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Apple is about to find out if making a car is as easy as producing a smartphone

If the reports are accurate, the company will have a vehicle by 2024

That black dot next to the camera lenses indicates the iPhone 12 Pro has advanced LIDAR technology. PHOTO FROM APPLE

The Apple Car has been the subject of much speculation not just in the automotive industry but also around the tech community. Will the manufacturer of the phone or the tablet or the laptop you’re reading this article on really assemble a motor vehicle?

Back in 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation filed a case against a former employee of the American company, who was being accused of spilling information on Apple’s extremely secretive autonomous vehicle project—which all but confirmed everyone’s suspicion that the firm was indeed working on an automobile. And now, a Reuters report is saying that Apple is “targeting car production by 2024,” though adding that the current pandemic might push it “into 2025 or beyond.”

The report asserts that Apple’s automotive vision, now widely known as Project Titan, is on track to roll out the tech brand’s very first car within four years. It notes that the business model for this is designed for “a personal vehicle for the mass market” as opposed to the ride-sharing concept of the competition. The Reuters story cites cheaper monocell battery and better range as the main goals of Apple in engineering its maiden vehicle.

In other words, an iPhone on wheels.

It seems Apple is using its gadgets to acquire expertise in autonomous-vehicle technology. PHOTO FROM APPLE

Speaking of Apple’s popular gadget, it is worth pointing out that the latest version, the iPhone 12 Pro, already boasts LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology. See the black dot next to the camera lenses? That indicates that your phone is capable of scanning the surroundings with lasers, which should result in better photography and advanced augmented-reality experience.

Now, if the term sounds familiar, that’s because automakers have been using LIDAR to develop autonomous vehicles. It allows self-driving cars to detect and avoid obstacles on the road, including pedestrians. It seems to us that while other car companies are focusing on EVs, Apple has been preparing for the advent of driverless vehicles—or at least runabouts that offer substantial driving assistance. Imagine riding in a car with a Siri-level electronic nanny.

Can Apple pull this off?

Reuters quotes an unnamed source as saying: “If there is one company on the planet that has the resources to do that, it’s probably Apple. But at the same time, it’s not a cell phone.”

Indeed, a car is not a phone. For one, it has serious safety implications. If an iPhone crashes, you just reboot it or buy a new one. If a car crashes…well, good luck walking away from it in one piece.

Would Apple really dabble in a business it has no prior experience in (and risk losing money in the process)? If that’s what it will take to continue dominating the world, why not?

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.