Apple Car – model with reduced functionality is supposed to save the project

There is new information about Apple's plans to launch its own car. Over the last few years there have been repeated references to the relevant project. Now it seems to be at an important fork in the road: Either you reduce the functionality of the vehicle in order to ensure a foreseeable release. Or the project is abandoned. This means that the “Apple Car” probably cannot be presented as the ambitious project it was initially planned to be. You can find details in this article on the topic.

Symbolic image for a car from the iPhone manufacturer Apple. Created with Adobe Firefly.
Symbolic image for a car from the iPhone manufacturer Apple. Created with Adobe Firefly.

Assisted driving instead of fully automated chauffeuring

Apple has been working on its own car since 2014 at the latest. Although no comprehensive plans have been announced in recent years, small parts of the “Titan” project have repeatedly come to the public. The “Apple Car” will therefore come onto the market as an electric car with autonomous driving functions. First, complete driving autonomy was planned, i.e. a car without human intervention and without a steering wheel or pedals. It was later reduced to an autonomous car with human intervention capabilities. It has now become known that, in order to preserve the project, only a partially automated assistance mode will probably be implemented.

The desired level of autonomy (see below) is compared with the functionality of current Tesla models. This reduction in self-driving capabilities is intended to save the Titan project and ensure a market launch this decade. The release plans also apparently had to be adjusted again. After the year 2026 was last discussed for a release of the car, 2028 is now the earliest date. What developments there will be by then with other manufacturers, in the legislation for self-driving cars and in other areas remains to be seen. And also whether the “Apple Car” can still be convincing as an innovation.

The different levels of automation at a glance

With regard to autonomous driving, there is a division into six different levels of automation, which are numbered from Level 0 to Level 5. At the beginning of the “Titan” project, Apple was probably planning a car with Level 5 autonomy. It was later downgraded to Level 4. And now an expanded Level 2 (quasi “Level 2+”) is expected to bring the project onto the streets as a finished product this decade. I have summarized what the numbers say for you here:

  • Level 0: No automation, the driver drives himself and operates the steering wheel, pedals, gearshift, signals, lights, etc. independently.
  • Level 1: When driving, the vehicle assists with certain auxiliary systems, such as adaptive cruise control (ACC for short).
  • Level 2: The vehicle provides semi-automated assistance, for example when keeping in lane, general longitudinal guidance, braking and accelerating in traffic jams and/or parking.
  • Level 3: The vehicle drives automatically, including keeping in lane, using indicators, changing lanes and similar actions. Drivers' attention is needed when they have to take control and drive themselves - for example off the highway or other straight routes.
  • Level 4: The vehicle drives autonomously in a highly automated mode, which basically takes over the entire operation. However, depending on the situation, it may be necessary to take control (after a timely warning).
  • Level 5: The vehicle drives autonomously in a fully automated mode, so that only starting and entering the destination are necessary. The aim is to make vehicles without pedals and steering wheels possible.

Finally a prototype and therefore plans for the future

So far, despite years of research, spending hundreds of millions, creating special hardware, software and cloud solutions, road tests on closed areas, etc., Apple is said to have failed to build at least a prototype for its car. This could now change with the reduced functionality. And that's probably what it's supposed to do in order to satisfy the Board of Directors, which is said to have pointed out the lack of results to the responsible executives in the company several times last year. Perhaps the first results can be reported at the end of 2024; let's see.

If the now scaled-down plans favor an early prototype and the market launch before the end of the current decade, then Apple could also plan for the future of vehicles. Because once a finished car is put on the road and a data analysis is carried out and feedback is collected, improvements are possible. With further developments within the scene of autonomous vehicle manufacturers, the later generations of the “Apple Car” could then reach Level 3, Level 4 or even Level 5 of autonomous driving. The corresponding development could be better refinanced by selling existing models.

Summary of the current status of the Apple Car

Anyone hoping to be able to drive an Apple car will have to wait at least four more years. In addition, the former vision of a private vehicle without a steering wheel and pedals will probably no longer take on a real form in this decade. Apparently Apple will initially have to be content with a car that is equal to other offers, but can only set standards in details. However, thanks to ambitious developments in the industry (cooperation between Amazon and Rivian, Alphabet Waymo, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.), the iPhone manufacturer can hope that at least later generations of cars can contain a greater degree of automation - and this too markets to be addressed.

Sources: 1, 2

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