Fresh off the launch of M1 Macs, a momentous occasion that has been in the works for nearly a decade. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) It may be turning its silicon ambitions to Project Titan, the company’s often-rumored autonomous car initiative that has stalled in recent years and faced numerous setbacks. Apple’s head of artificial intelligence John Giannandrea has recently assumed leadership of the secret division, according to Bloomberg.
The Mac maker is reportedly working on new custom chips for its iconic Apple Car.
Is Apple copying Tesla?
This week, DIGITIMES reported that Apple is collaborating with Semiconductor Manufacturing in Taiwan (NYSE: TSM), its main chip foundry partner, to develop a custom chip for autonomous cars, similar to those Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) has created.
Tesla had hired renowned chip designer Jim Keller away from AMD in 2016 to make custom chips for their own vehicles, before Intel hired him in 2018. Keller resigned from Intel over the summer. The electric carmaker has pushed forward with its chip ambitions and is reportedly working on a new custom chip, also with TSMC, to power its fourth-generation hardware.
The Cupertino tech giant has been evaluating various aspects of the expanding automotive supply chain and engaging with certain component suppliers to measure prices, according to the report. DIGITIMES also claims that the Apple Car could be unveiled in 2024 or 2025. Supply chain sources reportedly suggested that the Apple Car looks like Tesla vehicles.
The rumors should be taken with some skepticism, as DIGITIMES has a spotty track record with supply chain speculation.
Will Apple Car ever be real?
It’s worth noting that Apple’s leading contract manufacturer Foxconn has been looking to expand into the electric vehicle (EV) market, and recently introduced an open modular platform that can accommodate a variety of chassis designs and battery capacities. The Taiwanese company has partnered with Yulon through a joint venture to develop solid-state battery technology.
After being shy for years, Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly acknowledged the effort in 2017 when he confirmed that the company was “focusing on autonomous systems” and that autonomous cars are a “core technology.” The CEO was expected to remain largely silent in subsequent years.
Few companies are looking for custom silicon due to extremely high costs and long development schedule. Apple’s proprietary chip strategy has grown into a world-class operation over the years and is now considered one of the most sophisticated chipmakers in the world. Tesla introduced its chip in early 2019. It incorporates a dedicated neural network processor. Tesla has long argued that its vehicles have the necessary hardware for full autonomy, but there are currently no autonomous cars.
Apple appears to be taking a different approach to autonomous driving than Tesla, as the various prototypes that have been spotted over the years use a lidar sensor array, which Tesla avoids.