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The Apple Car – will it ever happen?

The next product line Apple will be working on may have been revealed, and it’s… an electric car?

That’s right – according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is working on the unconfirmed project, know as Project Titan, which was greenlit by CEO Tim Cook as much as a year ago. The WSJ is usually pretty good at avoiding the route that takes them via the rumormill – so we either have to question their integrity, or take it with much more than a pinch or two of salt.

Of course, Apple already has Apple CarPlay – an infotainment system for cars – however, this wouldn’t just be another step in that direction – it would be a massive leap.

Apple's CarPlay system in existing vehicles

Apple’s CarPlay system in existing vehicles

All roads lead to the Apple Car

It might not look like it on the surface, but Apple has an important platform that gives them an enormous head start in creating a modern, disruptive automobile. Though modern cars try their best to implement voice, and visual display systems they’re largely unfit for purpose; pairing shoddy graphics with unresponsive voice activation. Apple, on the other hand has a decent knowledge base when it comes to apps, and of course – there’s Siri.

But then how does that set it apart from CarPlay? Well, it doesn’t, but then when it comes to a company like Apple, with huge cash reserves, the literal nuts and bolts of the matter may be the easy part. Of course, it’s added an extra layer of complexity by going for the non-traditional electric car option, but then it’s Apple, and they’ve already been displaying their green intentions after announcing plans to build a gigantic solar farm to power their operations in California. But then, for the more automotive workings, there’s certainly a talent pool out there, which Apple is already beginning to dip into, which brings us to the next point.

Apple’s relationship with Tesla has been in the news recently. It concerned a mutual poaching of each others employees – thought it seemed Tesla had done more of the procurement. It’s unlikely that Tesla is working on its own smartphone (though that’s what we thought about Apple working on a car…) – they’re more likely working on design – so respected and revered is Apple’s. However, in other areas, Apple has also been trying to bolster its workforce from large-scale battery-maker A123. The company is currently suing Apple for poaching its employees, in violation of employment agreements. The notion is that Apple is doing this to form a team that can help the company learn how to build its own automobile.

So, that’s the know-how sorted – what about the actual building of the thing? Well, Apple certainly is no stranger to outsourcing assembly, and it’s unlikely Apple would have much difficulty putting a production pipeline in place.

What would it be – what would it look like?

The only thing we really have to go on here is Apple’s reputation and history as a design-focused company. It’s unlikely that they’ll be trying to make it look like a giant MacBook Air, but you can get a handle on what it could look like if you look at what it is likely to include, and what it is likely to be used for.

It’s safe to say that Apple will be building something with an unprecedented technological angle. This isn’t going to be for off-road use, and therefore it won’t be anywhere near gargantuan. Instead, it’ll probably be a more modest, city-dwelling vehicle. It’s electric capacity will make it an urban vehicle, where access points are more readily available, as will its technological angle prove more suitable.

A driverless car that was found to be registered to Apple.

A driverless car that was found to be registered to Apple

Apple also owns plenty of patents when it comes to controlling cars with its devices. This could also feature. Especially considering recent reports online of driverless cars, operated by Apple, hitting the streets. A significant bridge between iDevices and a car is a given, just like the Apple Watch is designed for use with the iPhone.

It’ll also be expensive – very expensive. A mass-market vehicle is highly improbable, considering that market is so saturated. Though Apple likes to be disruptive, it’ll more likely be aiming to disrupt the market that Tesla itself created as part of its own disruption of the car industry. Just like the Macintosh when that was released and designed as a premium product; in all probability, so will any potential Apple Car.

Why does Apple want a car?

There are two major answers to this question. For one, Apple’s competitors – like Google – are working on automobile technology, like driverless cars, and it would be foolish for Apple to be seen to be left behind. But the second, and probably more important answer, is that Apple loves a high margin.

That’s how it made its name – supplying Mac’s to a portion of the home computer market that in the old days stayed largely in the single figure percentile. It plays to the middle-market with the iPhone 5c, or its insistence on keeping a 16GB iPhone, but at the same time it throws everything at a higher-end iPhone that’s heavily inflated in price.

It’s the same reason why they’re releasing the Apple Watch Edition – an 18-carat gold-cased version of its smartwatch that could cost upwards of $4,000. It could well be more expensive than its most specced-out MacBook Pro.

Will it happen?

Of course, lots of projects don’t make it – and it’s surprising we don’t know more considering it was greenlit a year ago. Either way, it’s highly like that if the project doesn’t come to fruition, any learned expertise will end up influencing Apple’s CarPlay system.

Furthermore, the car industry is complex and there’s a reason there are few new entrants. Apple is no doubt furious about the leak of this information, because though Apple picks up and drops many projects, the publicity and hype that’s now exploded may mean it’s too late for them to stop now.

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