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Apple Car: Everything we know so far

The idea of having an Apple Car is incredibly appealing, even with the electric vehicle market getting increasingly competitive. It's no secret that iPhone sales have levelled off in recent years, and Apple needs that "next big thing" for the world to obsess about. 

The Apple Car could be that thing, especially if the rumors are true, and the car will be completely autonomous. Rumors have circulated for years, but we've never actually heard anything official from Apple itself. But we still know that the Apple Car exists, though it may not be arriving for quite some time.

But this won't just be any car, Apple is reportedly working on a fully autonomous self-driving car. While that's nothing new, the Apple Car is said to be one you can buy and keep in your garage rather than something you would summon from an app. It'll be a huge deal if Apple can pull it off.

Details are still pretty scarce right now, but the prospect of getting the Apple Car within a few years has plenty of people excited. If you're one of them, and want to learn more, you're in the right place. Here's everything we know about the Apple Car, including leaks, rumors, and that all-important release date.

Latest Apple Car news (updated November 19)

Apple Car: Release date rumors

So far Apple hasn't explicitly commented on the Apple Car and when we might be able to drive one. If you can call using an autonomous car driving, that is.

The most recent report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman claims that Apple is gunning for a 2025 launch. Cupertino has reportedly sped up development on the project after several delays and this timeline would match some previous reports of when the Apple Car might arrive.

However this is still a fairly ambitious target, and it's pretty likely Apple will happily delay the launch if it doesn't meet the company's infamously high standards.

As for development itself, recent reports claim Apple has decided to handle the Apple Car's development by itself instead of partnering with an experienced automaker. Evidently the company is trying to avoid further delays that may be caused by partnering with a third party.

We need to take all of these rumors this with a degree of scepticism, as car making is a lot harder than smartphone designing. But things are looking quietly optimistic that we'll see the Apple Car before too long. 

Apple Car features

The Apple Car won't be your typical electric car, instead it's going to be completely autonomous and will do all the driving for you. To get around the car is going to be equipped with LiDAR sensors that will help it "see" the world around it. 

Apple is no stranger to LiDAR, having included it on certain high-end iPhones and iPad Pros, and everything we've seen suggests it'll be coming to the Apple Car as well.

LiDAR is short for "Light Detection and Ranging", and the system works by sending out pulsed lasers. Those lasers will be reflected back to the car's sensors as it hits objects, and using that information it forms a picture of what objects are in the surrounding area and how far away they are.

But LiDAR is used by almost every self-driving car out there. In fact only Tesla has sworn off LiDAR in favor of a computational vision system.

With that in mind, the Apple Car is going to need to have a fair bit of computing power behind it, and a report from analyst Colin Barnden suggests that it could all come from a "C1" chip. Per Barnden, this will be based on the iPhone XS's A12 Bionic and will pack in AI-centric features.

Apple Car concept

(Image credit: YouTube/AutoEvolution)

MacRumors notes that this report is highly speculative, though, and it would be quite strange for the Apple Car to be powered by a chip that will be six years old in 2024. The A12 is powerful, but Apple has plenty more chips that perform even better, and it seems unlikely it would opt for such ageing hardware.

Instead Mark Gurman reports that Apple will be developing its most advanced chips for use in the Apple Car. The chip is said to be mostly formed of neural processors to power all the AI algorithms the car will need if it really will drive itself.

Gurman also claims that Apple will be focusing on the interior design, since the Apple Car is supposed to be 'hands-off', and that includes both an infotainment system and integration with Apple's existing suite of services.

What really sets the Apple Car apart, from what we've heard, is its monocell battery technology. According to reports, this maximizes the size of the cells inside the Apple Car's battery pack, which means it theoretically gets a longer range out of a single charge. 

Reports also claim Apple is also set to use lithium iron phosphate in its batteries, rather than the usual lithium-ion solution, which is less likely to overheat. That should, in turn, make the car much safer.

Apple Car autonomous driving

One of the long-standing Apple Car rumors is that it would be a self-driving car of some kind. However it was never clear whether this would be limited autonomy, like the Level 2 autonomous driving systems currently on the road, or if Apple was aiming for a true self-driving car that didn't need any human interaction.

According to Gurman's Bloomberg report, Apple had been working on both systems — but recently combined the work into a single unified autonomous car.

Apparently the goal is to develop a 'hands-off' driving experience that wouldn't have any ability for a human driver to control the car. A level 5 autonomous system in other words. With this in mind Cupertino has been reportedly hiring engineers to test and develop safety features that would enable such a system to be allowed on the roads.

Apple is also said to be looking for software engineers to  develop “experiences for human interaction with autonomous technology,” and focus on the interior car experience. Because people need something to do when they're not driving.

It's not entirely clear whether this would make the Apple Car a machine you own, or an Uber-like service that you hail. previous rumors suggested it would be the former, but either way it's going to be a big change for modern motorists.

