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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Here’s another sign the long-rumored Apple Car is on the way

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Few tech rumors have been running for as long as the one about an Apple Car being on the way, and there’s now more evidence that Apple is indeed busy working on an automobile: The company has reportedly hired former Tesla Autopilot software director Christopher Moore.

That’s based on “people with knowledge of the matter”, as reported by Bloomberg, and we can assume that both electric power and self-driving capabilities are on the way if an ex-Tesla engineer is involved. Moore will apparently be reporting to Stuart Bowers, another executive who has made the switch from Apple to Tesla.

As you would expect, Apple has declined to comment on the report to Bloomberg, which fits in with what the company has previously said about its automobile-making efforts: very little. Earlier this year Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted that some kind of autonomous navigation tech was in the works, but that’s about all we have so far.

What happens next

This latest appointment doesn’t reveal too much about the mythical Apple Car, other than dropping another big hint that such a car is on the way. However, it’s notable that Moore was previously known for his more realistic take on the current status of self-driving car tech, compared with his old boss Elon Musk.

Earlier this week, more than 11,700 Tesla vehicles were recalled over issues with the Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software installed on them: there have been numerous issues reported, including one involving unexpected braking.

That goes to show that even the experts in the field are struggling to get self-driving technology functioning properly in a way that removes the need for constant human supervision.


Analysis: what is Apple working on?

As we’ve said, the Apple Car project is shrouded in secrecy and mystery, and it’s not clear exactly what the company is working on: it could be a fully fledged electric vehicle, or it could be an autonomous software system to install on cars made by other manufacturers, for example.

“The autonomy itself is a core technology,” Cook said in April. “If you step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does.”

We’ve also heard rumors about Apple partnering with various car makers and electronics specialists to help turn its plans into reality. That could well suggest that a real, physical Apple Car is on the way, rather than a suite of software programs designed to plug into other vehicles – but, equally, Cook has strongly suggested Apple is more interested in the software side of autonomous driving, rather than a fully-fledged vehicle.

More recently, reports suggested that Apple was going to follow Tesla’s lead and take care of every part of the car-making process, from on-board software to wing mirrors. If and when it finally does appear, it’ll be one of the biggest launches in Apple history, and give established car makers something serious to think about should it appear.

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