Is Apple Developing An All-Electric iCar?

This week automotive industry watchers are trying to determine why Apple is “poaching” top-level auto executives and other automakers’ employees, and the speculation has it Apple may want to build its own all-electric minivan.

Officially Apple Inc. has not answered requests for comment. Unofficially one report says an Apple employee has spoken of giving Tesla “a run for its money” and dots are connecting to add up to possibility Apple is looking into the car-making space.

Today the Financial Times reported hundreds of technology and design experts so far have been recruited from the car industry for a “top-secret research lab” by the company known for smartphones and computers.

A certain project “Titan” may have an end goal of an Apple-branded electric vehicle – which would ultimately compete with Tesla and others.

We chose a Tesla Model X as the photo for lack of suitable picture. It’s the most suitable however because Tesla has long modeled itself on Apple, this week Elon Musk said by 2025 it could have a market cap equal to Apple, and Tesla itself has poached Apple employees.

Is turnabout fair play? Last week a writer for Business Insider reported after having written about a mysterious Apple research van spotted in San Francisco, an e-mail from an Apple employee was received noting Tesla employees “jumping ship” to Apple.

“Apple’s latest project is too exciting to pass up,” the person reportedly said. “I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.”

Has Apple indeed taken a shining to electric vehicles? Or, as speculators wonder, is it working on in-car electronics to sell to other automakers, and no vehicle is in store?

Is Apple’s big push only something as benign as trying to develop its in-car entertainment and software service CarPlay which it revealed last year?

Those closer to the story told the Financial Times they think it’s a car.

“Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay,” the Financial Times quoted a person who has closely worked with Apple for many years. “Today I think it’s a car.”

Among talent Apple has hired is the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley research and development, Johann Jungwirth.

His LinkedIn profile says so, and his title is now Head of Mac Systems Engineering.

A story by Automotive News leaves open what Jungwirth’s actual role and responsibilities might be, Reuters is saying other auto industry folks at this level are also being sought by Apple.

Google’s driverless prototype. EVs lend themselves to other tech products.

Google’s driverless prototype. EVs lend themselves to other tech products.

Even if Apple is devoted to building a car, it could later abandon the idea, say observers.

It would take years to get an electric car finalized and through federal safety and other regulatory certifications. Lots of bumps in the road would have to be overcome.

However, if Apple is set on building an electric vehicle, as Google also is working towards with its autonomous technology, what would it mean? It would at least have genuine Apple infotainment, that’s for sure. Your iPhone would surely be compatible. It might even have a massive Web-capable touchscreen to rival a Model S.

Kidding aside, an Apple EV could become a platform for the tech company to launch and integrate a host of technologies. Do you think they’d like franchised dealers either? …

Unlike internal combustion vehicles, an all-electric car is more akin to a solid state device. It also is seen as a future technology, no matter how many naysayers and skeptics are ready to question it, or cast doubt on its leading protagonists, such as Tesla.

If Apple is testing the waters, it will apply its focus on the idea, and who knows what new implications it could have?

We shall see.

Financial Times, Automotive News, Business Insider