The rumor mill continues churning when it comes to Apple and the company’s alleged efforts to build its own car, and now it’s suggesting the maker is looking to book track time for “Project Titan.”
Project Titan is reportedly the code name for the company’s electric vehicle program.
According to The Guardian, the Cupertino, California-based maker of computers and consumer electronics has been in discussions with the executives at GoMentum, a highly secure automotive testing facility, to use the facility.
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“We would … like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it],” Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote in an email to the facility obtained by the newspaper.
The 2,100-acre site is a former naval base that now has 20 miles of roads that simulate everything from city driving to highway cruising. Honda and Mercedes-Benz have been using the site for autonomous vehicle testing.
Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, owner of GoMentum Station stated simply that Apple has been interested in using the site, but a nondisclosure agreement prevents him from stating anything further.
The buzz around Apple and a car has been on the rise after the company and BMW confirmed they met last year to talk about a possible partnership. The parties said the discussions didn’t go far, leaving Apple to continue Project Titan on its own. However, as shareholders begin to ponder how much it might cost to get a car company started, they may be encouraging Apple’s management to reconnect with BMW.
(Could BMW partner with Apple to build an autonomous car? For more, Click Here.)
Observers note that with more than $200 billion in cash, Apple has the deep pockets to support an automotive venture. Even the most modern and expansive assembly plant, for example, would likely run less than $2 billion to erect, though vehicle development could add several billion more. But whether that would pencil in as a potentially profitable venture is uncertain. And as Google has been hearing from its shareholders, Apple might find resistance to that sort of expenditure.
BMW could be a good partner. It has expressed a strong interest in both electric propulsion and in autonomous driving. The Bavarian maker also has become a world leader in the development of advanced carbon fiber technology.
The material is both strong and super-light, something that can help improve the safety, range and performance of an electric vehicle. Both of the vehicles BMW is producing as part of its new battery-based sub-brand, the BMW i3 and i8 use carbon fiber.
Overall, Apple executives largely have been mum on the topic of building a vehicle to compete with long-established players like General Motors, Ford, Mercedes and others. In fact, many automakers are Apple customers using the computer company’s CarPlay in their vehicles. However, a high-level Apple exec did pique the interest of those hoping for an Apple car.
(Click Here for details about Apple’s CarPlay app.)
During a California tech conference in May, Apple’s senior vice president of operations tossed more fuel on the fire, suggesting, “The car is the ultimate mobile device, isn’t it? We explore all kinds of categories,” said Jeff Williams. “We’ll certainly look at those and evaluate where we can make a huge difference.”
Allegedly, Apple has been hiring hundreds of engineers, designers and other auto experts to oversee the EV project. Perhaps the biggest hire has been former Fiat Chrysler executive Doug Betts.
Betts abruptly left FCA last year to “pursue other opportunities.” If his LinkedIn profile is to be believed, he’s landed in Cupertino, California, at Apple. His current job is listed as “Operations – Apple Inc.”
(To see more about an Apple exec hinting at the possibility of a car project, Click Here.)
According to Bloomberg News, Apple is pushing a team of engineers and designers to begin production of an electric vehicle as early as 2020. When FCA Chief Sergio Marchionne met with Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this year, it sparked rumors that the companies might pair up.