Project Titan : Apple’s top secret self driving cars to come earlier than expected
Documents confirm Apple’s Project Titan is already making progress and the company is scouting for test locations however facts indicate otherwise.
A couple of days back, The Guardian, reported that Apple is scouting for secure locations to test its self driving cars and in regards to this Apple’s staff was in talks with the officials of GoMentum Station which is a former naval base located near San Francisco and currently serving as a high security testing ground for autonomous vehicles.
The Guardian obtained the required documents on the basis of Public Records Act request. For the past few months there are rumors that Apple is involved in the self driving car market and the document is the first proof which reveals this fact.
In the month of May, Jeff Williams, Senior Vice President of Apple had mentioned about the car which he referred to as “the ultimate mobile device”, he also added that Apple was planning an expansion and it aimed to enter a market which it feels would make “a huge amount of difference” in. Definitely a self driven robotic car seems to be an apt answer for the quest.
Apple has preferred not to make any comments on The Guardian’s report and this indicates that may be Apple does not wish to advertise its new venture yet, which further clarifies as to why Apple is scouting locations and why it is preferring to make GoMentum Station as its test location.
GoMentum Station, is known to be the largest test bed site in the U.S. with around 32 kilometers of test roads which includes paved highways, city streets, railway crossings and even highway overpasses. Further, it is one of the most secured places which is guarded day and night by the military personnel which means it is sure to keep the public out from the scene.
With all these features of GoMentum Station, some of the well known brands such as Mercedez-Benz, Honda and Acura have known to show their interest in testing their individual autonomous cars. It seems Honda was the first one to begin testing at the facility and it had signed a contract of $250,000 with the GoMentum Station. Apple now seems to be following the footsteps of Honda.
As per the documents obtained by The Guardian, Frank Fearon, Apple engineer wrote to the facility stating: “We are hoping to see a presentation on the … testing grounds with a layout, photos, and a description of how the various areas of the grounds could be used.” The documents also mention that Fearon had also inquired about the availability of the testing space.
The correspondence further indicates that Fearon also wanted to know how Apple would coordinate with other car manufacturing firms with respect to the timings and availability of the space.
GoMentum Station is owned by Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the executive director of this public transit agency, Randy Iwasaki, told Mark Harris at The Guardian : “We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Apple.”
He added: “We can’t tell you anything other than they’ve come in and they’re interested.”
The much rumored and secret autonomous car project of Apple has been code named ‘Project Titan’. The documents obtained by The Guardian further confirms the existence and involvement of Apple in the autonomous car project which has been listed by Harris as follows:
“[Apple CEO Tim] Cook has met with Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne and may have toured BMW’s i3 electric car assembly line in Germany last year. The company has also been recruiting automotive experts from Silicon Valley and beyond, hiring engineers from Tesla Motors and Mercedes-Benz, as well as power experts from electric car battery maker A123 Systems.”
As per The Guardian’s report it all looks to be a successful project and public can expect Apple’s autonomous car soon as per the evidences which they have quoted.
Chris Zeigler at The Verge reported the other side of the coin which contradicted The Guardian’s report.
According to Ziegler, Project Titan seems to be a quite far as of now. He pointed out at certain facts which indicated that The Guardian’s statement which said “Project Titan is further along than many suspected” might not be completely true.
In his report, Ziegler said that Bloomberg had reported, in the month of February this year, that Apple self driving car could hit production by 2020.
The report also mentioned that usually for any auto manufacturer, it would at least take around five to seven years to actually develop a car. It also mentioned that Tesla is planning to bring its electric car into market by 2017 whereas BMW has already made a statement that it would take around five years to actually get the designs and all the planning to bring the autonomous car technology into reality.
Ziegler says: “For them, the entire story arc takes five years – from requirements-gathering to production – and that’s for an experienced automaker with all the key employees already in place and many decades of understanding on how to actually make a road-going vehicle.”
The field of car manufacturing is a totally new venture for Apple and hence it has to start everything from scrape.
Ziegler also believes that there could be one more possibility here, that Apple is not actually planning to build its own self driving car now and instead would be working on developing some technology such as sensors and advanced user interfaces which can work inside the self driving car that has been manufactured by some other company, pretty similar to what Google did prior to manufacturing its own car. That means Apple just wants to develop newer advanced technology and platforms that can enrich the UI of the self driven cars, while some expert in the field would concentrate on building the autonomous cars.
Autonomous driving system is still a controversial topic and hence the manufacturers of autonomous cars need to prepare themselves for opposition from various bureaucracies, not only to get the approval for autonomous driving systems but also to launch the car in market for domestic sale. For Apple there would be one more testing phase and that is to get the FCC approval.
So the question which still hovers is will it be an iCar or some exceptional technology within the self driven cars? In any case, we need to wait patiently and watch what surprises has Apple stored in for its fans.