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Apple Car: Release date, leaks, features and news

The concept of a self-driving Apple car is so alluring that new rumors about such a project seem to regularly crop up. Certainly it's no secret that iPhone sales have leveled off and that Apple is looking for the next big thing, heightening speculation.

The idea of Apple making its own car is not new, and over the past several years the idea of an "Apple Car" pops up to tease us with possibilities. But speculation has been ramping up in recent weeks, suggesting that the fruitiest car since the Nissan Cherry is on the way. In fact it could be arriving relatively soon if reports are to be believed.

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 February 22)

  • A Bloomberg report says Apple is in discussions with various vendors to supply the LiDAR sensors for the Apple Car, with the aim of launching in "four to five years"
  • Nissan has denied rumors that it's in the running to build the Apple Car, promising that any partnership would be on its own terms — not Apple's.
  • Hyundai and Kia are now apparently out of the picture, meaning the Apple Car will have to be manufactured by someone else

Apple Car release date

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

Some recent reports claimed that the car would be available before the end of 2021, but that seems incredibly unlikely given the distinct lack of Apple Car news in the preceding months. A later report then claimed that Apple was aiming for a much likelier 2024 release date

Not only is that right in the middle of older estimates by analysts, claiming the Apple Car would arrive some time between 2023 and 2025, it's also a heck of a lot more likely. The news was then corroborated after reports Apple had invested $3.6 billion in Kia, with the goal of hitting the 2024 release date.

Considering the Apple Car will likely still need some design work and extensive testing before it can go into mass production, targeting 2024 is more than reasonable. What's more, it gives Apple chance to actually find a manufacturing partner, since it doesn't have any of the resources needed to produce a car on such a large scale.

But it doesn't seem as though the Apple Car is as far along as people thought. Apple Car is supposedly still looking for vendors to supply its LiDAR sensors, and after talks with Hyundai and Kia broke down Apple is without a manufacturer.

A Bloomberg report claims that Apple employees working on the project believe the car won't be ready until at least 2025. Likewise Apple is looking for vendors who can develop LiDAR kit that will be state-of-the-art in "four or five years". 

That means we won't be seeing the car until 2025 or 2026 at the earliest, which corroborates a 2025 prediction by Ming-Chi Kuo.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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, and there's certainly no shortage of automotive companies who'd be willing to get involved.

Recently Hyundai was believed to be the frontrunner, though it's since been reported that Hyundai isn't particularly interested in developing a car under someone else's name. For reasons that relate to wanting to grow its own brand, and concern Apple would be taking charge and leave the Korean car maker as a factory OEM.

Instead Kia, a Hyundai subsidiary, is said to be taking on the Apple Car instead. Not only does that mean Hyundai retains a stake in the Apple Car's success, while also keeping the project at arm's length, developing a third party vehicle fits in well with its recently announced "Plan S" strategy. It's a strategy that involves providing customized vehicles outside of traditional Kia branding. From the sound of things, the Apple Car could fit in fairly well with that strategy.

The only question is where would Kia build the Apple Car? Reports claim the auto-maker has plans to use its Georgia plant for assembly. We don't have many details on this, but if the Apple Car is set to go on sale in the U.S. (which seems more than likely), then a U.S. based assembly plant is the obvious choice. Even if it means shipping in the right parts from elsewhere.

Ming-Chi Kuo claims 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: 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. 

Considering reports claim thousands of employees have been working on the Apple Car, these layoffs 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 in 2024, as expected.