Apple Car: Everything you need to know about the now-canceled autonomous vehicle

Apple Car Concept
Apple Car Concept (Image credit: Vanarama)

After ten years of waiting for some inkling of what might be happening with Apple's attempt to join the electric car market, we finally have some news — and alas, it's not good if you've been looking forward to an iPhone with four wheels. In late February 2024, according to Bloomberg, Apple canceled R&D into the car, moving some 2000 of its staff over to its generative AI project.

Does this mean that the Apple Car is done for good? We're going to hedge our bets and say 'yes'. Apple will still be involved in car things, however, with the continued development of CarPlay and its use in future electric vehicles from other auto manufacturers.

So Apple Car is no more: But if you want to learn more about what it could have been, then read more below — it had some interesting ideas and there where rumors aplenty before AI came along to spoil the fun.

What exactly is the Apple Car?

It was once thought that Apple was making a car, then just an "autonomous driving platform", now it seems rumors have swung back round to the former. From Bloomberg:

"The Cupertino, California-based technology giant has a small team of hardware engineers developing drive systems, vehicle interior, and external car body designs with the goal of eventually shipping a vehicle."

From a report in January:

"The first Apple Cars will not be designed to have a driver, said one source with knowledge of the current plan. These will be autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile. That could mean Apple cars, at least initially, could focus on package food delivery operations and firms incorporating robotaxis."

Recent rumors Apple Car could have been built around Hyundai's E-GMP electric vehicle platform seemed to reiterate that Apple was planning to release an actual vehicle, as opposed to some kind of autonomous driving platform that could be licensed to existing carmakers.

Before cancelation, there was evidence that the Apple Car was a real working device, making its development halting sting that bit more.

What will the Apple Car look like?

Apple Car concept

Apple Car concept (Image credit: Dalle)

Apple had made and applied for about 250 relating to the Apple Car, but details about the design of the vehicle where murky. 

One indicator of what we could have expected from the design of the vehicle was to look at the people Apple is hiring to work on the car. The company hired Luigi Taraborrelli, a 20-year veteran of Lamborghini, to help lead the design of its autonomous electric vehicle. The executive was one of the top-level managers on the Apple Car project, then led by Kevin Lynch, Apple's executive best known for his work on the Apple Watch. 

Before Apple, Taraborrelli worked on a number of cars for Lamborghini including the Urus, Huracan, and Aventador. That could indicate that Apple is looking for something bold and new regarding the design of its electric vehicle.

A report from Bloomberg in December of 2022 said that the company had not landed on a design for the Apple Car and that it was still in the prototype phase.

Who will manufacture the Apple Car?

Hyundai Egmp

(Image credit: Hyundai)

Apple had reportedly held talks with numerous car manufacturers, most notably Kia and its parent company Hyundai, about producing an Apple Car, possibly even in the United States. At least six manufacturers where said to be in play, and Kia could have even made the car at its US factory in Georgia.

It is said that Apple wouldn't have used its traditional manufacturing partners from Taiwan or China (at least for final assembly), instead leaning on established car manufacturers to finalize parts of its own design.

What will the features of the Apple Car be?

Apple's next generation of CarPlay

(Image credit: Apple)

Thanks to rumors about a possible partnership with Hyundai, we had a pretty detailed picture of what an Apple Car could have been like in terms of power, speed, range, and more. According to Hyundai, the E-GMP platform is good for zero to 100kph in less than 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 260kph (161mph).

The E-GMP's batteries can reportedly provide a range of over 500km on a single full charge and can be charged to 80% capacity in just 18 minutes.

The E-GMP can be used as the base for any number of recognizable car shapes thanks to its modular design. So Apple Car could have been a sedan, an SUV, or anything in between!

One thing is for sure: Apple had acquired an absolute ton of patents in order to build its electric car. According to research from Nikkei and an analytics firm called Intellectual Property Landscape, Apple applied for and published 248 patents related to the automotive industry. The patents range from self-driving, seats, suspension, and "vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology."

A report from Bloomberg in December of 2022 said that the car was expected to be capable of full self-driving on the highway, potentially enabling riders to watch a movie or play a game in that scenario. It was also expected to feature a number of cloud-based solutions that will be powered by Amazon Web Services. While Apple had originally tried to make a Level 5 autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals for the launch, it has scaled back that effort due to the limits of current technology.

When will the Apple Car be released?

As of February 2024, Apple Car is dead. It lives no more — we'll never get one. Instead, we can wait patiently for whatever generative AI the team that once worked on the project can cook up.

Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage (Image credit: Kia)

Apple Car: A history

Apple Car's story has evolved significantly over the last few years, and we know much more now than we did even just a few months ago. Here's a look back at some of the rumors and stories that have surrounded Apple Car over the years.

February 28, 2024: The Apple Car project is over

From Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is canceling a decadelong effort to build an electric car, according to people with knowledge of the matter, abandoning one of the most ambitious projects in the history of the company.

Apple made the disclosure internally Tuesday, surprising the nearly 2,000 employees working on the project, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the announcement wasn’t public. The decision was shared by Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams and Kevin Lynch, a vice president in charge of the effort, according to the people.

Citing the slowing sales of electric cars and the cost of developing an entirely new one, Apple has mothballed the electric car project that it's been nursing for the last 15 years. So long sweet prince, we never got to know you.

January 30, 2018: Second Project Titan employee charged with stealing secrets for Chinese competitor

Again. From Bloomberg:

An Apple Inc. hardware engineer was charged by the U.S. with stealing driverless car secrets for a Chinese company, the second such case since July.The company discovered that Jizhong Chen, who was hired in 2018, had taken photographs inside a secret work space and had downloaded 2,000 files, including manuals and schematics for the robocar project, according to a complaint in federal court in San Francisco. Prosecutors said Apple considered disclosure of the data to be enormously damaging. When questioned, Chen didn't tell Apple he had applied for a job with a China-based autonomous vehicle company, according to the complaint. He informed Apple this month that he intended to travel to China to visit his ill father.

Competition with China will only intensify and the opportunities for people with no honor to abuse that competition, in multiple ways and directions, will only grow.

January 26, 2018: Apple reduces Project Titan down to small team size

Apple has made some staffing changes to it's Project Titan, which many refer to as the Apple Car but is really a more encompassing autonomous technologies project.

From CNBC:

Apple dismissed just over 200 employees this week from Project Titan, its stealthy autonomous vehicle group, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. An Apple spokesperson acknowledged the layoffs and said the company still sees opportunity in the space: We have an incredibly talented team working on autonomous systems and associated technologies at Apple. As the team focuses their work on several key areas for 2019, some groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple, the spokesperson said. We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever.

John Gruber, writing for Daring Fireball:

Some perspective here. Project Titan is big — there are still a lot of people working on it. Doug Field's message to the troops is that he thinks smaller teams do better work. This is not an indication that company is losing conviction on autonomous systems; its Field structuring the project the way he wants it. Apple's statement is — as usual — true: the company is full steam ahead on this autonomous stuff.

Moving people around like this sucks. No company is great at it, even Apple. Here's hoping everyone finds a new posting, in Apple or elsewhere.

December 17, 2018: Apple poaches glasses and car designer Andrew Kim from Tesla

A while back it was all about people leaving Apple for Tesla. Now, it's increasingly about people leaving Tesla for Apple. Blips or trends, it's hard to say.

In this case, it's designer Andrew Kim. According to 9to5Mac:

After spending three years in design at Microsoft, most recently working on the company's HoloLens, Andrew Kim left for Tesla in 2016. He worked on about all of the company's vehicles, including the upcoming Model Y, next-gen Roadster, and Tesla Semi. Last week, Kim shared on Instagram about his first day at Apple with his title on LinkedIn set as Designer.

Let the Mixed-Reality Car rumors fly!

August 31, 2018: Nissan Leaf crashes into Apple Car — Humans 0 : AI 1

Apple has been testing its autonomous driving system for a while now in specially outfitted Lexus SUVs. On August 24, a Nissan Leaf decided to have a go at one.

From the California DMV, via MacRumors:

On August 24th at 2:58 p.m., an Apple vehicle in autonomous mode was rear-ended while preparing to merge onto Lawrence Expressway South from Kifer Road. The Apple test vehicle was traveling less than 1 mph waiting for a safe gap to complete the merge when a 2016 Nissan Leaf contacted the Apple test vehicle at approximately 15 mph. Both vehicles sustained damage and no injuries were reported by either party.

No fault on Apple or its Project Titan-mobile here. Humans, watch where you're going!

August 15, 2018: Apple Car release date rumored for 2023-2025

Apple supply-chain exfiltrator extraordinaire, Kuo Ming-Chi of TF International Securities, has sent out a new note to investors and, as usual, it's making the rounds.

