Hyundai upsets Apple-cart over self-driving car talks

Korean car maker said to back down from an earlier statement that it was in talks with the iPhone maker over Apple car.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

January 8, 2021

3 Min Read
Hyundai upsets Apple-cart over self-driving car talks

It was reported in December that Apple has self-driving car technology firmly in its crosshairs and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own battery technology, according to Reuters.

Today, reports have emerged that South Korea-based Hyundai Motor Co. is in talks with the iPhone behemoth about an electric car and battery joint venture, apparently sending Hyundai shares sky high.

However, it also seems that Hyundai may have incurred the wrath of the famously secretive Apple by jumping the gun on announcing talks.

Figure 1: Down in flames: Hyundai appears to have displeased the Apple overlords by talking about a potential tie-up. (Source: Olivier Miche on Unsplash.) Down in flames: Hyundai appears to have displeased the Apple overlords by talking about a potential tie-up.
(Source: Olivier Miche on Unsplash.)

According to Bloomberg, Hyundai revised its first statement in a matter of hours, removing any reference to Apple and saying only that it had been contacted by potential partners for the development of autonomous electric vehicles.

The story so far...

According to the December report from Reuters, Apple's automotive gamble under Project Titan has started to gain traction after years of uncertainty about the project's future.

Unidentified sources told the news agency that Apple is aiming to build a vehicle for consumers, and has come up with a new battery design that could reduce costs and increase range.

At the time, sources also said that Apple would likely rely on a manufacturing partner to build the vehicles.

Enter Hyundai, which some analysts suggest could be an ideal partner to help realize Apple's car dreams. Indeed, the two companies already work together on CarPlay, Apple's software for connecting iPhones to vehicles.

Kevin Yoo, an analyst at eBEST Investment & Securities, told Reuters that Apple "could see Hyundai as an ideal partner, because when it comes to legacy US automakers, they all have strong unions, which Apple would like to avoid. Moreover, their [legacy US automakers] labor cost is much higher than that of Hyundai, which often plays a big role when it comes to car production."

Although Hyundai has now backtracked from its initial statement, it seems likely that the Korean carmaker has been closely involved in talks.

According to Bloomberg, Apple is in no hurry to decide on its future car partners.

Driving nowhere?

The reports come amid growing skepticism in some quarters that self-driving cars will ever be a viable option.

Want to know more about AI and automation? Check out our dedicated AI and automation channel here on Light Reading.

John Krafcik, chief executive of Google's sister company Waymo, told the Financial Times [paywall] that the technology remains out of reach.

"It's an extraordinary grind ... a bigger challenge than launching a rocket and putting it in orbit around the Earth," he said.

Last month, Uber sold its self-driving car unit to Amazon-backed rival Aurora for $4 billion.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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