Ambitions of the American consumer electronics giant Apple seems to be going beyond the dashboard. The company appears to open-up to step outside its lucrative focus on mobile devices and enter the market of electric vehicles.
A person from the company who wish to remain unidentified suggests Apple has been working on a secretive project which involves few hundred employees. Steve Zadesky, vice president of iPhone product design is leading the effort, said the person. The buzz in some tech circles is that Apple has set its sights on building a car.
The secretive project is code-named Titan and the design of the vehicle remains so much like a minivan, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. Some Apple executives have flown to Austria to meet with contract manufacturers of high-end car, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter. Also, the company is secretly hiring experts with auto backgrounds in an effort that would meet autonomous-car-crazed Google head on.
The most high-profile Apple hire associated with the theory is Johann Jungwirth, formerly the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley research and development division, according to a report in the Financial Times. The British newspaper’s Friday report, citing unnamed sources, adds that top Apple executives including design guru Jony Ive have been meeting in a secret off-campus lab to discuss an automotive project.
The company already has technology that may lend itself to an electric car and expertise managing a vast supply chain. The company has long researched battery technology for uses in its iPhones, iPads and Macs. The mapping system it launched in 2012 can be used for navigation. Last year, Apple also introduced CarPlay, a software system that integrates iTunes, mapping, messaging and other applications for use by automakers.
Apple’s idea to develop car is not a new one, it has been battling around the idea for years. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing said in 2012 court testimony that executives discussed building a car even before it released the iPhone in 2007. Mickey Drexler, an Apple board member and head of J Crew Group, also said in 2012 that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has wanted to build a car.
Apple is not the only Silicon Valley company creating cars. Google is working on a self-driving vehicle. Tesla Motors makes electric cars and has hired at least 150 former Apple employees, more than from any other company, even carmakers.
Whatever the truth of these Apple rumors, there is no denying the increasingly intertwined nature of the technology and the automotive worlds.