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Apple is said to aim to launch a fully self-driving car by 2025

Apple Inc. is accelerating development tram and is refocusing the project around fully self-driving capabilities, according to people familiar with the matter, to address a technical challenge that has plagued the auto industry.

Over the past few years, Apple’s car team has explored two paths simultaneously: creating a model with limited self-driving capabilities, focusing on steering and acceleration – similar to most cars. present from Tesla Inc. —or a fully autonomous version without human intervention.

Under the new leadership of the effort — Apple Watch software chief executive Kevin Lynch — engineers are now focusing on the latter. Lynch is promoting a car with a full self-driving system in an early version, the people who requested anonymity said because the discussions are private.

It’s just the latest change to the car endeavour, known as the Special Project Team or “Project” Titan, ”Has endured strategic changes and operating revenue since starting around 2014. In September, the former team leader, Doug Field, left side for a job at Ford Motor Co. after three years in charge. In choosing Lynch as a replacement, Apple went with an internal executive who was not a car veteran.

In its quest to master self-driving cars, Apple is pursuing a holy grail in the industry. Tech and automotive giants have spent years on self-driving car, but the possibilities are still elusive.

Tesla, the market leader in tram, it is probably still many years to fully supply self-driving car. Of Alphabet Inc. Waymo suffered a hasty departure in its efforts to develop the technology. And Uber Technologies Inc. agreed to sell its autonomous driving division last year.

Apple is targeting launch internals self-driving car in four years, faster timeline from five to seven years which some engineers have been planning since earlier this year. But time flows and hitting that 2025 goal depends on the company’s ability to perfect self-driving systems – an ambitious task on that schedule. If Apple can’t hit its target, it could delay the release or initially sell a car with lower tech.

An Apple spokesperson based in Cupertino, California declined to comment.

Apple’s ideal car would have no steering wheel and pedals, and its interior would be designed around autonomous driving. One option discussed inside the company has an interior similar to that in Lifestyle Vehicles by Canoo Inc., an upstart in the electric vehicle industry. In that vehicle, passengers sit along the side of the vehicle and face each other as they would in a limousine.

Apple has also been exploring designs where the car’s infotainment system – possibly a large iPad-like touchscreen – would be in the center of the vehicle, allowing the user to interact with the system during the trip. Go. The vehicle will also be heavily integrated with existing Apple devices and services. While the company is pushing for the lack of a standard steering wheel, Apple has discussed giving the car an emergency takeover mode.

The company recently reached a major milestone in the development of the car’s basic self-driving system, people familiar with the situation said. Apple believes it has done most of the core work on the processor it plans to ship in the first generation of the car.

The chip was designed by Apple’s silicon engineering team – the group that invented the processors for the iPhone, iPad and Mac – and not in the car group itself. Work has included honing the underlying software that runs on the chip to power self-driving capabilities.

Advances could soon be put to road testing. Apple plans to start using the new processor design and update self-driving sensors in retrofitted cars that it has spent years testing in California. The company currently has a fleet of 69 Lexus SUV According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, it is testing its technology.

The Apple car chip is the most advanced component Apple has developed in-house and is made up primarily of neural processors that can handle the artificial intelligence needed for autonomous driving. The chip’s capabilities mean it will run hot and may require the development of a complex cooling system.

The hope is to develop a vehicle that can save customers from driving fatigue when they go on long journeys. But building an actual car – for someone outside the auto industry like Apple – would require a partnership. The company has discussed agreements with multiple manufacturers and has considered the possibility of manufacturing the vehicle in the US

Even with recent advancements, creating a fully self-driving car by 2025 is seen as very aggressive within Apple. Some people on Project Titan are skeptical of the timeline.

Safety is a major part of the puzzle. Engineers involved in the effort say Apple is looking to build stronger protections than what’s available from Tesla and Waymo. That includes creating a lot of redundancy – the ability for layers of redundant systems to work to avoid driving and safety system failures.

Apple is actively looking for engineers to test and develop safety functions. “The Special Projects team is looking for an outstanding mechanical engineer to lead the development of mechanical systems with safety-critical functions,” a recent Apple job listing said. . “You’ll use your passion to find things to help design secure systems and lead the way in testing and countermeasures for those systems.”

As part of an effort to accelerate the project, Apple is hiring more car and self-driving car hardware engineers. That includes bringing in CJ Moore, the former head of Tesla’s self-driving software.

In recent weeks, Apple has also tapped a climate system expert from Volvo Car AB, a manager from Daimler Vans, the battery system engineer from Karma Automotive LLC and other automakers, a magnetic sensor engineer General Motors Co.’s Cruise LLC, safe car engineers from companies like Joyson Safety Systems and many others from Tesla, according to information from LinkedIn and people with knowledge of the matter.

According to Apple’s job listing, the company is also hiring software engineers to do research on “interactive human experiences with automated technology,” indicating that the company is diving deep into user interface development. of the car. This listing implies that the software being developed will be based on the same technology as the iPhone operating system.

To power the car, Apple discussed compatibility with a combined charging system, or CCS. That would allow Apple to tap into an expanding global network of chargers. But the approach will be different from the more proprietary charging systems it has developed for the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Apple has internally debated several different business models for its cars, including creating a fleet of self-driving cars that could compete with Uber. Lyft Inc. and Waymo. The company discussed an exterior design similar to the Canoo if it adopted a fleet approach. A more likely scenario, however, is for Apple to provide cars for private ownership.

Getting to that point won’t be easy. Apple’s car project has faced development challenges, leadership struggles, layoffs, and delays in its seven-year history. The arrival of Field from Tesla in 2018 brought a rush of excitement that eventually died down. At least four top managers from the project departing in 2021, beyond Field.

Some members of the group believed that Field was unhappy about reporting to artificial intelligence director John Giannandrea after his previous boss, Bob Mansfield retired. Mansfield reported directly to CEO Tim Cook in a part-time job overseeing car work.

Lynch is now the fifth executive in charge of the project in about seven years. That turnover rate is rare at Apple. For example, it virtual and augmented reality team There’s been a leader since that project started around the same time as the car.

However, given Lynch’s ability to help make the Apple Watch a core product, some engineers in the car fleet see his appointment as an optimistic sign. Lynch reports to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief executive officer.

Lynch is a software executive with no automotive hardware or self-driving experience, but former Tesla executives on the project — including Michael Schwekutsch and Stuart Bowers — have important roles. Apple also hire Ulrich Kranz this early year. Previously, he led Canoo and helped oversee BMW’s electric car development.

When Lynch was chosen to take over the car project, he was still in charge of the Apple Watch operating system and several medical software teams. He remains involved in high-level decision-making while focusing most of his time on the car project.

The question now is whether an executive who oversees one of Apple’s last big things – the smartwatch – can turn one car into its next.

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