Apple Car: Everything we know so far

Buckle up for the juiciest gossip on what could be the new Cupertino car

Apple's products are typically small enough to fit in a pocket, on your wrist, in a bag, or at worst atop a desk. But the company's next big thing may be truly massive indeed: a car.

Well, reportedly. Apple car rumours have popped up here and there for years, and Steve Jobs even considered building one way back when – but, in early 2015, the rumours picked up incredible steam, with major publications reporting details on Apple's supposed plans to create electric, and maybe eventually self-driving cars.

And the reports haven't stopped coming, either - although the focus has changed: Apple might have shifted its focus to autonomous car software rather than building a fully fledged car, but it all sounds very much in limbo right now.

Want to get caught up on everything iCar? Here's a look at the top details we've heard about the Apple Car, followed by all of the stories that have popped up over the last couple of years on the subject.

What we know

>>> Apple is/was building a car 

We've heard about this since the start of 2015 from many different reports and, while the specifics have changed, here's what we know: Apple is (or was) working on some kind of car. "Project Titan" is probably an electric car, and it might be a self-driving car - although later reports suggested that going autonomous is more of a far-off goal.

Whatever the first form may be, if Apple really is working on a car of its own, that's obviously huge news.

>>> Hundreds of people are working on the project

Titan doesn't appear to be a pet project, either: in September 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple would triple the size of its car team, which at that point already numbered 600 people. Since then, there's been talk of departures amidst shifting priorities, and that the team was closer to 1,000 people as of October 2016. That's still a ton of surely-talented folks working on something big.

>>> Apple might be eyeing a partner

In 2015, reports claimed that Apple was in negotiations with BMW to base the Apple Car on the BMW i3, not unlike how the initial Tesla Roadster was based on the Lotus Elise. However, that deal reportedly fell apart as Apple didn't want to cede control over the software.

So the company might be considering a different route: reports in September 2016 claimed that Apple was in talks to acquire McLaren and put its considerable design prowess into building a car for a surely less-wealthy audience.

>>> Or maybe it won't be a car?

A report in October 2016 claimed that Apple might pivot away from releasing its own physical car, and instead refocus Project Titan to deliver software to power other companies' self-driving cars. According to the story, Apple has currently tabled the physical car but will make a final decision by late 2017.

It's just not a very Apple-like move, given its history of wanting to control both the hardware and software of an experience.

>>> Apple is staying mum… kind of

Apple hasn't officially announced anything here, of course, although Tim Cook did comment on "exploring products" when asked about it, and said that Apple looks into a lot of different markets.

But, then, in December 2016, the company sent a letter to U.S. transportation regulators saying it was "excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation, and that there are "significant societal benefits of automated vehicles."

>>> It might come in 2021

A report in 2015 claimed that Apple wanted the car "ready to ship" in 2019, but it was unclear whether that meant just finalizing the design or quite literally getting it to consumers.

However, a more recent report claims that a 2021 debut is much more likely as Apple has dealt with road bumps and team shifts along the way. Building a car from scratch isn't easy, and Apple will surely want to get it right before showing anything to anyone.

>>> It will probably be expensive

We all know about the so-called "Apple tax," right? Well, that'll probably be the case with the Apple Car, as well. Tech analysts from Jefferies & Co estimated in 2015 that the car could come in around US$55,000 when it eventually ships. That's a lot more than the upcoming Tesla Model III at US$35,000, but cheaper than the current entry-level Model S at US$68,000.

All the latest news

> 4 December 2016

Well, it's (sort of) official: Apple is getting into autonomous cars. The company writes a letter to U.S. transportation regulators noting its "heavy investment in machine learning and autonomous systems" and that it sees "significant societal benefits of autonomous vehicles." Apple hopes that regulators won't be too strict with limitations as self-driving technology enters testing and hits the roads.  

> 17 October 2016

Maybe it won't be a car after all? Bloomberg reports that after project difficulties and leadership changes, Apple has decided not to build a physical car and will instead focus on designing the software to power autonomous vehicles. The report says that Apple will make a final decision on the focus by late 2017 and could resume work on a car, or otherwise perhaps partner with an established carmaker instead.

For now, there have been staff departures, with the team said to have about 1,000 people at present.

