Thursday 29 September 2016

Apple developing electric car in secret lab in Germany

Rhiannon Williams

Published 19/04/2016 | 11:59

Apple's top secret electric car is reportedly being developed in a research and development lab in central Berlin.

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The Californian company has hired up to 20 automotive industry specialists working under the codename Project Titan in the German capital, according to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

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The relatively youthful employees were selected for their "progressive thinking" - likely a team of millenials - and hail from a variety of backgrounds including software, hardware, sales and engineering, according to the paper's sources.

The Apple Car is expected to go on sale in either 2019 or 2020, and will be electric in the vein of Tesla's vehicles rather than self-driving like Google's autonomous cars.

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While the car is also being tested and developed at a facility in California, it will be made in Austria by Magna Steyr, according to the report.

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In the past few years the company has made a series of high-profile hires from the automotive industry, including Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen engineer with expertise in automated driving, and Vinay Palakkode, a graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, a hub of automated driving research.

Chief executive Tim Cook added fuel to the fire of speculation last October when he told the car industry to expect "massive change".

Read more: Apple continues to cut iPhone production due to sluggish sales

"It would seem like there will be massive change in that industry, massive change," Cook said at the Wall Street Journal's WSJDLive conference in California. "You may not agree with that. That’s what I think.

"When I look at the automobile, what I see is that software becomes an increasingly important part of the car of the future. You see that autonomous driving becomes much more important."

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, has said that it is an "open secret" that Apple is building a rival vehicle, adding: "It's pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it." He has also previously dubbed Apple  the "Tesla graveyard", claiming that some of the iPhone giant's latest hires were fired by the electric car company.

Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of internet software and services, drives a Tesla car, as does Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and head of design Sir Jony Ive is a self-confessed car fanatic.

Rumours have been circulating over Apple's plans to build a car for several years, with late chief executive and co-founder Steve Jobs said to have been enthusiastic about making a vehicle as far back as 2008, going as far as to think about dashboard and seat appearance.

Tony Fadell, the co-founder of Alphabet-owned home automation company Nest and co-creator of the iPod, has described how Jobs decided not to pursue the project at a time when the American automobile industry was in deep trouble.

Fadell told Bloomberg TV how he and Jobs would go for walks and ask hypothetical questions, including: "If we were to build a car, what would we build? What would a dashboard be? And what would this be? What would seats be? How would you fuel it or power it?"

"Jobs decided not to move forward at the time [2008]," Fadell said. "The discussions took place when the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse, and Apple was busy trying to establish the iPhone as a mainstream product. The Detroit auto industry was almost dead."

Apple has registered three car-related web domains, apple.car, apple.auto and apple.cars, and although there is a possibility the domains are intended for Apple's existing CarPlay system, it's more likely that, if not to merely prevent others from registering them, the move is linked to the electric car.

Telegraph.co.uk

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