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Apple has achieved a 'key milestone' in self-driving tech for Apple Car

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

What you need to know

  • Apple is shooting for full self-driving technology for Apple Car.
  • The company has reportedly reached a "key milestone" on the technology.
  • It is also looking to launch the vehicle by 2025.

Apple is going all-in on full self-driving for its long-rumored Apple Car project.

According to a new report from Bloomberg, the company, which had explored both partial and full self-driving and has apparently decided to go for the holy grail of self-driving that no other car company has been able to reach yet.

Under the effort's new leader -- Apple Watch software executive Kevin Lynch -- engineers are now concentrating on the second option. Lynch is pushing for a car with a full self-driving system in the first version, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.Tesla Inc., the market leader in electric vehicles, is still probably years away from offering fully autonomous cars. Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo has suffered a rash of departures in its efforts to develop the technology. And Uber Technologies Inc. agreed to sell off its autonomous-driving division last year.

According to the report, Apple is shooting to debut a fully autonomous vehicle by 2025. If it is unable to make the required technology in that time, it could either delay the vehicle or opt to release a car without full self-driving capabilities. If it can pull off full self-driving, it sounds like the company has some ambitions for the interior of the vehicle:

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 has also explored designs where the car's infotainment system -- likely a large iPad-like touch screen -- would be in the middle of the vehicle, letting users interact with it throughout a ride. The car would also be heavily integrated with Apple's existing services and devices. Though the company is pushing to not have a standard steering wheel, Apple has discussed equipping the car with an emergency takeover mode.

The report says that Apple has reached a "key milestone" in the underlying technology to pull off self-driving and that the chip that would power the car is being designed by Apple's in-house chip design team - the same team that created the chips for the iPhone, iPad, and recently the Mac.

The advancements could soon make their way into road tests. Apple plans to start using the new processor design and updated self-driving sensors in retrofitted cars that it's spent years testing in California. The company currently has a fleet of 69 Lexus SUVs experimenting with its technology, according to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.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.

The Apple Car project has been around for years and has seen plenty of hires, departures, and delays. However, it sounds like with Lynch at the helm, it might finally have the steam to make it over the finish line.

Joe Wituschek
Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.

3 Comments
  • "Waymo has suffered a rash of departures in its efforts to develop the technology.". What is the rash of departures? That is BS, especially since Waymo One is available today in a few US cities. Its a complete driverless vehicle, even though the vehicle still has a steering wheel, and gas peddle. There is no human inside the Waymo vehicles, they operate, and drive around in full autonomous mode. You can hail a ride today and you get into a Waymo vehicle, and you are the only person inside that vehicle. That looks and feels like a full autonomous vehicle to me. Even Waymo claims the same thing. Apple is still in test mode, and their 65 test cars still require a human being in their test vehicles.
  • The CEO left Waymo. Is that a sufficient departure?
    FYI, Waymo is in Chandler Arizona and in drivered beta programs in a couple other cities. Chandler has few of the issues that will be encountered in densely packed metros. Autonomous driving on highways is here now even before Waymo. Waymo is looking to expand into trucks that use highways (as opposed to densely populated). While this is an accomplishment, it isn’t there yet by quite a bit. Tesla autonomous works once away from densely populated areas.
    Waymo is a driving system built on cars from, as an example, Chrysler.Chrysler was to have 60,000 by 2022. Its under a 1000. So before you got too far into the Google love, they most certainly have not yet solved the main issue that plagues them all (I’m sure including Apple), autonomously driving in the place where taxis are needed most, heavily populated areas.
  • "Apple has discussed equipping the car with an emergency takeover mode." I imagine virtual joysticks will pop up on the infotainment system screen. Maybe you can use an XBox controller over BT.