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Apple has green-lit production of its secret electric car, authorizing leaders of so-called Titan project to hire 1,200 additional employees and commit to a ship date in 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said the decision to proceed came after Apple spent the past year studying the feasibility of an electric vehicle and meeting with government officials in California. Apple has been hiring employees with automotive backgrounds, particularly from Tesla Motors, and reassigned employees from across the company to work on the project.
Speculation that the car would be self-driving were heightened in May when Apple met with officials at a former Navy station outside San Francisco used to test autonomous vehicles. Although Apple has hired engineers with experience in autonomous vehicles, the initial version of the car would not be fully autonomous, the Journal reported.
Electric car sales represent an infinitesimal portion of the overall car market today, but tightening emission standards and the success of Tesla’s Model S, the best-selling electric in the U.S., have goaded car manufacturers into full-scale development of electrics. General Motors plans to introduce its $30,000 Bolt electric with a range of more than 200 miles next year.
At the International Motor Show in Frankfurt last week, Porsche and Mercedes announced that both are building long-range electric luxury vehicles, and Audi unveiled its etron Quattro concept electric SUV that would compete directly with Tesla’s Model X, which will be unveiled Monday evening at the company’s Hawthorne, Calif. design center.
Meanwhile, Faraday Future, a Gardena, Calif. startup with talent hired from Tesla, BMW and Lamborghini, has said it will launch a long-range electric car by 2017.
The clean-sheet design of Tesla’s Model S was a technological breakthrough that CEO Elon Musk famously shared with competitors by offering use of the company’s patents free of charge. With fully autonomous cars expected to arrive by 2020 and ever more connected cars becoming the norm, Apple’s tech expertise would suit it well in designing a car.
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