Apple and Hyundai could sign deal on driverless EVs within weeks

Apple Inc and Hyundai Motor Company are preparing to close a partnership deal to design autonomous electric cars by March, according to Korea IT News.

 Last week, Hyundai released a statement revealing that it was in early talks with Apple. This announcement came after South Korea’s Economic Daily reported that the two companies were aiming to launch an autonomous EV in 2027, a revelation that caused Hyundai shares to skyrocket by 20 per cent.

According to Korea IT News, the companies aim to sign off the deal by March 2021 with a view to beginning production in the US by around 2024. It said that they planned to manufacture the cars at Kia Motors’ existing facility in Georgia (Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai) or alternatively invest in building a new facility in the US which would assemble 100,000 vehicles in 2024. This would eventually ramp up to full capacity of around 400,000 vehicles.

The report also said that the companies plan to release a “beta” version of their autonomous vehicles as early as 2022.

However, an updated version of the report removed several key details: the possible manufacturing locations, the target capacity, and the timeframe for signing the agreement and launching the beta version of any Apple car.

The companies have declined to comment on the report’s claims, although Hyundai said that it has received requests for potential cooperation on developing autonomous electric cars. In a previous statement, it said that: “Apple and Hyundai are in discussion, but as it is early stage, nothing has been decided.”

According to a Reuters report from December, Apple is accelerating its work on Lidar-based autonomous EV technology (Project Titan) and aims to produce a passenger vehicle which could incorporate its own proprietary cutting-edge battery technology by as early as 2024. This technology would allow for an extended range and improved safety, as well as avoiding the use of cobalt. The company could look for a traditional automotive manufacturing partner to help make the vehicle.

Apple’s vision for the car, according to Reuters source, would be to transform EV battery technology in a similar way to how the iPhone transformed mobile phones.

Reports have suggested that Apple has been working on Project Titan since 2014.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that Project Titan remains at an early stage and is realistically five years from launching. This would put a lot of pressure on Apple to catch up with rivals in autonomous driving and EV technology, particularly those already established in the automotive sector.