Apple is heavily rumored to be working on an autonomous electric vehicle touted as the "Apple Car." However, consumers may not see it in showrooms soon as the company recently hinted that the project will not be publicly revealed for quite some time.
Speaking in Apple's annual shareholders meeting on Friday, CEO Tim Cook had this to say about the Apple Car speculation, via Business Insider: "Do you remember when you were a kid, and Christmas Eve, it was so exciting, you weren't sure what was going to be downstairs? Well, it's going to be Christmas Eve for a while."
The executive's comments apparently do not confirm nor deny that anything about the existence of the Apple Car, known internally as "Project Titan." Nonetheless, the tech giant's automotive ambitions have been an "open secret" in Silicon Valley, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Project Titan may have as many as 600 employees, many of them are engineers who came from Tesla, GM, Ford, GM, A123 Systems, Nvidia, and even Samsung, MacRumors.com reports.
Other supposed evidences mentioned by the tech blog that is fueling rumors about the company's interest in the car industry includes its discussions with a secure Bay Area testing facility for connected and autonomous vehicles, as well as its meeting with the California DMV last year to review self-driving vehicle regulations. Apple is reportedly targeting a 2019 or 2020 production date for the Apple Car.
In a recent interview with Adam Lashinsky of Fortune.com, Cook did not address Project Titan rumors directly, but said "we don't have to spend large amounts to explore." According to him, the company becomes "committed" to a project once it begins spending serious money on tooling and other processes. "The great thing about being here is we're curious people. We explore technologies, and we explore products. And we're always thinking about ways that Apple can make great products that people love, that help them in some way," he added.
Apple's rumored vehicle project has reportedly faced some hurdles over the recent weeks. Project leader Steve Zadesky informed colleagues in January that he would be leaving the company for personal reasons. A few days later, it was reported that the Apple Car team is on a hiring freeze as top-level managers are unhappy with the progress being made on the vehicle's development.
Aside from the Apple Car, other topics tackled during the company's shareholders meeting included employee diversity and its ongoing legal battle with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As such, even if Apple is working on an autonomous vehicle, it still has more immediate matters to attend to as its representatives are slated to appear before a congressional hearing next week over the ongoing encryption debate with the FBI.