First Apple car reportedly designed to skip the driver

More evidence has emerged that goes toward corroborating reports Hyundai Motor Group and Apple [NASDAQ: AAPL] are planning to jointly develop an electric vehicle, possibly one with self-driving capability.

Citing multiple sources familiar with the matter, CNBC reported on Wednesday that Apple is close to finalizing an agreement with Hyundai Motor Group to have a self-driving EV assembled at the Korean automaker’s Kia plant in West Point, Georgia.

According to the sources, the vehicle will be designed to be driverless and used for “last mile” trips, suggesting it will be some sort of autonomous shuttle or delivery van. This ties in with a report from 2018 that claimed Apple had looked at fitting Volkswagen Transporter vans with a self-driving system to create an autonomous shuttle service to transport employees between its two Silicon Valley campuses.

The latest news comes just weeks after Hyundai Motor Group confirmed it was in talks with Apple in response to reports out of Korea that the two companies were collaborating on a self-driving EV to be built at a plant in the United States starting around 2024. According to CNBC‘s sources, the 2024 deadline is still the target though it could end up being pushed back.

We also heard rumors this week that Apple had hired a Porsche chassis engineer for the project.

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Citing anonymous executives at Hyundai Motor Group, Reuters reported last week the Korean automaker is unsure whether a tie-up with Apple is a good idea. Apparently Hyundai Motor Group is concerned that its image may be tarnished if it is perceived as simply a contract manufacturer, like Taiwan’s Foxconn which manufactures the iPhone for Apple.

Another source told Reuters that Apple prefers to source key components for the car, including frames, bodies and powertrains, from a variety of suppliers and then have Hyundai Motor Group complete the final assembly. This might be too much for Hyundai Motor Group which traditionally sources key components in-house.

But the story doesn’t end there. Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities with contacts from suppliers to Apple based in Asia, said in a recent investor note obtained by Mac Rumors that he believes Apple is looking to use Hyundai Motor Group’s E-GMP modular EV platform and would likely only be able to deliver the car by 2025 at the earliest. The E-GMP platform will make its debut in the Hyundai Ioniq 5 compact crossover SUV due for a reveal in February, and will also be used for vehicles from Kia and Genesis.

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Kuo also said in his investor note that Apple was working with General Motors and PSA Group (now Stellantis) in addition to Hyundai Motor Group, but didn’t provide further details.

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