The era of the i.Car (Apple Car) could be dawning sooner than anybody thinks


Photo Courtesy: Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer

According to documents recently obtained by the Guardian, supply chain logistics could be in for its some exciting changes in the not too distant future as Project Titan, (the name given to the project for the development of Apple’s i.Car), appears to be further along the road than previously anticipated, with reports surfacing that the company is currently looking for locations in which to carry out road tests.

Test site selected for i.Car trials

This latest information about the Apple i.Car has been based on a public records act request whereby engineers from Apple have reportedly met with representatives from GoMentum Station, an ex-World War II base located in Concord, California, USA. This base has approximately 20 miles of paved roadways and city streets that would make an absolute perfect testing ground for the new autonomous vehicle.

The site is rather like the fabled area 51 and is closed off to members of the general public by a military presence.

Due to its superb security credentials this old San Francisco naval base has become the most sought-after spot for automobile and high-tech companies to put their autonomous vehicle creations through their paces in secret surroundings, far away from the prying eyes of the public the press.

Other companies involved in autonomous vehicle development

Other companies such as Google and Mercedes-Benz have decided to test their autonomous creations on the public road networks, but in doing so they have had to reveal more about the technical specifications of their vehicles that they would really like to have done.

If there’s one thing that Apple are good at doing, it’s keeping their new projects under wraps, which is why they have opted for the tight security of the GoMentum test facility. When the Guardian sent its bloodhounds to sniff out information about the situation, its owner, Randy Iwasaki, kept a tight lid on things. All he was prepared to say was that they had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Apple, but that they weren’t prepared to say anything other than Apple had visited the site and shown their interest.

We mustn’t get too far ahead of ourselves though. It’s one thing for Apple to put out feelers in terms of discussing the potential of hiring GoMentum’s facilities for potential road testing, and something else altogether to actually carry that road testing out. However, what does seem to be relatively certain is that Apple has set an irrevocable course to enter into the autonomous automobile business in the very near future. The ripples are bound to be felt within supply chain logistics.

Apple and GoMentum to discuss terms

The meeting between Apple and GoMentum took place in May earlier this year. According to correspondence seen by Guardian reporters in a public records act request, Frank Fearon one of Apple’s senior engineers, said that they would like to be able to get an idea of the timing and availability for the test area, and what they would need to do is to be able to coordinate with other parties who also may also be using the test space at the same time.

Apple currently has literally hundreds of engineers beavering away working on its autonomous automotive technology in offices in Sunnyvale, which is just 4 miles away from its main installation at Cupertino. There are no exact details of the Project Titan as yet; however, it does appear that Apple may well have on autonomous car which is almost on the brink of being launched for road testing.

Earlier on during the year, Apple’s program manager in charge of the autonomous vehicle project, Mr. Jack Hall, wrote to Frank Fearon to put back the planned facility tour. At that time he reportedly said that Apple would still like to arrange the meeting with GoMentum in order to keep everything on the move and to tie in with GoMentum’s busy test schedule program.

Apple state their intent

It’s no coincidence that Apple are rumored to be forging ahead with Project Titan. It coincides with other companies such as Google, Uber, and other high-tech organizations pouring pot-loads of cash into autonomous vehicle designs. Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president, has called Apple’s i.Car the ultimate mobile device and has said that Apple are intent on exploring different markets in which they believe they can make a huge difference.

It is rumored that Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has convened a number of meetings with various car executives in recent weeks, and that Apple are in the process of poaching automotive experts from recognized companies including the likes of the chief of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley research establishment.

Mr. Cook has also recently met with Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat-Chrysler boss, and is also rumored to have visited BMW’s i3 electric car plant just last year. In addition, Apple have been combing Silicon Valley and recruiting automotive specialists from the likes of Tesla motors and Mercedes-Benz. They have also approached power specialists from A123, the electric car battery manufacturer.

Honda the first autonomous car manufacturer to commit to GoMentum Station

Although Google and other car manufacturers have visited GoMentum Station to discuss the potential road testing of autonomous cars there, to date only Honda, the Japanese car manufacturer, has actually put together a memorandum of understanding and parted with $250,000 to secure the facility for the start of testing. Apparently Honda will be using a self drive conversion of the RLX saloon vehicle in order to speed up the development of its autonomous car designs in secrecy

It is said that when engineers from Tesla motors attempted to tour the GoMentum Station site back in April that armed soldiers policing the base refused entry to their foreign-born workers and their manager who declined to offer his Social Security number, something which didn’t please Tesla too much at the time. However knowing Apple’s penchant for security, they should feel as snug as a bug in rug.

The impact on supply chain logistics

One thing is sure, and that is that autonomous vehicles will hit the roads of the world sometime in the near future, and when that happens it will have a significant impact on supply chain logistics. It could lower costs and prove to be an end to the driver shortage that has dogged the American logistics industry for so long now.

Will autonomous vehicles have the profound impact on supply chain logistics that many experts think they will, or will health and safety issues restrict and stifle their potential? We’d be pleased to hear your thoughts on the matter. Have your say at the feedback section below.

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