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Apple's rumored electric car may not be fully self-driving after all

The project might not also be ready until 2026.

A dashboard mockup of the upcoming Apple CarPlay next-generation in iOS 16.
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|December 6, 2022 2:37 PM

Apple isn't done scaling back its plans for an electric car, apparently. Bloomberg sources say the EV, codenamed Project Titan, is no longer a fully self-driving machine. It will reportedly have a conventional wheel and pedals, and will 'only' drive itself on highways. The company has also pushed the launch back by a year to 2026, the tipsters claim.

The rumored vehicle will supposedly offer enough autonomy that you can play games or watch video on the highway, but ask you to take control when it's time to drive on city streets or through adverse weather. Apple may debut the hands-free tech in North America at first and expand access "over time," the insiders add.

Apple has already declined comment. Titan has been in development for years, and has suffered numerous setbacks as well as major strategy shifts. The tech firm may have had doubts as early as 2015, and was said to have scuttled the vehicle in 2016 in favor of a licensed self-driving platform. Executive shuffles and layoffs didn't help, either. While the company did return to making a full-fledged vehicle, according to rumors, it had little success courting production help from brands like Hyundai.

More modest ambitions wouldn't be surprising. Full Level 5 autonomy (where a vehicle can drive itself in any circumstance) still isn't a practical reality, and even Waymo's robotaxis are only allowed to operate in good weather in California. There's also the question of legal permissions. While states are increasingly receptive to self-driving cars, there isn't yet a framework that would let the general public use completely autonomous vehicles. Even if Apple solved all the technical challenges, it couldn't realistically sell a truly hands-off car any time soon.

A switch to a semi-autonomous design could lead to fiercer competition. While Tesla has long been considered Apple's main rival, the EV market has grown rapidly in recent years. Brands like Ford, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Rivian have all made capable electric rides. Apple would be entering a crowded field, and there's no guarantee the company will stand out.

Apple's rumored electric car may not be fully self-driving after all