Apple’s widely rumored car project has reportedly hit a major speed bump. Citing unnamed industry sources, the German business paper Handelsblatt reported yesterday (Apr. 20) that talks between the tech giant and German auto-makers BMW and Daimler about working on an Apple car have broken down amid data-privacy concerns and fears that Apple would dominate the relationship.
Apple hasn’t responded to a request for comment, and the company hasn’t publicly confirmed the existence of a car project, although chief executive Tim Cook has said that he expects “massive change” in the car industry. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the car project is known as “Project Titan,” and that it has gained “committed project” status within the company, with major features to be completed by 2019.
The Cupertino, California, company was in talks with the German automakers to work on a battery-powered, “highly networked” vehicle loaded with cameras and sensors that would generate reams of data to Apple’s iCloud platform, according to Handelsblatt. Apple’s idea was to create a range of new location-based services with the data.
But, the paper reports, the German companies deemed Apple’s plans to be too intrusive to customer privacy. They wanted to offer more data privacy, and believed customers would be put off if a US tech company handled their data. Apple is fighting the US Federal Bureau of Investigation over requests to bypass security mechanisms on iPhones.
The auto companies also feared losing control of the project to Apple and being relegated to “junior partners,” according to Handelsblatt. BMW has its own electric cars, the i8 and i3. Daimler is working on a range of Mercedes-Benz electric cars.
The rebuff is a blow to Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who approached BMW first, and then Daimler, and who had the two firms at the top of his list, Handelsblatt reported. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a fan of German automotive design, and he famously drove a Mercedes-Benz performance coupe without license plates.
Apple probably wouldn’t go it alone on any car project, but it is bound run into the concerns that reportedly sunk the deal with BMW and Daimler, especially if it hopes to work with premier brands. Apple is now reportedly turning its attention to the Canadian auto supplier Magna International, which has a contract manufacturing plant in Austria. It has long assembled Minis for BMW there, although that arrangement is due to end this year. A Magna spokesperson said the firm didn’t comment on rumors or speculation.
The tech giant is also rumored to be meeting other European suppliers—Bosch, Continental, and Osram—to discuss key technologies like lightweight manufacturing, sensors, cameras, and interior fittings, Handelsblatt reported.
A key engineer at Tesla and alum of Aston Martin, Chris Porritt, has reportedly been hired at Apple recently to work on “special projects.” It’s thought that Porritt will replace the rumored previous head of Project Titan, Steve Zadesky, who is leaving Apple. Another German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has reported that Apple has a team of engineers doing research and development on the car project in Berlin.