Apple Reportedly Plans Electric Car for 2019, But Not Driverless

Apple has reportedly accelerated its plans for an electric car, pushing a target date up to 2019. Citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal said that Apple has given its car project a "committed" designation internally, but that it isn't planning to have a self-driving car at launch.

Other tidbits from the report include managers for the car project, code-named Titan, have been cleared to triple the number of employees from 600 to more than 1,800. This differs from earlier reports from The Journal that claimed Apple already had as many as 1,000 people on the project.

The Wall Street Journal also put a name on a top manager for the project, one DJ Novotney. He was reportedly one of the first employees on the team, has a record for shipping projects, and is Vice President of Program Management.

While the "ship date" has reportedly been set for 2019, the newspaper's sources said that many on the team have doubts about whether they can hit it. That's roughly four years from now (depending on the specific date within 2019), which is next to nothing for developing a product as complex as an automobile, especially considering the number of state and federal regulatory hurdles it will face once it's "done."

Apple Car Artist Rendition

Apple Car Artist Rendition

Apple's car is the least kept secret project the company has had for years. While most of Apple's physical products leak in the months before they ship—and some leak long before they go to manufacturing—Apple Car has been known about for months even though it was merely being investigated internally. TMO confirmed the existence of the project in February.

Late last week The Guardian reported that Apple met with officials at the California Department of Motor Vehicles in September to discuss regulatory issues for driverless cars. In August, that same newspaper reported that Apple met with officials at GoMentum Station, a private testing facility for autonomous vehicles.

The Journal's report on Monday said that driverless cars were still in the long-term game plan for Apple Car, but that Apple didn't intend to enter the market with such a device. Instead it would focus on a driver-centric vehicle while it continues to develop the technology needed for self-driving cars.

If this report is accurate, shifting Titan to a "committed" designation is a sign that Apple is intent on bringing this product to market. Apple's track record is of saying "No" to most products, but once they reach a certain stage of development, those products almost always come to market. I would have thought there was a lot of time to go before Apple crossed that line with Titan, but a "committed" status says to me Apple's leadership truly wants to enter the car market.