Like I imagine a lot of you are, I was recently going through tech news blogs to read about the latest news on the iPhone 13 and (hopefully) the next Apple Watch. Surprisingly, though, I ended up finding more attention being given to Apple Car rumors.
The Apple Car is by no means a new idea. People have been ruminating on its existence ever since Apple dipped into a broader realm of tech with the iPhone. That was when the company went from being a computer company to a general tech company.
In a world where Tesla exists, Apple makes all kinds of smart devices, and the line between mechanical devices and computers is nearly gone, it’s easy to see why people would suspect that Apple is working on a car.
But why, in 2021, have these rumors suddenly made a resurgence? Why are Apple Car rumors making headlines once again?
Today, we’re going to look at the recent surge in rumors and see where it started. We’re also going back to the beginning of the Apple Car rumors, starting with the basics.
Also, there are going to be photos of cars throughout this article. These ARE NOT photos of the Apple Car, nor are they renderings. They are just there to aid the text. Near the end of this article, though, I will link to concept renders of the Apple Car.
- What is the Apple Car? A look at “Project Titan”
- Are the Apple Car rumors real?
- Why it seemed like the Apple Car might have been canceled
- The resurgence of Apple Car rumors in 2021
- Do the Apple Car rumors spell doom for Project Titan?
- Speculation around the release date for Apple Car
- If the Apple Car does come out, what will it look like?
- How much will it cost according to Apple Car rumors?
- What are your thoughts on the Apple Car rumors?
What is the Apple Car? A look at “Project Titan”
For those that have never heard of the Apple Car, you probably aren’t alone. While the rumors of it are common knowledge among most techies, the product has never been close enough to reality for it to break into the mainstream.
In essence, the idea behind these rumors is that Apple is working on a “smart car”. A few years ago, it might’ve sounded like an excessive Silicon Valley pitch. In 2021, though, a lot of us are just waiting for electric smart cars to drop in price.
According to these rumors, Apple’s car has been dubbed “Project Titan” behind the scenes. There’s a whole Wikipedia page on it.
In some versions of the rumor, Apple is just building a car to shuttle its employees to work. Other rumors are that it’s just developing self-driving software.
But by far the most popular rumor is that Apple is developing a self-driving with all sorts of futuristic features. It’ll be to the automotive industry what the iPhone was to, well, everything.
And these rumors say that it’s not going so well.
Are the Apple Car rumors real?
In short, yes. Back when these rumors first started gaining serious traction in 2014, it was easy to dismiss these as tech fan-fiction. Who wouldn’t want to imagine buying an overpriced car designed by Apple?
But as time went on, more and more concrete evidence came out, leading up to official confirmation by Tim Cook himself.
It has been confirmed that Steve Jobs was interested in building a vehicle
In 2015, during an interview with an Apple board member, it came out that Steve Jobs had shown interest in launching an Apple Car project.
According to the board member, Steve’s interest was piqued in 2008 (shortly after the first iPhone’s launch) after Tesla debuted its first vehicle. If you’re like me, you probably didn’t realize Tesla had been around that long. Steve knew, though, and had his gears turning.
This was later confirmed by other Apple higher-ups. So as early as 2008, Apple was beginning to dream up a “car of the future”.
There is concrete evidence that Apple is working on self-driving systems
During the period between 2014 and 2016, a lot of compelling rumors and name drops continued to come out. There were various acquisitions, hirings and firings, and contracts revolving around Apple and the automotive industry.
Even Elon Musk was quoted as saying, “It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it,” with regards to Project Titan.
These rumors and contracts gradually grew in number and persuasion. Elon was right – what company would spend so much time and money on talent from the automotive industry without wanting to build a car for itself?
After leaks, rumors, and stories, Tim Cook confirmed the project in 2017 (sort of)
For a long time, though, no one at Apple had outright said that Apple was working on a vehicle. Despite growing evidence, new iPhones, Apple Watches, and Macs were released without any hints or nods towards a vehicle.
Simultaneously, the rumors were starting to slow down. And team members who had been hired to work on “Project Titan” (which was known to mean “Apple Car” at that time) left Apple to work for other tech companies.
It seemed like the Apple Car rumors were coming to an end.
So, wanting to cash in on the rumors one last time, the New York Times published a piece announcing the end of the Apple Car project.
In a surprising turn of events, though, this prompted Tim Cook to suddenly admit, publicly, that Apple was developing a car. And efforts had not been ceased – not at that point in 2017, at least.
I guess Apple wanted to keep things secretive – but not so secretive that the free press and hype would disappear.
Why it seemed like the Apple Car might have been canceled
In 2018, there were a few more hirings, firings, and patents announced through Apple Car rumors. A thread seemed to be consistent though: Project Titan was losing steam.
