A new report from CNBC that cites multiple unnamed sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans for its Apple Car says the vehicle will not be designed to operate with a driver. “These will be autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile,” said a CNBC source.
“The first Apple Cars will not be designed to have a driver,” said one source with knowledge of the current plan. “These will be autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile.” That could mean Apple cars, at least initially, could focus on package food delivery operations and firms incorporating robotaxis.
The report indicates the first Apple Cars to roll off of the assembly line could be used in food delivery or as robotaxis. Self-driving robotaxis are available in China, and robotaxis have been tested by firms in the United States.
The report follows a report from earlier this month that Apple is planning to invest 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion) in Kia Motors as a part of a planned Apple Car manufacturing partnership.
A deal could be signed as soon as February 17, as the duo are targeting a 2024 release timeframe for the Apple car, though it’s possible that timeline will be delayed as work on the Apple Car is still in the early stages. Apple and Kia have a target production rate of 100,000 vehicles per year when manufacturing goes into full swing.
The CNBC report suggests that the Apple Car will be manufactured at the Kia assembly plant in West Point, Georgia. However, no deal has yet been signed and either side could pull out of the deal, or Apple could also opt to work with a secondary assembly partner.
CNBC’s sources indicate Apple has decided on working with Hyundai-Kiam as the deal provides access to the expertise of an established automaker that has the capability to produce vehicles in North America. Hyundai-Kia is also willing to give Apple complete control over the Apple Car’s software and hardware. The new vehicle is expected to be fully branded as an Apple product, not as a Kia that uses Apple-created software.
Meanwhile, Hyundai-Kia benefits from the deal as it will give them resources to accelerate their own self-driving and electric vehicle plans.