Apple scales back goals for self-driving cars

Apple logo in car mirror

Apple is setting back its goals for self-driving cars a bit.

(Photo: dpa)

New York According to a media report, Apple is reducing its goals in the development of self-driving electric cars. The iPhone maker is also postponing the planned market launch of the vehicles to 2026, the Bloomberg agency reported on Tuesday, citing insiders.

Apple only plans a less ambitious design that will have a conventional steering wheel and pedals. The vehicle must have autonomous driving features that work on highways. However, it will not be able to run completely independently at all times.

Apple originally wanted to develop a self-driving electric car without a steering wheel or pedals. It was reported last year that Apple plans to launch the first self-driving electric car as early as 2025. This is now outdated.

The fact that Apple is now also struggling with the autopilot function fits into the picture. The self-driving car is something like the holy grail of the automotive industry and the most important technology of the future ahead of e-mobility. But no manufacturer has yet found the silver bullet for autonomous driving.

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The electric pioneer Tesla relies on a special approach to autonomous driving, which, unlike its competitors, only manages with cameras. Your images are evaluated and interpreted by artificial intelligence. All other competitors, including Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Google’s ride-hailing service provider Waymo, rely on additional radar and laser sensors.

Problematic autopilot

Tesla’s autopilot corresponds almost to a level 2 system, i.e. a system that only supports the driver. But that doesn’t stop Tesla from marketing Autopilot as “full self-driving.”

This is a thorn in the side of the supervisor: In August 2021, the US highway traffic authority NHTSA launched an investigation into the autopilot in 765,000 Tesla vehicles after about a dozen accidents. Elon Musk has been promising the full launch of Autopilot “this year” for years. But recently, the Tesla boss sounded sober for the first time.

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In October, the end of Argo AI also caused a stir: Ford and Volkswagen buried their Autopilot joint venture, citing, among other things, a lack of progress with the Autopilot, a Level 4 system.

So far, only Mercedes-Benz has offered a sophisticated Level 3 system that drives autonomously in traffic jams on the Autobahn. The Stuttgart-based company expects approval in the first US states in early 2023.

Change of strategy at Apple

The Apple Car, known internally as “Project Titan,” has undergone several strategic shifts. The car will provide the group with a new source of income. Development began ten years ago – in secret and under changing management. Current project manager Kevin Lynch aims to bring stability and focus on achievable goals.

With the departure from a fully autonomous car and the decision to design a more classic vehicle, Apple is now adapting to the technological restrictions. A spokeswoman declined to comment.

Lynch, who is also responsible for the Apple Watch operating system and Apple Health software, took up the position in late 2021. The heart of the Apple car is said to be a powerful on-board computer – codenamed Denali. There is also a sensor phalanx. According to Bloomberg, the necessary processor is almost ready for production. A connection to the Amazon Web Services cloud is also planned.

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In the test is a remote control of the car and offers for own insurance services. The design is not yet finalized and will not be defined until 2024. The price for a possible market launch is still open: insiders report that a price of less than $100,000 is possible. This places the vehicle in roughly the same price range as the Model S from Tesla and the EQS from Mercedes-Benz.

Apple is expected to invest about a billion dollars in the car project every year. Around 1,000 employees in the US, Canada and Switzerland work on the Apple Car. Test runs will be conducted at a former Chrysler track outside of Phoenix. As previously reported, Apple has repeatedly held discussions with potential suppliers and partners to provide an electric car platform. The only serious negotiations took place years ago with Volkswagen.

Apple shares fell 2.4 percent in late US trading. The leading index on the tech exchange Nasdaq also fell in this order of magnitude.

With agency material.

More: Apple supplier Foxconn will build its own electric cars

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