Apple has started developing an all-electric self-driving vehicle according to sources close to Bloomberg. In the report, Mark Gurman states that a team of hardware engineers are developing drive systems, interior and exterior designs, and has continued to hire up ex-Tesla employees.
According to Gurman's sources, who he claims are Apple engineers, they believe the Cupertino-based company could release a true Apple car in the next 5 to 7 years. That timeline could be shifted, as working on self-driving technology is incredibly complicated, and at the moment, engineers are working from home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which could cause delays.
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While Tesla does have some self-driving capabilities, Apple is reportedly aiming for something more futuristic. The goal for Apple is to have true autonomous driving.
Per the Bloomberg report: "A key differentiator would be Apple’s ability to integrate its self-driving system, a pricey initiative that has spurred the company to develop its own software, sensor hardware and chip technologies. The goal is to let a user to input their destination and be driven there with little or no other engagement, according to the people familiar with the project."
Achieving this level of autonomous driving is not only difficult, but incredibly costly. Turns out, the world we live in complicated, with many variables that cannot be accounted for. The human brain can do a good job of quickly discerning a situation and reacting accordingly, even if we've personally never been in that situation. Doing that is more difficult with computer code.
Uber reportedly spent $1 billion on autonomous driving tech in a lofty bid to push contract drivers out of the ride-hailing equation, only for the effort to fall up short, leaving one pedestrian dead. Uber has since sold its self-driving business to Aurora, a developer of self-driving tech.
Apple, much like it does with iPhone production, might contract out the manufacturing of the Apple car to a third-party company. Or if Apple decides to forego making a car, it could sell its technology to other automakers.
For now, though, Apple is focusing on the interior of its vehicle. "The smaller hardware team is...also trying to re-imagine a car’s interior for a future in which people ride passively rather than steer," reported Bloomberg.
Overall, Apple has had an odd flirtation with transportation. In 2016, the company ramped up hiring for a vehicle project, only for it to scale it down by 2019, cutting hundreds of jobs. Even then, hundreds of members are still a part of the team and Apple continues to hire engineers.
Apple has been testing self-driving cars on California roads since 2017. On average, cars were able to drive 118 miles before a human safety driver had to engage with the vehicle. Its test fleet is currently made up of 66 cars according to the California DMV.