Report: Apple to build electric car for 2019

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple Better Be Ready for the Mad World of Car Regulations.

Apple Inc has designated building an electric car as a “committed project” and has set a target shipping date for 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The Journal report, which cited unnamed sources, came amid persistent rumours that Apple is secretly working to put its iconic brand on a high-tech automobile. The project has been code-named Titan and its leaders have been given permission to triple the 600-person team, the WSJ said, citing people familiar with the matter. The go-ahead came after the company spent more than a year investigating the feasibility of an Apple-branded car, including meetings with two groups of government officials in California.

While Apple is rumoured to be interested in making computerised cars that can drive themselves, the first version will require motorists to be in control, the Journal reported. Developing a car that runs on electricity and can drive itself will be hard, but those challenges obscure another major barrier to putting a vehicle up for sale: the federal government and its many, many, rules for how you make a car. The end of the decade could be an optimistic target, and Apple might wind up taking a bit longer or even partnering with an traditional auto maker on the project, according to reports. Apple has been hiring talent away from electric car maker Tesla to boost its Titan effort, an AppleInsider website devoted to news about the company said in a story last week.

Title 49, Subtitle B, Chapter V, Part 571 of the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards,” lays out in excruciating detail the standards manufacturers must follow for any passenger car (or bus, or motorcycle) they intend to sell. Apple has hired this year Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen AG engineer with expertise in automated driving, and Vinay Palakkode, a graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, a hub of automated driving research. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on Friday said that it met with Apple to discuss rules of the road regarding testing self-driving cars. Apple’s commitment is a sign that the company sees an opportunity to become a player in the automotive industry by applying expertise that it has honed in developing iPhones – in areas such as batteries, sensors and hardware-software integration – to the next generation of cars.

Apple has built a reputation for an intense focus on detail, micromanaging every bit of its hardware and software to make its phones, tables, and computers just so—and highly successful. Toyota early this month announced plans to invest US$50 million (RM213 million) into building artificial intelligence into cars, an indication it could be joining the race to develop driverless vehicles. The joint research with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will take place over the next five years, Toyota Motor Corporation said.

It isn’t clear whether Apple has a manufacturing partner to become the car equivalent of Hon Hai Precision Industry, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer that builds most iPhones and is known by the trade name Foxconn. Federal guidelines dictate everything from the size and color of the turn signal in the dashboard, to the icon for the fuel gauge, to the exact force each occupant’s seat must be able to withstand.

While the Japanese automobile giant did not mention making cars that drive themselves, it did promise work on “intelligent vehicle technology.” – AFP The rules even govern the exact dimensions of sideview mirrors: “The mirror shall provide the driver a view of a level road surface extending to the horizon from a line, perpendicular to a longitudinal plane tangent to the driver’s side of the vehicle at the widest point, extending 2.4 m out from the tangent plane 10.7 m behind the driver’s eyes, with the seat in the rearmost position.” This small sampling doesn’t even get into crash testing, which brings its own mountain of exacting standards. In Apple’s parlance, a “ship date” doesn’t necessarily mean the date that customers receive a new product; it can also mean the date that engineers sign off on the product’s main features.

To date, Tesla Motors and Nissan sell two of the best-known and highest-volume battery-powered vehicles, but volumes are only a sliver of the industry’s 85 million annual vehicle sales. Tesla proved it’s still possible to start an automaker from scratch in the US, and Apple has orders of magnitude more cash on hand than Elon Musk’s outfit ever did. By the time an Apple car would make its debut, brands spanning General Motors Chevrolet to Volkswagen AG’s Audi and Porsche will have long-range electric vehicles aimed at the mass market.

But Apple’s total lack of experience in this industry means it’s got a gargantuan amount of studying to do if the feds are going to let it sell a car at all. Novotney, one of the first hires to the program last year, is a vice president of program management, overseeing a growing team of managers who co-ordinate activities among various teams. He said he expects any Apple car to have three distinctive features: a unique design; the ability to work with other Apple devices; and some autonomous capability. In May, Apple employees met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 5,000-acre former Navy weapons station east of San Francisco that is now a secure testing facility for autonomous and connected vehicles. In an email, the DMV said the meeting with Apple focused on “the autonomous-vehicle testing regulations that went into effect in September of 2014”.

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