From MacRumors:

We expect that Apple Car, which will likely be launched in 2023–2025, will be the next star product. The reasons for this are as follows: (1) Potentially huge replacement demands are emerging in the auto sector because it is being redefined by new technologies. The case is the same as the smartphone sector 10 years ago; (2) Apple's leading technology advantages (e.g. AR) would redefine cars and differentiate Apple Car from peers' products; (3) Apple's service will grow significantly by entering the huge car finance market via Apple Car, and (4) Apple can do a better integration of hardware, software, and service than current competitors in the consumer electronics sector and potential competitors in the auto sector.

Because Kuo's sources are tied to the supply chain, and the Apple Car isn't in any stage of production yet, it's hard to tell where he got those numbers from. Still, we're still years away from AR and ML technologies being ready for even semi-autonomous mainstream vehicles, so as guesses go it's certainly not the worst.

When combined with the upcoming Apple AR Glasses and growing services revenue, Kuo thinks it could drive the new trillion-dollar company to a 2 trillion dollar valuation.

As a reminder, though: Nothing unshipped exists. Expect those trillions only when you see them.

August 9, 2018: From Mac to Tesla and back to Titan: Doug Field returns to Apple

Doug Field, who helped run Mac hardware at Apple before going to Tesla for the Model, 3 is back at Apple and working on Apple's car project, Titan.

From Daring Fireball:

Here's some interesting hiring news I've heard through the little birdie grapevine:1 Doug Field — who left Tesla in May after overseeing Model 3 production — has returned to Apple, working in Bob Mansfield's project Titan group. Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr confirmed with me only that Field has returned to Apple, but no one should find it surprising that he's working on Titan. Field previously worked at Apple as a VP of Mac hardware engineering before leaving for Tesla 2013. So he spent years working closely (and successfully) with Mansfield on Mac hardware, and spent the last few years as senior VP of engineering at the world's premiere electric carmaker. That makes Field a seemingly perfect fit for Titan.

And, yeah, Gruber's also got the prerequisite Bob and Doug joke...

December 21, 2017: Apple granted patent for autonomous vehicle navigation

Apple has been granted a patent on a self-driving vehicle navigation system. The patent outlines ways to create more efficient self-driving vehicles using data stored on the vehicle in question.

From CNBC:

The patent claims that many autonomous vehicle systems base their navigation on static information — like maps — and use sensors to identify real-time information on the elements that change from day to day, as a way of minimizing the intense computing power needed to drive a car. Instead, Apple's system would be able to direct the car independently of any data received from any devices external to the vehicle, and any navigation data stored locally to the vehicle prior to any monitoring of navigation. Apple's technology proposes a computerized model for predicting routes using sensors and processors in the vehicle.

December 10, 2017: Apple's on the hunt for AI engineers

Wired reported midday Saturday on a recent Apple-hosted professional lunch for AI engineers. Hosted by Apple's director of artificial intelligence, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, the lunch revealed several results from the company's AI projects:

The scale and scope of any car project at Apple remains unclear. Salakhutdinov didn't say how the projects he discussed Friday fit into any wider effort in automated driving, and a company spokesman declined to elaborate. Salakhutdinov showed data from one project previously disclosed in a research paper posted online last month. It trained software to identify pedestrians and cyclists using 3-D scanners called lidars used on most autonomous vehicles.

August 23, 2017: Apple planning autonomous shuttle between Palo Alto and Infinite Loop

The New York Times has recapitulated a lot of the recent history of Apple's car project, codenamed Titan. There's a new bit, though, that focuses on the idea of autonomous shuttle between Paulo Alto and Apple's Infinite Loop campus.

Apple's testing vehicles will carry employees between its various Silicon Valley offices. The new effort is called PAIL, short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the address of the company's main office in Cupertino, Calif., and a few miles down the road from Palo Alto, Calif. Apple's in-house shuttle service, which isn't operational yet, follows Waymo, Uber and a number of car companies that have been testing driverless cars on city streets around the world.

Autonomous shuttles is an idea that was bandied about for a while both inside the project and out. It'll be interesting to see when and how they go ahead.

June 13, 2017: Tim Cook confirms Apple is working on the mother of all AI projects — autonomous driving

Apple doesn't talk about special projects or unannounced products, except Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, just did. Specifically about Titan, Apple's long-rumored autonomous driving — née Apple Car — initiative.

From Bloomberg:

We're focusing on autonomous systems. It's a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It's probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on.

Cook wouldn't say whether Apple would produce an "Apple Car" for sale or for ride-sharing, or partner with another manufacturer, service, or several.

We'll see where it takes us. We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.