> 21 September 2016

Could Apple really buy supercar maker McLaren? It seems far-fetched, but The Financial Times (via 9to5Mac) reports that Apple has had talks for months about a takeover. Apple can certainly afford the supposed US$1.5 Billion asking price, but McLaren has denied the news. Maybe too amazing to be true, eh? Then again, neither company is going to confirm an unfinished deal.

> 22 July 2016

The Information reports (via 9to5Mac) that the release target for an Apple car is more likely to fall around 2021. The report claims that Apple was shooting for 2020, but that delays due to shifting priorities and staffing issues had pushed it back. Hey, more time for all of to save money, right?

> 25 May 2016

Apple's specialty is owning the entire experience, right? Well, then it makes sense that Apple may develop its own charging station technology to match its supposed electric cars. Reuters reports that Apple has hired away BMW and Google engineers with a charging focus, and that the company is also in discussions with charging technology companies.

> 13 May 2016

Apple just pumped US$1 Billion into Chinese Uber rival, ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing. It holds 87% of the marked in China, and Apple CEO Tim Cook says the deal is for "strategic reasons," which includes learning more about the Chinese market. But if Apple really is making self-driving cars or at least the software for self-driving cars, then having access to a massive fleet of vehicles could be very helpful for testing.

> 21 April 2016

Handelsblatt Global reports that carmakers BMW and Daimler have decided against partnering with Apple to make a car because of Apple's demands to be in the driver's seat for the project. Apple wanted too much control, which sounds like a very Apple thing to do, and the companies were worried about not being able to own any data that resulted from it. Apple is reportedly looking to the German auto industry for other help, instead. 

> 22 February 2016 Asked to reveal the car project by Fortune, Tim Cook said, "Yeah, I'm probably not going to do that." But he did talk a bit about how they're "curious people" and they "explore products," and that they "don't have to spend large amounts to explore." In other words: yes, they are looking into cars, but he suggests that they haven't made a big financial commitment just yet.  

> 8 January 2016 If Apple really is making its own car, at least the company should have the domain name it wants locked up. Apple has purchased domains like apple.car, apple.cars, and apple.auto, which don't point anywhere for now – but could be used for something a lot bigger than CarPlay. 

> 19 October 2015

Analysts from Jefferies & Co believe that an Apple Car will be priced around US$55,000, which as of this writing (December 2016) comes out to about £43,700. Of course, that estimate is based only on speculation and reports, and could be wildly different from what actually comes to pass. In any case, you'd better start saving.

> 21 September 2015

Is Apple fully committed to Project Titan? That's what The Wall Street Journal reports, claiming that higher-ups have given the team the go-ahead to triple in size from the 600 people they had at the time, and that Apple wants the car's core features finalized by 2019. However, this report suggests that the first car out of the gate won't be autonomous, but simply an electric car.

> 14 August 2015

Looks like Apple is trying to find a place to test out a self-driving car. Emails uncovered via a public records request by The Guardian reveals that Apple inquired about testing times at the GoMentum Station in Concord, California, a facility used for autonomous car trials. Apple asked about when it could book testing time to "coordinate around other" companies using the facility.

> 24 July 2015

Could the Apple Car look a lot like a BMW i3? That's what a new report claims: that Apple has discussed the possibility of using BMW's design for its own car, much like Tesla did with the Roadster based on the Lotus Elise. Tim Cook reportedly even toured BMW's production facility in Leipzig, Germany, and took an interest in carbon fiber bodies.

> 21 July 2015

Apple has reportedly hired away Doug Betts, the former global quality control head for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. For all we know, he could be working on iPho… no, no. He's probably working on cars, of course. Apple also reportedly hired one of Europe's top researchers on self-driving vehicles.

> 15 February 2015

Boom. Enter Project Titan. The Wall Street Journal issues a bombshell report claiming that Apple's secret project is for an electric car that'll resemble a minivan, with former Ford man Steve Zadesky leading the charge. It also notes that Apple has hired away employees from the likes of Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, and consulted with automotive companies like Magna Steyr.

> 12 February 2015

Is Apple really working on a car of its own? That's the rumour: according to Mac Observer co-founder Bryan Chaffin, sources tell him that Apple has something in "vehicle development" that will give Tesla "a run for its money." He asked a source how probable it was that Apple would actually build an entire car itself, and was told that it's 80% likely.