The WSJ said the company has decided to triple the 600-strong team on the project with a view to shipping the product (that is, having its engineers agree on key elements of the design) by 2019.
The paper cited people familiar with the matter as saying Apple isn’t yet looking to develop a car completely capable of functioning without a driver, the way Google Inc. (GOOG) is doing. That remains in the company’s long-term plans, however.
The company has already expressed interest in scheduling time at the GoMentum Staition testing facility for autonomous and connected vehicles east of San Francisco, the paper said.
One element still to be nailed down is responsibility for manufacturing. The Cupertino-based company has generally outsourced assembly of products such as iPhones and iPads to partners like Taiwan-based Foxconn, that goes against the grain in the auto industry.
Apple is some way behind the established giants of the auto industry in wanting to bring an electric vehicle to market, but the prospect of low oil prices for the next few years may mean that that gap isn’t as much of a handicap as it would otherwise be, as consumers delay switching to EVs that are still considerably more expensive than conventional cars.