Watch out, Detroit – tech giant Apple is putting its plans for a self-driving electric car on high alert.
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The iPhone manufacturer has set a target for 2024 to produce a passenger car – complete with its “advanced” battery technology, according to New report.
Central to Apple’s automotive ambitions is a new battery design that could drastically reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range, according to Reuters.
“It’s next level,” one person said of Apple’s battery technology. “Like the first time I’ve seen an iPhone.”
The tech giant’s self-driving car plans come as the company led by Tim Cook is desperate for ways to diversify revenue from Apple as sales of the flagship iPhone slow.
Apple’s efforts to get into the car game, dubbed “Project Titan”, began in 2014, but the company later backed off efforts to focus on software and reassess its goals. Veteran Doug Field, former Tesla CEO who started his second assignment with Apple in 2018, laid off 190 people from the team in 2019.
But since then, the Cupertino, California company has made enough progress with the goal of building a car for consumers, two people familiar with the plan told Reuters. This puts the company that revolutionized the smartphone in direct competition with Tesla as well as traditional Detroit automakers like Chrysler and General Motors.
Apple did not comment.
Of course, car production is not without its challenges – even for a company with deep pockets. And while Apple is adept at making hundreds of millions of electronic products annually and getting parts from all over the world, it has never built a car. It took Elon Musk’s Tesla nearly two decades before his company finally achieved sustainable auto profits.
Passenger service giant Uber earlier this month announced plans to exit the self-driving car sector by selling its autonomous vehicle research unit, Advanced Technologies Group, to start Aurora.
Alphabet’s Waymo is also working on automated passenger taxis for a driverless car rental service.
“If there was one company on this planet that had the resources to do that, it would probably be Apple.” A person who has been working on Project Titan told Reuters, but at the same time, it’s not a mobile phone.
It remains unclear who will collect the Apple-branded car, the report said, but sources said they “expect the company to rely on a manufacturing partner to build the vehicles.”
One critic said, “In order to have a viable assembly plant, you would need 100,000 vehicles annually, with even greater volume in the future.”
The report said Apple may also decide to scale back its efforts to an autonomous driving system that integrates a car made by a traditional car maker.
The sources said that Apple is currently working with external partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors, which help self-driving cars get a 3D view of the road, adding that Apple may also develop its own sensors.
As for the car battery, Reuters said the giant Silicon Valley plans to use a unique “single-cell” design that increases the size of the individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by eliminating the bags and units that contain the battery materials.
The design means that the car will likely have a longer range, the report said, adding that the company may use lithium iron phosphate batteries, which are less likely to overheat than other lithium-ion batteries.
Regardless of the technology, for Apple to make a profit, it will have to keep up with the large shares of car contract manufacturers.
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