Key Takeaways

  • Apple plans to produce the driverless vehicles by 2024
  • Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design

Apple is reportedly planning to produce autonomous cars by 2024, using its own breakthrough battery technology.

The tech giant has progressed its automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, and now aims to build a self-driving vehicle for consumers, Reuters reported. Though the company plans to produce the vehicles by 2024, pandemic-related delays could push the start of production to 2025 or beyond, sources warned.

Apple’s automotive efforts have proceeded unevenly since it started to design vehicles in 2014. At one point, Apple pulled back its efforts to focus on software, but later hired Doug Field from Tesla to oversee Project Titan in 2018.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The iPhone maker’s goal of building a driverless vehicle for consumers contrasts competitors, like Alphabet’s Waymo, which are building robo-taxis. In October, Waymo opened up its ride-hailing service to the general public in Phoenix, Ariz. Tesla and General Motors are also working to release driverless vehicles.

Autonomous cars are sure to disrupt the automobile and related industries, seriously hurting the bottom line of those companies who are not quick to adapt. At the same time, the benefits to society and the macroeconomy will be positive and significant, economists forecast. The total estimated yearly savings as a result of increased worker productivity is upwards of $1.3 trillion, or more than 7% of gross GDP.

The core of Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could reduce the cost of batteries and increase the car’s range. It’s unclear who will build the vehicles, but Apple plans to rely on a manufacturing partner to assemble the cars. 

Experts estimate that lithium-ion battery prices will fall to around $100/kWh in 2023, at which point electric cars will achieve price parity with internal combustion vehicles. In 2010, the average price was above $1,100/kWh and has since fallen 89% in real terms to $137/kWh in 2020. 

Apple also plans to use outside partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors, which help autonomous vehicles get a three-dimensional view of the road. However, some sensors could come from Apple’s internally developed lidar units, which currently supply lidar sensors for the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro.

Shares in Velodyne Lidar and Luminar jumped more than 20% on the news Monday. Both companies produce the lidar technology used in self-driving cars. Shares in Apple increased 1.3% on the news.

Apple’s interest in autonomous vehicles has sporadically reached the headlines over the years. In 2016, the company requested that U.S. transportation regulators not restrict vehicle testing. A year later, in 2017, the company secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California. That same year, Apple published a report on a software system that can more accurately spot pedestrians.