None of the rumors that came out during this year seemed all that promising or exciting. There were internal issues, like employees stealing data, and changeups over who was officially running the project.
All of this was preceded by rumors that by the end of 2017, Apple would be evaluating Project Titan to decide whether or not to abandon the concept altogether.
Then, in 2019, we heard… nothing. Apple laid off 200 Project Titan employees at the start of the year and acquired a small self-driving startup.
2020 was even more uneventful. The leadership changed again, and that was about all that we heard. COVID surely played a role in this, but even still, a total lack of rumors seems to indicate little progress – at least from the outside.
That’s why I and others assumed that the project had either been abandoned completely or greatly reduced in scope. I forgot about it, dismissing it as a typical R&D project that would fall by the wayside. These things happen, and besides, who needs an Apple Car anyway?
The resurgence of Apple Car rumors in 2021
That brings us to the present day, where Apple Car rumors have suddenly made a huge comeback. But unlike the revival of AirPower rumors, it looks like Apple Car might still be kicking.
In 2021 alone, there have been a plethora of Apple Car rumors:
- Apple has reportedly been in talks with Hyundai, Kia (owned by Hyundai), Toyota, and other Korean manufacturers. Hyundai-Kia denied that these talks took place, however, and Nissan came forward to say that Apple had not contacted it about manufacturing its vehicle there. (Source)
- There are reports that Apple may have hired a Porsche VP on chassis development. (Source)
- Just a few days ago, it was reported that the head of Project Titan has stepped away to work with Ford. (Source)
- Around the same time as this last rumor, there were reports that Apple was planning to look into manufacturing its vehicle on its own. I find this idea extremely unlikely. Apple barely manufactures any of its products now. The thought that it would take more control over this process with one of the most mechanically complex products, which it has never attempted to mass-produce before, seems a bit silly. (Source)
With so many rumors in such a short timeframe, it must mean that the Apple Car is alive and well, right?
That’s what other tech publications would have you believe. After all, just discussing the possibility of an Apple Car is enough to get excited clicks.
But I think anyone can read through these rumors (which seem to be based in reality, so far as we know right now) and see that they don’t look good.
Do the Apple Car rumors spell doom for Project Titan?
From the very beginning, Project Titan has looked like a disaster from the outside. I don’t know anything about running an innovative development process at that level, of course. But it feels as though Apple is just throwing cash and talent at this problem with little to no avail.
It’s seven years after the first Apple Car rumors, and things still seem shaky at best. At the same time, Tesla has exploded in popularity and recognition. Arguably, Tesla is the Apple of the automotive space, albeit much younger and less secure. And the established automotive companies are following in Tesla’s footsteps.
This begs the question:
Is there any room for Apple at this point?
I get the impression that Apple is still ten years away from launching a working vehicle. Maybe that’s just good secrecy on Apple’s part, but for all of the rumors that have been released over the years, none seem to point to a project that’s anywhere near completion.
On the other hand, it’s generally expected that by the end of the next ten years, the electric/smart car industry is going to begin to find its footing. All of the big players will have already cast their products in, and Apple will be waving its hands in the background saying, “Hey! I have a car too, you know! Look, I just made it!”
How a disruptive product succeeds (or fails)
The iPhone and other game-changing Apple products worked because they managed to disrupt their respective industries. Even when a product was competing against similar, established products (like the iPod vs the Walkman), they prevailed because the competition was shoddy. iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone – it was just the first one that people wanted.
But people already want a Tesla. And people who don’t want a Tesla will get an electric Ford, just like people who didn’t want iPhone opted for Android. The gap Apple normally takes advantage of has already been exploited, and it has been leveraged extremely well by Musk.
Apple doesn’t seem to fit into this equation in the way that it presumably wants to. It does have the advantage of being the biggest company in the world and possibly the most recognizable brand. But is that enough for such a huge leap of faith?
Maybe I’m selling Apple short, and the world would fall head over heels for the Apple Car. But if I had to guess, I think the launch of an Apple Car in 2025 or later is just going to get a reaction of, “Oh… why?” from most people.
On the other hand, I think Apple’s rumored attempt at AR glasses has a far greater chance of success. It makes sense for Apple, fits neatly into its wheelhouse, and according to rumors, is more than an R&D pipe dream.
Speculation around the release date for Apple Car
When it comes to Apple Car rumors, we don’t have a lot of up-close information. We have an idea of how many people are working on the project, how many vehicles are being tested on, and how often the leadership is shifting around. But things like design, pricing, and integration are completely unknown.
That includes the release date for Apple Car. Nobody has any clue when this thing is coming out. And if I may add, no one even knows if the Apple Car is coming out.
