apple generally prefers to find outside partners to assemble its products. And it has signaled it will take the same approach with Project Titan — if it finally comes to market — as Sony is doing with Honda.
Apple has talked to a number of potential partners and, several years ago, appeared close to locking down a deal with Hyundai. The tech company now is reportedly talking to possible allies in Europe.
Whether the current plan for Project Titan comes through is far from certain, however. The venture has gone through a seemingly endless series of changes over the past decade and could see further updates between now and 2028 — if that finally proves to be the date when Apple finally does get into the car business.