Tech giants like Apple rarely stray from the forefront on innovation, and with evidence mounting that a car may soon be in development, experts are scrambling to visualize what the ‘iCar’ could look like.
Apple’s work on creating its very first car began all the way back in 2014 with the beginning of ‘Project Titan’ – a 1,000 employee strong campaign based at a secret location near the company’s Cupertino headquarters.
Despite mounting problems in the project leading to rumors that it had been shelved in 2016, but in late 2020, Reuters confirmed that plans for the release of an iCar are not only underway but that Apple is aiming to put the car on sale by 2024.
So what impact will Apple’s car have on the market? Could it carry the potential to change the automotive industry in the same way that it changed mobile phones and portable music?
What we know so far
Despite the development of the Apple car taking many twists and turns, the project has offered some curious insights into the vehicle that may be arriving at the end of the production line. However, rumors emanating from Apple must always be taken with a pinch of salt, so some of the specifications discussed may never come to fruition.
Notably, in 2019, Apple acquired the autonomous vehicle startup, Drive.ai. This strongly indicates that the company is intent on making strides in the world of self-driving cars – whether a level of autonomy will be afforded to its upcoming release or future models remains to be seen.
The deepest insight that we can gain into Apple’s intentions for its first car stem from the patent requests and regulatory filings that the company takes out. Reported patents include an in-vehicle system that warns passengers about what an autonomous vehicle would do, as well as a window that could alter its levels of transparency and become tinted.
Interestingly, the latter patent looks to tap into automation features via the use of sensors in order to allow windows to vary their levels of tint or reflectiveness in reaction to weather conditions. This could help to keep passengers comfortable in bright, sunny conditions as well as in adverse weather.
However, another 2018 patent conflicts with the notion of having windows in the car at all – instead of suggesting that VR headsets could be worn by passengers of a self-driving car, enabling them to see whatever they like through their virtual windows. Would you like your Apple car to drive you through Paris in the Roaring Twenties? Or how about cruising through the galaxy? With Apple’s VR patent, both scenarios could be virtually accessible.
In the absence of images covering the bodywork of the new Apple car, we can gain insights into what your new in-motor experience could look like through patent renderings. Here we can see how passengers could experience a fully interactive VR scenario while inside their car.
Pioneering a new passenger experience
Recent patents shine a light on how Apple plans to alter the seating arrangement of its cars. An ‘airbag-based occupant safety system’ patent addresses an issue of how passengers will be kept safe with airbags despite their seats facing away from a dashboard or steering wheel and instead towards other passengers.
Another patent for an ‘electronic stability control system’ is designed to provide the car with the power to automatically correct driver errors or adverse road conditions that lead to a loss of control. The patent covers the conditions in which Apple’s on-board computer will determine that control of the vehicle has been lost and the speed in which it intervenes with corrective measures.
These recent patents show that Apple is looking to make in-roads in promoting car safety while on-the-go. This could be an indicator that the design and ideation process is complete and the tech giants are now turning to the pragmatism of implementing the new technology.
The costs of innovation
Although there is very little information on how much Apple’s car will cost, it’s possible to gain indicators from other models with some form of similar technology on the market.
When it’s released, the Tesla Roadster is expected to cost around £145,000 – a significant climb on the current Model X Performance, which is retailing at around £70,000. Both cars are the closest examples we have on the market for autonomous vehicles, although both models offer a ‘full self-driving function for an extra £7,500.
However, these loose indicators regarding the Apple car price still leave us guessing. It’s still very much unclear whether Apple will opt for building a high-performance motor or streamline its power in a bid to favor accessibility.
Apple has always been a company that works to deliver technology that’s affordable to users everywhere, but in delivering an autonomous vehicle, the Apple car could come with an expensive price tag.
However, in adopting an autonomous, safe, and electric vehicle, there could be subsidy schemes available to drivers. Money could also be saved through a fresh look at how insurance works in autonomous vehicles.
Fundamentally, because of the cloud-based technology that self-driving cars will be built on, we may see more car finance payment plans emerge in a similar way to how smartphones are bought and used. This could ultimately mean that poor credit car finance options will be available to make autonomous vehicles largely accessible over time.
However, don’t expect the motor to be as easy to purchase as an iPhone when its release date finally comes around.