Apple has been hiring a number of automotive experts to work in a secret research lab, The Financial Times reports. Citing several “people familiar with the company,” the report suggests that Apple has ambitions that go “beyond the dashboard.” Headed up by experienced managers from the company’s iPhone unit, a large group of Apple employees have reportedly been reassigned to research automotive products at a confidential location located outside of the company’s main Cupertino campus that was setup late last year. Jony Ive’s design team has also allegedly been holding regular meetings with senior automotive executives and engineers, and recent recruits to Apple’s new team include the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley R&D unit. Previous speculation has been that Apple may have simply been working on an extension of its CarPlay system, however the recent spate of new hires and discussions suggest larger ambitions.
A separate report earlier this week in The Mac Observer made claims that Apple is going into the car business, with information allegedly coming from an Apple employee who is with a group working on something intended to “give Tesla a run for its money.” The report noted that Apple is specifically poaching talent from Tesla with expertise directly suited to car design and manufacturing, and states that a number of top executives in Silicon Valley are “considering it a given” that Apple is in fact working on creating a car. Another recent report linked Apple to a “mysterious van” spotted in the San Francisco Bay Area.
These reports often note that like other most other major Silicon Valley technology companies, Apple frequently pursues avenues of research and projects that never move beyond the R&D phase, and of all companies, Apple certainly has the revenue and cash reserves to do so. If the company is headed in this direction, it is ultimately unclear whether this could be a skunkworks project similar to Google’s self-driving cars, or whether Apple actually has specific plans to move forward into manufacturing and marketing a car.