Apple Car rumours snowball as Apple snaps up GPS company and makes unusual hires
Rumours around Apple’s involvement in the automotive industry just won’t die, and thanks to the recent acquisition of Coherent Navigation – alongside some rather damning court documents and potential new job roles – these rumours have had a resurgence over the weekend.
Apple’s acquisition of High Integrity GPS company Coherent Navigation was first noticed by MacRumors. While it was first thought to be little more than a rumour, the acquisition has been confirmed by a rather oblique statement from Apple – a statement that refuses to shed much light on its plans for this enhanced GPS technology.
It’s easy to think that Apple is just trying to improve its Maps application to help rival Google’s ever-growing navigational software. However, the GPS technology Apple has invested in would allow it to track devices rather closely – such a degree of accuracy isn’t needed just to map out an area. While you could translate that into tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracies, it’s more likely that Apple plans to use the technology for navigational purposes in its Apple Car project so it doesn’t have to rely on a third party to provide such functionality.
High Integrity GPS is a far cry from autonomous vehicles, but it lays the groundwork for future acquisitions and developments inside Apple to build upon the technology. Apple has already acquired many mapping companies in its drive to improve its own services, and combining that talent could be key to Apple’s future automotive plans.
But what about those damning court documents and those new jobs?
While the acquisition of a GPS company isn’t a big giveaway, the recently revealed court case documents show Apple’s intentions in automotive battery technology rather clearly.
The court documents, which were filed in March but only recently brought to light by Venture Beat, accuse Apple of poaching employees from battery-research company A123 Systems. The case itself has been closed by an out-of-court settlement, the details of which are still being pieced together.
The evidence seems to suggest that Apple is looking to build its own batteries for electric cars. Apple snatched up A123’s CTO Mujeeb Ijaz, a man who was making $294,000 per month. His main focus was to produce batteries for Formula 1 cars, the sort needed for a car’s KERS system – so very high-performance and able to charge quickly using kinetic energy.
A123 is also accusing Apple of poaching employees from Toshiba, LG, Samsung and Panasonic, all of whom are working in similar “if not identical” fields at Apple.
It’s possible that Apple is merely hiring the best battery experts in the world to help improve the life of its own products, but it’s certainly suspicious to hire a man with 16 years of experience exclusively in the automotive industry.
There’s also the small matter of Apple looking for a factory manager with previous automotive experience. According to Business Insider, Apple is expanding its Irish business with an investment into its Hollyhill, Cork factory. Only 18 months ago it received a €300 million investment, so to expand it again so soon shows Apple means business.
Put this with a job listing for its Cork office for a “Global Supplier Manager/Procurement Manager” who must have “previous experience in Automotive/Robotics/Aeronautic Industry”, and it’s not hard to believe Apple is beavering away on a car.
Only a few months ago, it looked far more likely that Apple was only interested in the software side of the automotive industry. But now it seems there’s mounting evidence that Apple is developing its own electric cars, possibly a business designed to rival that of Tesla’s.
While it may still seem far-fetched, especially the cost of building a car manufacturing plant from the ground up, Elon Musk certainly managed to do it – and Apple has much more money in the bank than he ever did.
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