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Apple Car: It looks like Apple just pressed the reset button

Apple Car concept
(Image credit: Erick Martinez / iDrop News)

We don’t know very much about the Apple Car, despite there being rumors about the project for several years now. The bits and pieces we have heard have suggested serious delays, and now one report is claiming Apple is trying to avoid more by doing everything solo.

This comes at a time that Apple has also reportedly hired Apple watch head Kevin Lynch to lead the Apple Car project following a major defection to Ford. 

The strategy shift seems insane when you think about it. Apple is well known for preferring to keep a lot of its work in house, but there’s a huge difference between designing your own iPhone and MacBook chips and building an autonomous EV.

The report in question comes from Korea's Mail Economic Daily, and claims Apple is now reopening a hardware research division to go about creating the Apple Car on its own. This is despite reports that the company has been in touch with several automakers, with the most recent rumors claiming a partnership with LG and auto parts manufacturer Magna.

Mail Economic Daily’s report says Apple has been in touch with the likes of Toyota, BMW, Nissan, and Hyundai/Kia. However, with automakers reportedly taking a step back, and not speeding up development, Apple appears to be far more willing to go it alone.

Reports of automaker reluctance are actually nothing new. There have been reports that automakers weren’t happy handing over so much direct control to Apple, winding up as little more than a contracted assembly service. The term “Foxconn of the auto industry” has been mentioned, referencing the Taiwanese company best known for assembling iPhones.

A new Apple car lead

The report claims Apple is keen to enter the electric car market, and doesn’t want to delay the launch of the Apple Car any more than it already has. This factor may also explain why Apple has put Kevin Lynch, who has been with the company since 2013, in charge of the Apple Car project following the loss of former Tesla exec Doug Field to Ford.

As reported by Bloomberg, Lynch first started working on the Apple Car project "earlier this year when he took over teams handling the underlying software. Now he is overseeing the whole group, which also includes hardware engineering and work on self-driving car sensors."

Rumors have long claimed that the Apple Car is supposed to be completely autonomous, which poses its own set of challenges. The fact that Lynch, who has always been a software guy both at Apple and in previous roles, is now in charge of the project suggests Apple is well aware of this. Comparatively speaking, autonomous driving tech is a lot harder to pull off than being able to design and build a physical car. 

"The choice of Lynch to head the car project indicates much of the company’s focus still remains on underlying software and self-driving technology -- rather than the vehicle’s physical mechanics," says the Bloomberg report

Where the Apple car goes from here

The Apple Car, or ‘Project Titan’ as it is apparently known, has been in the works for quite some time. We first started hearing about the project back in 2014, and in the years since Apple has very little to show for it. Publicly, anyway.

It’s understandable that the company would want to accelerate development of the car, especially now that the wider auto industry is embracing electrification. That said, it does seem like a huge leap for a tech company, best known for phones and computers, to start building its own car. 

As hi-tech as cars are these days, they are still completely different to Apple’s usual portfolio of products. We’ve heard reports about Apple poaching engineers and executives from the auto industry, but that’s only part of the equation.

Who is actually going to build the car, and where are the parts going to come from? Partnering with an established automaker all but solves that issue, but going it alone raises all sorts of questions of how Apple is going to get its cars on the road. 

Those questions don’t have easy answers, and as we’ve seen from relatively recent brands like Tesla, it takes time for a company to build up its manufacturing capabilities. And that’s important if you’re hoping to match high-demand, which the Apple Car no doubt have. It is an Apple product, after all. 

Beyond a few trials, which need to get special permission to operate, autonomous cars aren’t legally allowed on public roads. That’s assuming Apple can actually develop an autonomous driving system capable of navigating the roads with the same skill as a human driver, and ensure it’s safe to use all the time.

As Bloomberg notes, the Apple Car isn't coming in the near future. In fact, employees anticipate it won't launch for "many years." So perhaps Apple believes that installing a new leader and being much more self-reliant is the key for getting on the right track with this ambitious project. 

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.