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Apple Car was VW bus with Tesla batteries and Xbox controller as its $85,000 price was below costs

The Apple Car started as an electric minibus (image: Canoo)
The Apple Car started as an electric minibus (image: Canoo)
Notorious Apple Car project underwent multiple twist and turns over a decade, but its initial design reportedly resembled like a nostalgic Volkswagen hippie bus. After deciding not to buy Tesla, Apple wanted to use its batteries.

After a decade of trying, Apple is putting the kibosh on its autonomous electric car project that was gobbling a $1 billion annually. It reportedly took Apple some time to realize that complete Level 5 autonomy will remain a pipe dream and all that remains will be the low margins of the automotive business.

According to insiders from the team in Cupertino, one of the first Apple Car prototypes was actually a minibus of the nostalgic VW hippie type with glass doors and club seating like those vans from Canoo that Apple also wanted to acquire at one point. Apple really wanted it to be driverless, without pedals or steering wheels, much like Tesla's rumored Robotaxi.

Just like Elon Musk begrudgingly agreed that Tesla will have to release a futuristic but still mass market Model 2 with good ol' steering wheel before the Robotaxi, however, Apple also realized that the Level 5 autonomy it insisted on may never be attainable or see regulatory approval.

It, therefore, tried to settle on more achievable goals with the Apple Car project. CEO Tim Cook decided against buying Tesla, but Apple still probed Elon Musk's automaker about supplying it with batteries later on. It briefly entered and exited various partnerships, including one with Mercedes, over manufacturing or providing its vehicle software and autonomous driving technology.

Those didn't pan out as Apple only wanted to learn the nuts and bolts and was convinced it can produce the electric vehicle itself. At different points in the process, Apple engineers and designers added and removed features and options that turned out impractical. The Apple Car minibus, for instance, was to be sporadically driven with an Xbox-style controller, hanging touchscreens, or even via an iPhone app. At one point the team even installed mics to bring outside noise to the elaborate audio and infotainment system for some reason.

The manufacturing costs for these experiments ballooned to about $120,000 per vehicle produced, whereas the Apple Car price was going to start from $85,000. Since the subscription-based Level 5 autonomy turned out very hard to achieve, and Tim Cook is not one to sell things at a loss or with low margins to gain market share, Apple's CEO eventually decided to end the whole thing, and the letter for disbanding the Project Titan team was sent to employees there on February 26. 

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 03 > Apple Car was VW bus with Tesla batteries and Xbox controller as its $85,000 price was below costs
Daniel Zlatev, 2024-03- 7 (Update: 2024-03- 8)