Tim Cook of Apple
If the many, many reports over the last year are true, Apple is assembling the vast puzzle of talent and resources needed to build and release an electric car. And the latest piece of the puzzle is pretty surprising.
Apple has invested US$1 Billion in Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing app that rules the Chinese market, owning more than 87% of the ride requests - more than 11 million rides per day on average. In short, it's an Uber rival that happens to be trouncing Uber in China, but only in that one market.
Why would Apple funnel so much money into a Chinese ride-hailing service? Well, aside from the possibility of making even more money from its investment, CEO Tim Cook says that Apple hopes to benefit from Didi Chuxing's experience to bolster its own sales efforts in its second-largest market.
"We are making the investment for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market," he said, according to CNBC. "Of course, we believe it will deliver a strong return for our invested capital over time as well."
Assuming a car project is indeed underway, it's easy to see how the Didi Chuxing deal could benefit Apple: by having a direct line into a ride-hailing business, Apple could quickly mobilise a force of electric or even self-driving cars for mass testing in a major urban locale.
Rumours and reports claim that Apple is first focused on an electric car project, with plans to have it ready to manufacture by 2019, although reports and leaked email correspondence from the company suggest that Apple also intends to make a self-driving car further down the line.