Apple is said to have driven 78,605 miles in 2018, but that number fell to 7,544 miles in 2019 and only 23 of its 70 cars actually drove at all. Apple was also found to have a relatively high number of disengagements, compared to its rivals.
Apple’s driverless cars have also been involved in the odd bump and scrape on Californian roads, according to accident reports. In the most recent incident in 2019, one self-driving Lexus was apparently rear-ended while stationary.
With all this evidence, it is clear Apple has long maintained an interest in cars and autonomy. But how likely is its car? And if it isn’t building one, what is it doing?
Philippe Houchois, a Jefferies analyst who covers companies such as Tesla, says: “We have to give Apple’s plans some credibility, but it is a company that can afford to have a side interest.”
Software is Apple’s most likely interest for cars, in his view. Apple and Google already compete with two systems that can connect smartphones to car displays, but there is room to grow.
Windsor, the independent analyst, says mapping technology is another area that Apple’s research into cars and autonomous vehicles could play out. Apple previously licenced TomTom, OpenStreetView and other data for its Maps app. It has gradually been building its own rival to Google Maps using scans of roads from data collection cars.
As to the alleged 2024 timeline, even analysts who believe an Apple car is possible are skeptical. Ming-Chi Kuo at TD Securities says the market was “overly bullish” on the Apple’s automotive prospects, adding: “we think it is perilous to jump to the conclusion that Apple Car will succeed.” He gives a timeline of at least 2025 to 2027.
Elon Musk, the Tesla chief executive, also poured cold water on claims that Apple could build a car soon.
According to Reuters, Apple is said to have looked at a “monocell” battery – one that packs more active materials into a single cell. Musk says this is “electrochemically impossible” and “strange, if true”.
The Tesla boss also claimed that during Tesla’s “darkest days”, he approached Cook to discuss an Apple takeover of the electric car maker. But the Apple chief “refused to take the meeting”. Apple has not commented on the alleged offer.