Apple typically doesn’t let any information slip about upcoming products, but the Apple Car has been a huge exception. The first rumor about its development dates back to 2015. In fact, according to former senior vice president Tony Fadell, Steve Jobs considered creating a car in 2008 but eventually decided against it. Mainly due to the auto industry’s collapse during the economic downturn. But the automobile landscape looks much different today. Mainly due to the success of electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3.
Apple is in a much different position today. With more than one hundred billion dollars of cash on hand, which they could use to fund an ambitious electric car project. And it appears as if they already have, according to some reliable rumors over the past few years. So now we’re going to find out what exactly Apple has been working on, and what features we could expect to see from the rumored Apple Car! Alright, now Apple has been fairly open about their efforts to build a car, which is very unusual for the most private tech company in the world.
That’s mainly because they don’t have a choice. The process of designing, testing, and manufacturing a car is extremely complicated and requires regulatory approvals that have to be made public. Even Tim Cook himself admitted to the development of self-driving technology. Saying, “We’re focusing on autonomous systems. And clearly, one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars. We sort of seeing it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on, and so autonomy is incredibly exciting for us but we’ll see where it takes us.”
So while Cook didn’t explicitly admit that Apple’s making a car, he did admit to building self-driving technology. And when you pair that admission with the rumors and leaks over the past five years, all signs point to Apple building their car! So let’s explore all the features we can expect from the Apple Car.
The most important, and most difficult to implement, is self-driving technology. Tesla has been the leader in this area for quite some time now, but they still haven’t achieved 100% level 5 self-driving. They’ve opted to take a very gradual and public approach to developing the technology. By slowly rolling out new autonomous features like auto lane change and auto park over a long period. Eventually working their way to 100% self-driving in the coming years.
Apple appears to be taking a different approach. First, Apple wants level 5 full self-driving to be available on their car from day one. No betas, no gradual ramp in technology, just completely safe and reliable autonomous driving that customers won’t have to worry about.
Second, Apple uses LiDAR sensors to give the car superhuman vision. But Tesla CEO Elon Musk dismissed the technology long ago, saying, “Anyone relying on LiDAR is doomed.” But no matter what type of sensor the Apple Car utilizes, Apple is counting on it to deliver a driverless experience.
Some rumors have even suggested the car may not have a steering wheel at all. This is in line with early prototypes designed by Jonathan Ive himself, where the interior featured wood and leather, the car drove itself, and the passenger would control everything with their voice through Siri, instead of pressing buttons or turning dials. But this vision of the Apple Car may not become a reality anytime soon.
There are not only technical hurdles to shipping a car without a steering wheel but also regulatory restrictions that would have to be negotiated. And obstacles like those are never welcome when trying to create something of your own.
Another unique feature we’re excepted to see added to the Apple Car is a massive sunroof that can be configured into several positions depending on the user’s preference. We’ve also seen patents for seats with haptic feedback. Allowing the driver to be alerted of warnings like lane drifting without the need for loud noises or visual cues that could disturb other passengers. Alongside haptic feedback would be a dynamic seating system.
Where certain characteristics of the seat would change automatically depending on driving conditions. For example, the seats may adjust to a safer positionwhen traveling at high speeds. Or the seatbelts may tighten right before an unavoidable collision.
The headlights may have a special light projection system that delivers more light to darker areas, and less light to areas of the road that are already well-lit. When it comes to interior lighting, Apple is expected to utilize its True Tone technology to adjust the temperature of the car’s lighting, to match the natural light from outside. The company has already implemented this technology in its 5th Avenue retail store in New York City.
The Apple Car’s windshield could feature an anti-reflective layer of modulators that activate when glare is detected. And its bumpers may be retractable so that they can utilize a few extra inches of protection against collisions when driving, but shrink down when trying to park in tight spaces.
There’re also rumors that Apple has developed a new type of mono cell battery technology that uses a lithium iron phosphate chemistry rather than the traditional lithium-ion. This should allow for a more dense battery pack that delivers more range than competing EVs, while also being less likely to overheat.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of the Apple Car will be its seamless integration with Apple’s ecosystem. Which has already proven to be in very high demand, due to the success of CarPlay. Apple’s in-car media system gives users access to their favorite apps like Apple Music, Messages, Podcasts, and Maps. But this is just a small sample of what would be possible if Apple created their car.
Not to mention plans to use AR to project helpful information onto the windshield, like the car’s route or current speed. And motion sickness from passengers using Apple devices in the car could be mitigated by measuring the discrepancy between the car’s movement and the user’s movement. There are so many ways Apple could improve the driving experience, especially if driving were no longer required at all, and this has left many people wondering when we could expect the Apple Car to be introduced?
Based on the rumors so far, it looks like we’ll have to wait at least three years. With the earliest estimate being 2024, and the latest being 2027. We don’t know exactly how much the car will cost, although it is expected to be pricey at around fifty to sixty thousand dollars. So that is what you can expect from the Apple Car.