What is Apple's secret car project, code-named Titan?

Apple's project Titan has scooped up hundreds of car engineers and autonomous-vehicle experts, according to reports.

Andy Wong/AP/File
A man walks into an Apple store in Beijing. Apple has reclaimed its title as the most valuable brand in the world, according to a new report from BrandZ.

Apple doesn't invent new industries. It revolutionizes established ones. The company changed the way millions of people buy music, rewrote the rules for smart phones, cemented the look and feel of a tablet computer, and recently stormed the high-end watch market. Now, according to reports, Apple has its eye on the car industry.

The company has enjoyed a hiring frenzy over the past year, pulling in hundreds of engineers and automotive experts for a secret project code-named Titan.

Chrysler vice president Doug Betts left to join Apple this month, according to his LinkedIn profile and confirmed by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Betts declined to comment on what he will do for the Californian company, but he led automobile quality assurance for Fiat Chrysler.

Apple also brought in Paul Furgale, an expert in autonomous vehicles and machine vision from Switzerland. Mr. Furgale helped guide the Autonomous System Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and developed self-parking technology for the European Commission. He joined Apple earlier this year to work on an undisclosed project.

In May, Apple settled an employment lawsuit from A123, a high-tech battery company. A123 alleged that Apple poached much of its electric-vehicle battery team, including, most notably, the company's chief technology officer, Mujeeb Ijaz. After 16 years at Ford Motor Company working on electric-vehicle technology, Mr. Ijaz researched advanced lithium-ion batteries for A123 and Formula 1 Racing.

While there's nothing to say that these people are all working on the same project, several news outlets have reported that Apple's Titan program aims to develop an electric "minivan like vehicle" that can challenge Tesla Motors in the high-end car market. This might be the next big Apple product – or an experiment that never leaves the lab. After all, Apple has a history of intense iteration and $200 billion in cash reserves. The company can afford to tinker with projects until they are perfect, and scrap the projects that don't pan out. Previous news reports foresaw Apple trotting out television sets, jumbo-sized tablet computers, and phones with near-field communication chips. None of these anonymously-sourced visions have come true – at least not yet.

Elon Musk, for one, welcomes the competition. Tesla's chief executive officer told analysts in May that he hopes Apple will debut an electric vehicle, but, he noted, the company might not be fully committed yet. Over the previous 12 months, he said, Tesla had poached five times more Apple employees than Apple had hired away from Tesla. Of course, these are the early days. Bloomberg News reports that Apple won't wrap up Titan until 2020 at the earliest.

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