Where's the Apple Car being built?

Apple is, as many people know, a computing company with absolutely zero experience building and selling cars. So the prospect of it actually building the Apple Car itself is kind of laughable. 

It's more likely the actual manufacturing would be outsourced to a different company with all the relevant resources already. While there's no shortage of automakers out there, it's been reported that many of them are hesitant about being involved with the Apple Car. 

Evidentially the big brands don't want to end up as "the Foxconn of the auto industry", referencing the Taiwanese company best known for manufacturing iPhones and other products for the company.

Right now the frontrunner for Apple Car construction is said to be LG and Canadian auto-parts manufacturer Magna. Magna has manufacturing plants all over the world, so it's not clear which ones would be used to build the Apple Car.

Meanwhile Apple has reportedly demanded any battery partners manufacture the Apple Car's batteries in the United States, something that has apparently caused some bad blood between Cupertino and some potential Chinese partners.

Earlier this year it was reported that Hyundai was the frontrunner for Apple Car, though it's since been reported that Hyundai isn't particularly interested in developing a car under someone else's name. For reasons subsidiary Kia was brought on board as a replacement — with the goal reportedly being to produce the Apple Car at its plant in Georgia.

Unfortunately talks broke down after news of the potential deal leaked, with Apple "pausing" talks and looking elsewhere. There have been reports that the Kia deal isn't completely dead, though we haven't heard anything positive on that front in the months since.

Ming-Chi Kuo has also claimed that Apple is partnering up with Hyundai to use its E-GMP battery electric vehicle platform. That will form the basis of the Apple Car's first chassis. Apple is also said to be considering partnerships with General Motors and European car maker PSA, who may help the Apple Car launch in international markets.

Apple Car: What it would look like

Given where we are in the Apple Car development cycle — it's still pretty early on — there's not a lot of images out there to reveal what an Apple-designed car might look like. So we've got concept designers stepping up to fill in the gap between imagination and reality.

Apple Car concept design

(Image credit: Leasefetcher)

One of the boldest designs we've seen so far comes from designer Leasefecher, which released a series of renders that imagine Apple Cars based on famous Apple products. Our favorite example takes a Nissan GT-R and combines it with an iPhone 12 Pro, but there are other concepts from Leasefetcher that draw on the original iMac and iPod for inspiration.

ugly apple car concept

(Image credit: Vanarama)

Vanaram has also developed a 3D model of a possible Apple Car design, which is claims is based on official Apple patents. However we have no doubt that the Apple Car will look a lot different, because this design is ugly as sin.

It even features three pedals and a large front grill, both of which would defy the many, many rumors that the Apple Car will be an all-electric vehicle.

Apple Car: Development history

The history of the Apple car goes all the way back to 2014 under the name "Project Titan," purportedly with the goal of releasing it to the public in 2020. Obviously that never happened, but reports seem to suggest that some progress is being made on making the Apple Car a reality.

We have had glimpses of some sort of Apple affiliated vehicle, supposedly testing self-driving tech, throughout California. Apple has always kept those details close to its chest, like it does with everything else, so we don't have any official statements on what these cars were up to. 

What we do know for sure is that these cars weren't the same vehicles the company used to collect data for Apple Maps.

That said, hiring engineers from the likes of Mercedes, Tesla, and other big car companies confirms Cupertino has some sort of automotive ambitions. But mass layoffs suggest that Apple Car development has not been totally smooth sailing. 

The first wave reportedly came in 2016, while another 200 were reportedly moved off the project as recently as January 2019.  It's not clear what happens in both cases, though it was suggested that management didn't really know where the self-driving car project was going. 

A Bloomberg report also reports that the Apple Car has lost three executives in early 2021. Dave Scott who led robotics teams, Jaime Waydo who led autonomous driving safety and regulation teams, plus Benjamin Lyon who helped put together the original Apple Car team all those years ago. That's been compounded by the loss of auto-industry veteran Doug Field, who oversaw the Apple Car project, to rival automaker Ford.

Considering reports claim thousands of employees have been working on the Apple Car, these layoffs and staff departures probably won't have any serious impact on development. Of course, we don't know for sure, and we likely never will, even if the Apple Car does arrive mid-decade.

Apple Car: What Apple has said

Apple is usually mum about unreleased products, and the Apple Car is no exception. However, Tim Cook has confirmed that the automotive sector has piqued Apple's interest, hinting at his company's car plans during an appearance on Kara Swisher's Sway podcast.

“We investigate so many things internally,” Cook said. "Many of them never see the light of day. I’m not saying that one will not." 

More encouragingly, Cook seemed to suggest that should Apple get involved with cars, it would not be content to merely design a software setup and hand it over to a car manufacturer. “We love to integrate hardware, software, and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that’s where the magic occurs," Cook said. "And so that’s what we love to do. And we love to own the primary technology that’s around that.” 

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.