Yesterday, Motor Trend took the automotive industry by surprise when it Tweeted an enigmatic picture of what looked like an Apple car prototype, accompanied by the caption “full story tomorrow.” Had one of the nation’s longest-running car magazines sent an intrepid staffer to infiltrate Apple and discreetly photograph a prototype? Not quite.
Motor Trend hasn’t shot a picture of an Apple car prototype. It hasn’t figured out what SixtyEight Research is up to in Sunnyvale, California, and it hasn’t obtained confirmation that Project Titan is indeed developing a car. The magazine merely sat down with automotive and industrial designers at the ArtCenter College of Design’s Hillside Campus in California to gather insight on what an “iCar” could look like.
The general consensus is that, if it will indeed exist one day, the Apple car will provide a unique experience for the driver and for the passengers. “The core experience of an Apple vehicle is that it’s as easy to use as possible,” summed up Garrett DeBry, a designer at Radio Flyer. Simply put, the iCar will defy the status quo by being more practical, easier to use (especially in big cities), and nicer to look at than any model on the market today.
The emphasis on functionality means that Apple’s car most likely won’t be a coupe or a convertible, and we doubt that the Cupertino-based firm wants take on the Big 3 with a pickup. Akash Chudasama, a recent grad student with a degree in aerospace engineering, believes the iCar will take the form of a sleek, van-like model that will offer space for at least four passengers and their gear. The iCar’s laminated glass will be replaced by hard-coated polycarbonates, and it will stand out thanks to a simple, honest design with fewer body gaps than a standard car. “Those haunches and big wheels are old memes we use just because people think they’re valuable,” adds Tim Huntzinger, a professor in graduate transportation systems and design who has previously worked for Fisker.
The group theorizes that the iCar will be designed with car-sharing programs in mind, but motorists will be able to buy it if they want to. It will be electric, and it will certainly feature some degree of autonomy to let the driver get work done on-the-go. Full Siri integration and an augmented reality windshield seem like givens, too.
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There is, of course, a catch. The designers interviewed by Motor Trend paint a realistic picture of what the rumored Apple car could look like if it’s designed on a blank sheet of paper, but their comments remain purely speculative. Earlier rumors claim that the Apple car will be based on the all-electric BMW i3, and some so-called insiders have even gone as far as saying that the model will be built by a contract manufacturer like Austria’s Magna Steyr.
The bottom line is that the Apple car is just as hyped-up as the iPhone. The company’s secrecy is paying off, and we’re no closer to finding out whether Cupertino will join the auto show circuit with an iCar, let alone what it will look like, when it will go on sale, or whether it’ll be able to autonomously drive you to the nearest Starbucks.