The persistent rumours about Apple building some kind of car have felt at times like they were powered purely by Apple fans desperate for something new and exciting. So far we’ve only had theories and mock designs, rather than any actual evidence something was happening.
But now we have something firm: The Guardian newspaper has intercepted correspondence between Apple engineer Frank Fearon and officials from a car testing facility GoMentum Station.
“We would … like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it],” the newspaper quotes Fearon as writing. The note was sent in May this year.
GoMentum Station is in Concord, a city a good 30 minutes’ drive north west from San Francisco. Formerly a US military naval weapons station, it’s a highly secure facility specifically set up to test driverless car technology with 20 miles or so of road which re-creates some real-world scenarios. This video from Honda gives you a good insight into the industrial technological facility.
Apple is believed to be working on its automotive project at a facility in Sunnyvale, California. Sources revealed that “Project Titan” development is underway inside a top-secret building codenamed “SG5”.
Apple is believed to be hiding its offices under the guise of a shell corporation, SixtyEight Research, that purports to be a market research company. Documents uncovered by AppleInsider revealed company identified as “SixtyEight LLC” paid to import a 1957 Fiat Multipla 600, and Apple chief designer, British-born Jony Ive, is known to have an affinity for classic Fiats.
So what does the latest information reveal about Apples’ vehicular ambitions? Not much, but it does at least offer, for the first time, some concrete evidence that plans are in motion. Until now, we had only known that Apple hired a couple of car industry experts into its ranks, apparently working on something called “Project Titan” although this has never been confirmed by Apple.
So the letters from Fearon – himself an autonomous vehicle expert – to GoMentum Station at least lends some credibility to the rumours. “We are hoping to see a presentation on the … testing grounds with a layout, photos, and a description of how the various areas of the grounds could be used” the letter reads.
GoMentum are, naturally, under a strict non-disclosure agreement about the project, but they did confirm to the Guardian that Apple are “interested”. And why wouldn’t they be? Apples’ vice-president Jeff Williams said earlier in the year that the car is the “ultimate mobile device”, a space you would assume Apple would be desperate to be in.
The question is the extent of what they are building. Are they, as some have said, intending on creating an entire Apple-made car? Or are they perhaps content with providing sophisticated software for already-established car makers to use in their vehicles?
Car makers are understandably keeping a close eye on things. Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne told the BBC earlier this year that Apples’ pursuit of the car market would be highly disruptive. Whatever the approach, it’s safe to say we won’t find out much more until Apple is absolutely ready. GoMentum, in keeping with its military roots, has armed guards stationed at the facility 24 hours a day.