The wait for an entirely autonomous car just got longer. Apple, which was earlier reported to debut a fully self-driving electric vehicle in 2025, has scaled back its plans and delayed the launch of the vehicle until 2026, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Furthermore, when the vehicle does roll out, it will not be entirely autonomous. This takes a bit of the buzz out of the high-profile breakthrough that Apple was planning to get to mark its foray into the automotive market.
The car was slated to be an entirely autonomous one – eliminating the human factor and doing away with the steering wheel and pedals, while its interiors would be designed around hands-off driving. However, such a vehicle continues to belong in the realm of science fiction, and Apple has had to accept the reality that its vision is not feasible with the current state and development of technology.
So, while the car will have guided driving features and support full autonomous capabilities on highways, it will not be able to operate entirely on its own when it comes to driving. It will sport a steering wheel, an accelerator, and a brake pedal. While the drivers will be able to work on other tasks as the car negotiates driving on a highway, they will have enough time to switch over to manual control should the situation warrant it. So, the human factor isn’t fully eliminated, for now.
The scaling down of the vehicle also warrants a drop in the suspected price of the self-driving car. While it was reported to cost over $120,000 originally, current reports put the new price of the vehicle to be under $100,000. Apple has not settled on a design for the car yet, which is still in its “pre-prototype” stage, and intends to finalize the design by next year. It looks to settle on the designs by the end of 2024 and conduct testing of the vehicle in 2025.
This is less ambitious than Apple’s original designs, and it is a shame that the wait for fully self-driving vehicles to become reality and hit the road just became longer. However, it is better to wait for a more realistic, properly planned and designed autonomous vehicle to hit the road, rather than rolling out a self-driving vehicle that will result in accidents and deaths of passengers alike (like Tesla has found out). Apple is mulling over an initial launch of the vehicle in North America, and over time, improving and expanding it to other regions of the world.
The development resulted in a small hit on Apple’s shares, which fell by 2.4% once Bloomberg reported the news. Apple’s shares are currently priced at $142.91.