I’m sure that Apple has a deadline in mind. There will be a year that passes which, if no car is ready, will mark the end of whatever future the Apple Car had. For now, though, we don’t know that date, so all we can do is speculate.
And speculate we will!
For the most part, speculators seem to agree that a 2025-2030 timeline for an Apple Car launch (or at the very least announcement) is reasonable.
I half-agree. I think Apple will either abandon or announce Project Titan during that timeframe. Launching an electric smart car after 2030 would be like Nintendo coming out with a smartphone tomorrow.
The reason I half-agree, though, is because I am very skeptical that Apple can make this deadline. I already explained why – I think Apple is too far behind at this point to catch up. Making an electric, self-driving car is far more difficult than making a smartphone. And translating Apple’s existing tech into a vehicle is way more of a stretch than merging the iMac with the iPod.
It’s a big leap, but time will tell!
If the Apple Car does come out, what will it look like?
Again, there is little to no information in this department. Even the most excitable sources for Apple Car rumors haven’t claimed to have any idea what the Apple Car will look like.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped people from imagining what this vehicle might look like. In this article from Tom’s Guide, you can get an idea of what many fans have imagined an Apple Car will look like.
Some of these are ok, but a lot are pretty dated, too. It’s pretty difficult to guess what an Apple Car will look like since it’s so far removed from anything the company has previously developed. I’m not sure how Apple’s current design language would translate to a car.
The one thing I am pretty sure of is that it won’t be called “iCar”. Apple has all but dropped this naming scheme, going for the more modern “Apple X” approach. The Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, and Apple TV are a few of the recent Apple products that ditched the “i”.
The only reason Apple has kept the “i” in products like the iPhone, iPad, and iMac is because of brand recognition. “iCar” sounds silly, and I stand by that!
How much will it cost according to Apple Car rumors?
Unsurprisingly, no one knows what the Apple Car will cost. But a little more surprising is that unlike most of the Apple Car speculation, no one has any guesses, either.
On the whole, Apple’s pricing strategy has been to deliver a high-quality product at a high price. The high price not only pays for the extra effort that goes into Apple products but also adds a perceived value to them. A Mac wouldn’t seem as prestigious (or pretentious, depending on your perspective) if you could buy one for $500.
But a car is different. A $1,500 computer is expensive, but not so expensive that the average consumer can never buy one. It’ll take some saving and planning, but it’s not completely out of reach.
A Corvette, on the other hand, is entirely out of reach for the vast majority of us. It’s never even crossed my mind that I or anyone I know will ever buy one – it’s just out of the picture.
And that brings us to this odd pricing position: Will Apple price the Apple Car at a premium ($75,000+) to keep up its prestigious image. Or, will Apple keep the price under $40,000 to try and permeate the market in the same way that the iPhone and iPad have in their respective markets?
The Apple Watch’s tightrope pricing
It’s hard to say! Even Apple has floundered on this in the past. You may remember that the first few versions of the Apple Watch came in special editions that were priced at $10,000. But there were also versions for less than $400, and as time has gone by, Apple has continued to drop the price.
It makes it seem like Apple wasn’t sure which version would stick, so it did both at the same time and dropped the model that didn’t work. That’s why we have the Apple Watch SE and not the Apple Watch Pro Plus!
In short, Apple’s image, audience, and pricing strategy are often at odds, which is likely to lead to some interesting pricing decisions for the Apple Car. Assuming it ever sees the light of day, of course!
What are your thoughts on the Apple Car rumors?
And that’s it! That’s everything there is to know about the current surge in Apple Car rumors. And those are all of my opinions! Take everything you hear at this stage with a grain of salt, as it’s a lot of the information floating around in blogs is largely unsubstantiated.
The only things we know for sure about the Apple Car are:
- The Apple Car project does exist and is still going under the name “Project Titan”.
- The Apple Car will be self-driving (to what extent, we do not know).
- Project Titan seems to be tentative. There have been several leadership changes, firings, and hirings, suggesting a lack of success and/or focus.
- Apple is behind the rest of the automotive industry at this point. It could catch up; it wouldn’t be the first time Apple arrived late and still managed to steal the show. But the automotive industry is likely to be more punishing than others.
Let me know what your thoughts on these rumors are! Unlike most Apple leaks, these are pretty vague, which leaves a lot of room for discussion. I’d love to hear what you guys think about the Apple Car – are you excited about it? Will be DOA? How tacky or slick will it look? Are you going to have to ask Siri to turn on your left blinker?
Be sure to tune in here at AppleToolBox for more news and insights on all things Apple. We’re going to be covering the launch of the iPhone 13 all week long, so don’t miss it!