Apple In Discussion With Luxury Car Company Because It Feels Left Out Of The Vehicle Industry

Left: [STEPHEN LAM/Getty Images] Right: [ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images]

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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After firing its self-driving car task force, Apple is teaming up with a luxury sports car company to keep up to speed with the rest of the global business community’s autonomous vehicle projects.

Apple has been engaging in discussions with McLaren, a British automotive manufacturer, about potentially acquiring (or at least investing in) the car company, according to The New York Times.

“The things McLaren are investing in aligns with what Apple is interested in holistically. If you’re reading between the lines on a lot of Apple’s moves, it’s clear that new materials, new manufacturing processes and new techniques across the board are a huge part of Apple’s strategy,” Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies, a Silicon Valley-based market research firm, told the Financial Times.

Apple appears to be trying to catch up in the autonomous vehicle race, which includes businesses like Uber, Google, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, and the Chinese-backed Faraday Future, seemingly at the head of the pack. There are a number of other firms developing the revolutionary technology as well.

Apple has also poached engineers from Lit Motors, a start-up that developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle. Apple is negotiating a possible acquisition of this company, three unidentified people close to the situation told The NYT.

Apple laid off several employees who were part of the the relatively discreet car initiative known as “Project Titan” earlier in the month. Now they are attempting to outsource help or even absorb another company with the capacity to develop advanced driving technology.

The extent of the conversations between Apple and Lit Motors and Apple and McLaren are still cloudy. “The nature of our business means we regularly have conversations with all sorts of parties, but those conversations remain confidential. We’re not in a position to confirm or deny any previous conversations,” Wayne Bruce, a representative for McLaren, told The NYT.

Still, the tech conglomerate seems averse to taking the backseat to self-driving vehicle progress, even if this is something that is not directly in its wheelhouse.

Uber launched driverless cars in Pittsburgh just last week, and there are reports that the same vehicles have been seen in San Francisco as well. Perhaps as a ploy to slow Uber’s progress, Apple invested $1 billion in the ride-sharing service’s main rival Didi Chuxing, a Chinese company that essentially ended up causing Uber to call it quits in the world’s largest market.

Tesla has also been trying to speed up its development process for self-driving cars, but has many drawbacks including a fatal accident while autopilot technology was employed.

The federal government issued its first comprehensive guidelines pertaining to the technology, titled, “Accelerating the Next Revolution In Roadway Safety,” which may signal companies like Apple that there is more leeway for production of such technology and less of a chance of onerous regulations.

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