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Apple’s Autonomous Car Postponed Until 2028

POR: Amanda Walter
Woman experiences riding in an autonomous self driving car

Apple is confronting delays that have pushed its secretive self-driving electric car launch to 2028 at the earliest, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The postponement highlights Apple’s mounting struggles in developing visionary autonomous technology over nearly a decade of work on Project Titan.

Once holding ambitions to release a futuristic driverless vehicle by 2025, the iPhone maker has continually tempered expectations. The latest decision to downgrade to more basic self-driving features reinforces persistent challenges in perfecting safe, fully autonomous systems. The same hurdles are tripping up Elon Musk’s Tesla, General Motors, BMW, Microsoft, and others.

Challenges Faced by Apple

Apple engineers kickstarted Project Titan in 2014, aiming to reinvent the automobile around self-driving capability and electrification. Early visions centered on designing a Level 5 autonomous vehicle, removing the need for a steering wheel or pedals by the mid-2020s.

Level 5 represents full self-driving automation that can navigate roads or conditions without human oversight. But nearly ten years later, Apple has yet to reach a final prototype phase as it works through hardware and software challenges like others in the industry.

The consumer electronics giant has channeled hundreds of millions in annual R&D spending into the Apple Car project. Still, the endeavor faces uncertainty, defined by constant strategy adjustments, management changes, layoffs, competitive pressures, and repeated delays beyond initial timelines.

In late 2022, Apple targeted a 2026 vehicle release with Level 4 self-driving capabilities, allowing for autonomous features only in limited circumstances. However, pressure from Apple’s board of directors has prompted a further downgrade to a Level 2+ system comparable to Tesla’s existing Autopilot advanced driver assistance features. Mercedes-Benz is the first automaker to offer a Level 3 for sale in the U.S.

Apple’s fallback to a lower autonomy level aims to finally deliver a testable car prototype and cement a 2028 vehicle release at the earliest. However, the move marks a dramatic departure from the initial vision of developing cutting-edge automation that could handle all environments without assistance.

FYI: Levels of Driving Automation

SAE International has established an auto industry standard to evaluate and compare self-driving capabilities across different automated driving systems. Here’s an overview of these benchmarks.

Level 0: No automation A human driver controls everything.
Level 1: Basic driver assistance The vehicle has automated features to assist a human driver in controlling steering, acceleration, or braking (such as adaptive cruise control).
Level 2: Partial automation The vehicle can automatically control steering and acceleration/braking under certain conditions. But a human must still pay full attention.
Level 3: Conditional automation Vehicle automation handles most driving, but a human driver must be ready to intervene if needed.
Level 4: High automation The vehicle performs all driving tasks even if a human does not respond to intervention requests (in limited conditions).
Level 5: Full automation Vehicle automation operates under all conditions. No human oversight is needed.

A review of the different autonomy levels shows that Apple’s new target of a Level 2+ system is far from the company’s original Level 5 intentions.

Impact on the Self-Driving Car Industry

Apple’s challenges reflect those affecting even the most established autonomous vehicle companies. Apple’s delays show the difficulties in making self-driving cars ready for consumers, joining other companies also falling short on their promises around autonomous vehicles.

Cruise, the California-based self-driving subsidiary of General Motors, gained infamy last year when one of its driverless test vehicles caused an accident with a pedestrian in San Francisco. The incident led to a full recall of its Robotaxi fleet, federal investigations, and the departure of Cruise’s founders. Tech giant Google, through its Waymo startup, is also facing speed bumps with its self-driving vehicles.

The attention spotlights the sizable gap between the safety claims and actual capabilities holding back autonomous vehicle rollouts. The big automakers are still struggling to make self-driving cars as capable as human drivers at seeing and understanding the road. This shows that technology still has a long way to go.

Tesla’s dubiously named Full Self-Driving (FSD) software is another example. The system spurs criticism for implying capabilities beyond needing an alert and ready driver. The federal government, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Justice Department, is investigating the system for not living up to expectations. In December, Tesla, spurred by NHTSA, announced a recall of over three million Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y electric vehicles. The problem stems from insufficient driver alertness requirements and inadequate vehicle controls when the Level 2 system is used.

There are other casualties. In 2022, Vado y Volkswagen shuttered their Argo joint venture after billions in investments failed to produce a viable autonomous driving system.

These collective half-starts and false starts demonstrate that current semi-autonomous systems do not equal full autonomy. The bar may be even higher given Apple’s historical track record of refining consumer technology into mainstream must-haves.

The Future of Automotive Technology

Even with these well-publicized delays and stumbling blocks, car companies still believe self-driving cars will someday revolutionize transportation. They say it’s only a matter of time before autonomous vehicles become commonplace if they can get the technology right.

Forecasts point to expanding adoption of current ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) technology like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, features available or standard on more and more new cars. Further improvements with these driver aids set the stage for improved capabilities and greater consumer acceptance, essential elements if the public is going to embrace the idea of driverless cars on every street.

While car companies re-adjust timelines for full autonomy, expanding today’s driver assistance tech promises increased safety and convenience in the interim. Super Cruise, General Motors’ highly regarded Level 2 system, is becoming available on more vehicles, especially those with modest price tags like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the upcoming Chevrolet Equinox EV. The same applies to Ford’s Blue Cruise technology,

The Relevance of Extended Warranties

Extended car warranties (also known as contratos de servicio de vehículos or auto protection plans) have gained popularity as automobiles have become more costly to fix. The days of DIY repairs have mostly been cast aside because modern cars are as much rolling computers as mechanical contraptions.

Today’s autos have dozens of electronic systems that require skilled technicians and advanced machinery for repairs. Adding cameras, sensors, and other ADAS-related gear further complicates matters. This complexity translates into expensive service visits when the factory warranty no longer applies.

In response, leading extended warranty providers like Endurance now offer tailored plans to protect owners against failed electronic components. Driving a vehicle with the latest safety and convenience technology doesn’t have to be accompanied by worries of expensive repair bills.

Today’s Warranty Protection That’s Ready for Tomorrow

Apple’s delayed release of a self-driving car reinforces that the automotive industry faces challenges with products so dependent on technology. We’ve also seen that well-established players face similar hurdles in this march toward autonomous vehicles. While related problems for consumers may seem far off, countless cars on the road today with ADAS features are vulnerable to problems. Critically, many of these vehicles don’t have factory warranty protection.

With a keen eye on future automotive technology, Endurance is ready with extended warranty options, accurately called vehicle service contracts, that provide peace of mind and protection against breakdowns and surprise repair bills. Importantly, Endurance coverage lets you choose any ASE Certified technician or repair shop, ensuring you can find the skilled help necessary for complex repairs.

Learn about your Endurance Warranty options by requesting a FREE quote or visiting our tienda en línea. For personalized help, call (800) 253-8203 to speak with an Endurance advisor.

El Blog Endurance is another helpful resource. Read insightful articles about car care, maintenance tips, vehicle reviews, and more.

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