What Apple is currently doing is focusing on everything it takes to ingest the world around us and understanding what it means in the context of navigating it and actually driving it. In other words, getting from where you are to where you're going, all through an autonomous system.

Where that system ends up, and the experience around it, we'll have to wait and see.

April 28, 2017: Apple proposes changes to California's self-driving car testing rules

Apple is looking to make some changes to California's self-driving car testing policy. As first noted by Reuters, Apple is looking for California to clarify or change its positions on certain testing regulations in order to make easier for self-driving vehicles to reach public acceptance.

From Apple's letter:

Apple believes that public acceptance is essential to the advancement of automated vehicles. Access to transparent and intuitive data on the safety of the vehicles being tested will be central to gaining public acceptance. However, the current and proposed disengagement reporting requirements do not achieve this result.

In particular, Apple takes issue with current rules about disengagement reporting and testing without a safety driver, along with some definitions. In the case of definitions Apple seems to be seeking these changes so that these regulations don't hinder the company's development of additional technologies that could improve self-driving vehicles.

April 21, 2017: Apple's car project, Titan, ready to train testers

Last year Apple pivoted its Project Titan from a full-on car project to a platform designed to enable autonomous vehicles, whether they're eventually made by Apple or a partner manufacturer or ride-sharing service. It looks like that platform is now ready for early testing.

Kif Leswing, writing for Business Insider:

The documents obtained by Business Insider include a Development Platform Specific Training as well as details about an autonomous-vehicle system called the Apple Automated System. Among the key training issues are instructions on how to regain manual control of an autonomous car if necessary. According to the training packet, Apple's self-driving car uses a Logitech wheel and pedals to actuate drive by wire, and it supports one person at a time.

The drivers, mostly Ph.D's involved with the machine learning program, have to pass seven tests to be considered trained to, among other things, take back control of the system should they ever need to.

April 14, 2017: Apple granted permit to publicly test self-driving cars in California

Apple has officially been granted a permit to test driverless vehicles in the state of California. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the state has issued a permit to Apple. Additionally, as of April 14, 2017, Apple is the most recent recipient of such a permit.

Via Business Insider:

The California DMV updated its website on Friday, adding Apple's name to 29 other companies testing self-driving vehicles in the state, including Tesla and Google.

July 28, 2016: Apple poaches QNX CEO Dan Dodge to head up car software

Apple has reportedly hired Dan Dodge, formerly of BlackBerry-owned QNX, to work on Project Titan, the company's electric car project.

From Bloomberg:

Dan Dodge, the founder and former chief executive officer of QNX, the operating system developer that BlackBerry acquired in 2010, joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. He is part of a team headed by Bob Mansfield, who, since taking over leadership of the cars initiative -- dubbed Project Titan -- has heralded a shift in strategy, according to a person familiar with the plan. 

Apple previously hired the head of QNX software to run Core OS, which makes foundational software for both macOS and iOS. Apple has also reportedly raided QNX talent in Ottawa, setting up an office in the same area to work on Apple's own automotive software project.

July 25, 2016: Bob Mansfield takes over Project Titan

From the Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. has tapped a highly-regarded senior executive who helped bring to market many of Apple's signature products to oversee its fledgling automobile project, according to people familiar with the matter. Bob Mansfield had stepped back from a day-to-day role at the company a few years ago, after leading the hardware engineering development of products including the MacBook Air laptop computer, the iMac desktop computer, and the iPad tablet. Apple now has Mr. Mansfield running the company's secret autonomous, electric-vehicle initiative, code-named Project Titan, the people said.

Titan was previously under senior vice president of hardware engineering, Dan Riccio who took over part of Mansfield's duties at the top of Apple's hardware-based organization back in 2012. (Senior vice president of hardware technologies, Johny Srouji, took over platform architecture.)

Despite downshifting from his day-to-day responsibilities, Mansfield has still been seen regularly at Apple's Infinite Loop campus, and has remained involved with the company. Following a project review last month, it's been rumored Apple felt bringing Mansfield — who helped launch iMac, MacBook, iPhone and iPad — to what comes next, would give Titan a lead with both enormous experience and the benefit of singular focus.

It seems like a win/win all around. And that's important at a place like Apple where senior vice presidents have plates already beyond full.

Beyond whether or not Apple ever ships a car, project Titan is incredibly important to Apple's culture and technology going forward. Even with Mansfield at the steering wheel, an Apple Car based on project Titan, isn't expected to launch for several or more years. What an Apple Car looks like, how autonomous it is, at which markets it's targeted, and how Apple will both sell and "sell" a car also remain fascinating questions.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9

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