The buzz around the Apple car is back again. EV startup company Canoo recently announced that it could run out of cash in the next year without investment. This led to speculation, initiated by Bloomberg, that Apple could be interested in buying the 5-year-old company.
Apple’s car team currently includes some former Canoo engineers and, more importantly, Ulrich Kranz, Canoo’s former CEO. He is now one of the top execs on the Apple car project. The two companies also spoke in 2020 about several topics, including possible investment or acquisition.
Apple has decided to design a fully automated self-driving vehicle, unlike the current iterations of self-driving cars that use partial automation, like Tesla and GM’s self-driving vehicles and current vehicles that feature automated valet parking (which still have a long way to go before they can replace an actual valet service.)
Canoo developed an underlying platform that can be used in different types of vehicles, like their delivery vehicles and pickup trucks. However, Apple’s interest will more likely be in the design of Canoo’s Lifestyle Vehicle, scheduled for launch at the end of 2022, than it would be in their tech. The Lifestyle Vehicle is a car that looks like a minivan and has limousine-like rear seating, and apparently has similar designs to those Apple has developed.
Apple may also be interested in Canoo’s engineering talent as they’ve been actively recruiting key hires from auto manufacturers Ford, Rivian, Tesla, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Waymo and others. Canoo’s team includes experts in car interiors, exteriors, software, automotive manufacturing, drivetrains, battery technology and other vehicle components.
Apple’s goal is to release a fully-automated self-driving vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals by the end of this decade. They filed a patent application on May 3, 2022, that describes a vehicle with no windows. The passengers would, instead, be wearing VR headsets that could display video footage from cameras mounted around the vehicle’s exterior. And since it’s Apple, the VR headsets could also be used to watch movies, read books and consume all types of media with the use of image stabilization technology.
It’s also expected that the Apple car will be fully electric, which will require a substantial battery and possibly two electric motors. And while current AV manufacturers envision fully automated fleets of cars that operate under a ride-share model, it would not be off-brand for Apple’s self-driving car to be a personal vehicle.
In Ontario, automated vehicles (AVs) are already being used in farming, mining and construction logistics. The Government of Ontario’s Cooperative Truck Platooning Pilot Program is well underway with its aim of moving goods and traffic more efficiently while using less fuel. The province also allowed the testing of SAE Level 4 and 5 vehicles on Ontario roads without a driver (with conditions) in 2019. Level 4vehicles can drive themselves and do not require a human operator in certain situations, while level 5 vehicles are fully autonomous.