Apple sets goal to initiate car production by 2024; plans to introduce ‘next level’ battery technology

Apple Inc is progressing and further increasing involvement in the development of self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to roll out a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, named as Project Titan, have progressed unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple pulled back the effort to focus on software and re-evaluated its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla Inc, returned to oversee the project in 2018 and laid off 190 people from the team in 2019. Since then Apple has progressed enough to materialise its initial plans.

Apple’s aim of building a personal vehicle for the mass market is in stark contrast to rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which has built Robo-Taxis to commute passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service. The main centre of Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could “radically” pull down the cost of batteries and elevate the vehicle’s range, according to a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design.

Apple declined to comment on its plans or future products. Two people with knowledge of Apple’s plans warned pandemic-related delays could delay the start of production into 2025 or beyond. Apple has decided to approach outside partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors, which help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road, two people familiar with the company’s plans said.

To turn a profit, automotive contract manufacturers often ask for volumes that could pose a challenge even to Apple, which would be a newcomer to the automotive market. “In order to have a viable assembly plant, you need 100,000 vehicles annually, with more volume to come,” the person said.

Some Apple investors reacted to the Reuters report on the company’s plans with caution. Trip Miller, the managing partner at Apple investor Gullane Capital Partners, said it could be tough for Apple to produce large volumes of cars out of the gate. Hal Eddins, the chief economist at Apple shareholder Capital Investment Counsel, said Apple has a history of higher margins than most automakers. “My initial reaction as a shareholder is, huh?” Eddins gave a satirical expression. “Still don’t really see the appeal of the car business, but Apple may be eyeing another angle than what I’m seeing.”

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