After months of rumors churning over the possibility of an Apple electric car, inside sources have confirmed that a vehicle is in the works with a “ship date” set for 2019.
According to sources knowledgeable about the program, reported Automotive News, Apple Inc. is tripling its electric car team to 600 employees, and internally labeling it a “committed project.” It’s unclear, though, if the 2019 ship date is when Apple expects to deliver cars to customers or if it’s an approval deadline for the engineer teams.
CEO Tim Cook and other official representatives haven’t publically verified production of the Apple car, which is codenamed Project Titan.
“We look at a number of things along the way, and we decide to really put our energies into a few of those,” Cook said evasively when asked about it during an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
In the meantime, Apple has been quietly building an automotive team. Megan McClain, an autonomous tech expert who previously worked at Volkswagen, was hired on earlier this year as a mechanical design engineer. Last month, Apple added Jamie Carlson – a former firmware engineer and manager for Tesla’s autopilot firmware team.
A graduate researcher working on an automated driving project, the former deputy director of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s Autonomous Systems Lab and a computer vision software engineer are among other employees with automotive backgrounds that are new to Apple this year.
Several recent meetings also appear to be tied to Project Titan. Last May, officials with Apple began looking into using GoMentum Station, which was described by the Guardian as “a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles.”
And the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) confirmed that it held a meeting with Apple officials in August.
“The Apple meeting was to review [the] DMV’s autonomous vehicle regulations,” the DMV stated, adding that it couldn’t discuss the matter in more detail.
Apple isn’t the only tech company possibly developing an electric car for mass production. Executives at Google have noted recently that production of its self-driving car is being tripled, with several possible outcomes being considered for the vehicle.