Apple's Tesla Challenger Could Roll Into the Market By 2019

Look out, Tesla. Apple is speeding into your rearview. The Cupertino, Calif., colossus is gearing up to release an electric car by 2019 and it’s hiring 1,200 more employees to get the show on the road, reports the The Wall Street Journal.

Finally, after a year of weighing the possibility of its own branded wheels, Apple appears to have the green light to forge ahead. An earlier report had a new iCar (we’re guessing at its name here) slated to arrive in 2020, but it’s reportedly scheduled to debut even earlier. News hit yesterday that the company has just stamped the initiative a “committed project,” sources close to the matter told the Journal.

Apple’s ambitious shift from the consumer electronics market into the automotive fast lane comes on the heels of a meeting with officials at California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. On Aug. 17, an Apple senior legal executive talked with a Golden State autonomous vehicle expert, along with the DMV’s chief of strategic planning, according to documents acquired by The Guardian. The hour-long meeting fueled rumors that Apple is indeed serious about driving into the car market, just as Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and countless others in and outside of Silicon Valley have long predicted.  

Related: With Apple's 'CarPlay,' the Race for Flashier In-Car Touchscreen Controls Revs Up 

As for Musk, he recently told Bloomberg Businessweek that Apple was tempting his Tesla employees to jump ship by offering 60 percent salary increases and $250,000 signing bonuses.  “Apple tries very hard to recruit from Tesla,” he said. “But so far they’ve actually recruited very few people.” Whether poached from Tesla or not, Apple is reportedly tripling its existing 600-person team for the vehicle product program, which is said to be codenamed “Project Titan.”

Those hoping Apple’s first whip would be a self-driving machine will probably be disappointed. Sources familiar with the project say Apple is not looking to make its inaugural vehicle entirely autonomous, despite reportedly onboarding an unknown number of driverless car specialists. However, if individuals close to venture prove right, a self-driving option will likely be available over the long-term.

Related: Elon Musk Admits to 'Conversations' With Apple About Tesla

Meanwhile, Tesla, the undisputed electric car market frontrunner for the moment, is still working out the kinks on an autopilot semi-driverless software update for the Model S. Musk has publicly teased the feature for months. The upgrade will merely assist drivers, not entirely replace them. Google, for its part, is potentially driving in a different direction, per an executive at the search giant, who recently said her employer is considering selling its driverless tech directly to existing automakers.

As for how much an Apple car might cost, that remains one of the many unknowns surrounding Apple’s pivot into the luxury electric car race. We imagine the term “sticker shock” won’t even begin to cover it.

Related: Apple Says It's Cleaning Up the App Store After Its First Large-Scale Malware Attack

Edition: October 2016

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