Apple is reportedly revising its initial plans for Project Titan to go forward with its self-driving car technology to start its electric vehicle production by 2024 with a “next level” battery technology. The project started with an objective to build an electric car, which was later restricted to focusing on building a self-driving car system.
Reuters reports that two people familiar with the development of Apple’s autonomous electric vehicle told that Apple has advanced to a stage that it now aims to build its own vehicle for consumers. However, pandemic-related delays could delay the start of production into 2025 or beyond.
Apple is placing its battery technology at the centre, which is said to radically reduce the cost of batteries and increase vehicle range, a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design told Reuters. Batteries are the heart of any electric vehicle, so a company of Apple’s scale is expected to keep it in focus.
Apple plans to use a new “monocell” design that strengthens individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by removing pouches and modules that hold battery materials, one of the people told Reuters.
The person added that the new design allows more active material to be packed inside the battery, giving the car a potentially longer range. Apple is also said to be researching on a battery using LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, which essentially is less likely to overheat and is thus safer than existing lithium-ion batteries.
”It’s next level,” the person said of Apple’s battery technology. “Like the first time, you saw the iPhone.”
The battery is not the only challenge though. Making a vehicle also brings a supply chain challenge that requires a huge sum of money and time. The reason why Tesla took 17 years to finally convert it into a sustainable profit-making venture.
“If there is one company on the planet that has the resources to do that, it’s probably Apple. But at the same time, it’s not a cellphone,” said a person who worked on Project Titan.
Sources also say that Apple could rely on a manufacturing partner to build vehicles and “there is still a chance Apple will decide to reduce the scope of its efforts to an autonomous driving system that would be integrated with a car made by a traditional automaker, rather than the iPhone maker selling an Apple-branded car”
Apple is also said to find partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors, which help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road.
New leadership, new approach?
Back in 2018, Apple CEO, Tim Cook confirmed that the company is working on “autonomous systems”, though his focus was more on the software side. Later in 2018, Apple veteran Doug Field returned from Tesla to oversee the Project Titan. The project is now run-day-to day by Field under the purview of John Giannandrea, Apple’s senior vice president of AI and machine learning.
Before Giannandrea, Project Titan was headed by Bob Mansfield, former Apple SVP of hardware engineering. Mansfield retired in 2012 but remained an advisor at Apple and came out of retirement in 2016 to head the self-driving vehicle division.
The latest report comes soon after the change in leadership took place. Not just that, the project went under major restructuring and staff cuts in the last two years.
The report doesn’t shed light on a lot of factors, and 2024 looks to be an ambitious timeline for a newcomer into the automotive industry. Apple has declined to comment on the report.