Apple's autonomous car still far from being without the wheel

Apple's self-driving car still far from being without the steering wheel

UPGRADE DAY

Apple's top-secret self-driving car project is still a long way off after eight years of big ambitions and changes in direction, according to an investigation by the specialist site The Information published on Monday. 

The iPhone maker, which did not immediately respond to a request from AFP, has never publicly admitted to working on the development of an autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel, despite various leaks in the press for several years.< /p>

According to The Information, which says it spoke to about 20 people who were part of the project, the technology giant has sinned in several areas, but above all the autonomy software, which is supposed to detect potential obstacles and adjust driving accordingly.

Unlike Tesla, which is testing and gradually adding autonomous functions to the software of its vehicles, or Waymo (Google) and Cruise, which have begun testing their robotaxis fleets with passengers, Apple intends to market already fully autonomous cars to consumers, a riskier bet financially and technically, notes the article.

He details how the project, dubbed Titan, suffered from overambition, such as trying to build a completely new car, and numerous departures of experienced executives, in particular due to lack of support from management.

< p>Above all, “engineers wasted valuable time staging demonstrations on specific routes using technology that works there, but almost nowhere else,” says the journalist.

Apple tests its prototypes with a backup driver in Los Angeles, San Diego and around Lake Tahoe.

But earlier this year, one of them nearly ran over a pedestrian at 25 km/h, and an internal investigation determined that the incident would have taken place without the last-minute intervention of the employee behind the wheel. , indicates the article.

The rare leaks in the press on a potential “Apple, Car” are closely followed in the world of tech where the Apple brand has carved out the reputation of produce sophisticated, high-performance, intuitive and innovative electronic devices.

But since the departure and death in 2011 of Steve Jobs, the emblematic co-founder of the Californian group, the company has not made a remarkable breakthrough beyond its connected watch, the Apple Watch, and its diversification into services.

With each new product presentation, the market therefore eagerly awaits an autonomous car or a virtual reality headset, also in the works.

According to The Information, a thousand people are currently working on the Titan project, which cost te more than $1 billion a year, of the $22 billion Apple spends on research and development.