Apple Car Project Scaled Back and Delayed, Won't Feature Full Self-Driving Capabilities
Apple wanted to create a self-driving car without a steering wheel or pedals, but has decided that such a plan is not feasible at the current time. The vehicle will have guided driving features that work on highways, but it will not be able to operate entirely on its own at all times.
The car will have an Apple-designed custom processor to power AI functionality, similar to the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. The chip is equivalent to four of the highest-end Mac chips and is nearly production ready. It will include a custom array of lidar sensors, radar sensors, and cameras, which will be able to provide the car with positioning information, lane data, and orientation compared to people and objects.
Apple will use the cloud for some AI processing, and the company is considering a remote command center that could assist drivers and control cars from afar during emergencies. It may also offer its own insurance program to companies. Apple's scaled-down vehicle will feature steering wheels and pedals, like a normal vehicle. It will allow customers to do things like watch movies or multitask while on highways. The car will provide alerts when it is time to switch to manual controls for city streets or in poor weather, with the self-driving component perhaps limited to the North America at launch.
The Apple Car project has undergone several shifts in development scope since Apple started it way back in 2014. Apple initially planned for a full vehicle, then in 2016, rumors indicated plans for a car had been shelved and Apple would instead develop some kind of autonomous driving system for other vehicles.
By 2020, plans for a full vehicle with autonomous driving capabilities were back on, with Apple testing self-driving technology in SUVs in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it seems the full autonomous driving features are not going to be ready when the first Apple Car launches.
The Apple Car team has also gone through several leadership changes, and at the current time, AI and machine learning chief John Giannandrea is heading up the Apple Car project, and Kevin Lynch, known for his work on the Apple Watch, is also overseeing work on the car.
While rumors suggested that the car could launch as soon as 2025, it is now expected in 2026 at the earliest, with Apple aiming to sell a consumer model for under $100,000.