06182018Headline:

Apple is working on an electric car

 

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Apple Inc. has revolutionized music and phones. Now it is aiming at a much bigger target: automobiles.

The Cupertino, Calif., company has several hundred employees working secretly toward creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle, according to people familiar with the matter. The project, code-named “Titan,” initially is working on the design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan, one of the people said.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Apple ultimately could decide not to proceed with a car. In addition, many technologies used in an electric car, such as advanced batteries and in-car electronics, could be useful to other Apple products, including the iPhone and iPad.

Apple often investigates technologies and potential products, going as far as building multiple prototypes for some things that it won’t ever sell. Any car would take several years to complete and obtain safety certifications.

The connected car, or vehicles with a full range of Internet and software services beyond mere navigation and communications, is considered one of the ripest areas for expansion for technology companies.

Last March, Apple unveiled CarPlay, which lets drivers access contacts on their iPhones, make calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands off the steering wheel.

Now, the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley research and development unit, Johann Jungwirth, has defected to Apple, according to a LinkedIn profile, which said his title was head of Mac Systems Engineering.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple has apparently had this in the hopper for a while: the report claims that Tim Cook signed off on Titan nearly a year ago, giving ex-Ford engineer and current Apple exec Steve Zadesky a team of 1,000 staff from across a variety of departments in the company. In recent months, company staff have visited contract manufacturers that could potentially build a car (or components of a car) on Apple’s behalf; one company that WSJ names is Magna Steyr, which has built cars for Mercedes and BMW in the past, among others.

It’s not totally clear why Apple would be looking to make such an enormous leap from its core competency — building great consumer electronics — but there might be a simple explanation: the company’s explosive growth will eventually peter out unless it expands to new markets, and there’s no question that transportation would fall into that category.

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