A rumor today from German publication Manager Magazin, shares some alleged details about a shift in Apple’s Project Titan. While Apple’s car efforts were originally expected to include the company manufacturing its own vehicle, it reportedly later changed course to just focusing on developing autonomous vehicle software. However, today’s rumor suggests that Apple is working on its own electric van.
Based on the information received from anonymous sources, Manager Magazin believes Apple has “breathe[d] new life into its plans for a self-developed electric vehicle.” Translated from German:
the Apple Car could come in the form of an electric van. Apple’s engineers have designed specimens with black and silver paint, designed in the typical industrial design of the iPhone group. Apple also researches on its own batteries, electric motors, special seats and interior components.
The report also references Doug Field returning to Apple after spending a few years at Tesla as a sign that Apple has shifted back to producing its own vehicle.
However, even if this information is indeed true, there could be another explanation for Apple engineers designing an electric van outside of it planning to produce the vehicle at scale.
Notably, The New York Times piece that reported Apple shifting its Project Titan focus to just developing autonomous vehicle software noted that the company would be testing an autonomous vehicle as an employee shuttle. A van or minibus would make sense for that application.
Apple is creating an autonomous vehicle to ferry employees from building to building called PAIL or Palo Alto Infinite Loop that will be a test bed for its autonomous software.
While Apple CEO Tim Cook hasn’t shared anything definitive, he did mention that the company is focusing on autonomous systems back in 2017.
There is a major disruption looming there […] We’re focusing on autonomous systems, and clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars. There are others, and we sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on. And so autonomy is something that’s incredibly exciting for us.
However, if true, the detail from Manager Magazin about Apple researching electric vehicle batteries and other components like motors would be curious if it’s not planning on manufacturing vehicles. Another possibility could be the company making its own prototypes for its employee transportation testing without planning to bring the vehicle to consumers.
But if Apple is actually working on an electric van intended for mass production, it could follow in the steps of Google’s Waymo who launched its autonomous ride service in Phoenix, Arizona last December.
What do you think? Is Apple actually shifting gears here? Or is it more likely that wires were crossed with these new details? Share your thoughts in the comments below!