After days of rumors, the evidence is starting to mount that Apple is seriously considering building an electric car to take on Tesla. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the company has had a project code-named “Titan” in the works for the past year, with “several hundred” employees assigned to it.
The WSJ notes, of course, that “Apple may decide not to proceed with the car,” and adds that that the battery and electronic technologies developed in the project could be useful in other divisions of Apple. But it also cites insiders suggesting that the size of the team and some of the individuals working there “indicate that the company is serious.”
Apple executives have also reportedly met recently with contract auto manufacturers in Austria, specifically one from Canada’s Magna International.
Product design vice president Steve Zadesky—who has helmed iPod and iPhone design teams at Apple—is reportedly heading up the project. Zadesky formerly worked as an engineer for Ford Motors. Meanwhile, the WSJ points out that Apple has also hired another former auto executive: Johann Jungwirth, former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz R&D in North America.
The rumors began two weeks ago when CBS San Francisco reported on sightings of a mysterious van with an elaborate camera array on its roof driving around the Bay Area. The report confirmed that the vans were leased by Apple, and cited technology analyst Rob Enderle, who speculated that the vans might be part of an autonomous vehicle project akin to Google’s ongoing initiative.
At the time, it seemed equally possible that the vans were part of Apple’s efforts to enhance its disappointing iPhone Maps app, perhaps with its own version of Google’s Street View.
Then, just a few days ago, an alleged anonymous Apple employee emailed Business Insider to say that Tim Cook and company were working on a project that would “change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.” And only a few days before that, Bloomberg reported on an escalating hiring war between Tesla and Apple, in which each company was scrambling to poach engineers and employees from the other.
So far, Apple has neither confirmed nor denied the reports. If these rumors turn out to be true, hopefully Tim Cook will let us know by driving one through a wall and screeching to a halt on-stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this summer.
Lead image courtesy of Ferrari