Apple has delayed the production schedule for the Apple Car from 2026 to 2028, as reported by Bloomberg. The vehicle is expected to feature a Level 2+ advanced driver assistance system.
Aim for Fully Autonomous Driving: Apple Car Once Planned to Remove the Steering Wheel
Apple has named its project for the Apple Car “Titan”. The initial concept envisioned a fully electric vehicle without a steering wheel, potentially achieving Autonomous Driving Level 5.
The delineation of autonomous driving levels places Level 3 as a watershed: vehicles below this level still require driver control (by eyes and hands), with the system providing assistance.
Vehicles at Level 3 and above gradually empower the system to assume greater control, gradually freeing the driver’s hands and eyes. Therefore, only vehicles beyond Level 3 can be considered truly autonomous vehicle.
Downgrading the Autonomous Driving Level: Apple’s Compromise with Market Realities
Having accomplished numerous revolutionary innovations in the consumer electronics realm, it’s understandable that Apple aims to replicate its successful model in the automotive industry. High-level autonomous driving represents a battleground where Apple can leverage its strengths.
However, with the complexity of vehicle components and the stricter validation standards for automotive regulations compared to commercial ones, Apple, if it intends to venture into car manufacturing, still needs to align with the technological development levels of other components.
For instance, to eliminate the steering wheel configuration, mature wire-controlled steering technology is necessary. However, among all car manufacturers currently, only Tesla, Toyota, and Infinity have adopted this technology, resulting in a relatively small market size.
Related component suppliers also are still in the process of research and development or observing the market. Even if suitable suppliers are found, the adoption of such advanced technology may raise the cost of car manufacturing.
Additionally, the trust between humans and machines has yet to mature, and related regulations are still under development. Achieving full confidence from drivers to take their hands and eyes off the steering wheel, even under the Apple brand, is not an easily achievable goal.
Prioritizing Safety and Stability in Vehicle Design: Apple’s Compromise is the Right Decision
Given the direct impact on driver safety and the long product lifecycle, the automotive industry, whether traditional or electric vehicles, prioritizes safety and stability in design principles. Even with innovative technologies, their priority is secondary to safety and stability.
Designing an electric vehicle without a steering wheel is undoubtedly enticing, however, given the need for further validation in technology, regulations, and human-machine trust, the production timeline for Apple Car may continue to be delayed.
Additionally, the automotive industry adheres closely to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. At this stage, the primary concerns for car manufacturers are not the presence of steering wheels or the level of autonomous driving but rather range anxiety and high car prices. These concerns belong to the “lower-level” needs of the demand pyramid, affecting the basic survival conditions of manufacturers.
Only by prioritizing the satisfaction of these types of needs can manufacturers proceed to fulfill higher-level demands for advanced autonomous driving.
If Apple Car’s project adjustments are indeed true, it represents a compromise with reality. However, it allows Apple to quickly introduce products to capture market share. After all, only by successfully achieving the goal of production from nothing to something can Apple have the opportunity to create a truly Apple-dominated battlefield.
Previously, TSMC has indicated that TSMC’s 2nm process will be deployed as scheduled in the second half of 2025, indicating that before that, the most advanced chips in the market will be produced using TSMC’s 3nm process. Apple, which has consistently been the first to adopt TSMC’s latest process, is set to be the first to adopt TSMC’s latest 2nm process.
▲ TSMC’s Layout of Global Production Capacity Edited by TrendForce, November, 2023
According to a report from the media outlet wccftech, Apple’s iPhone, Mac, iPad, and other devices will be the first users of TSMC’s 2nm process. Apple will leverage TSMC’s 2nm process technology to enhance chip performance and reduce power consumption. This advancement is expected to result in longer battery life for future Apple products, such as the iPhone and MacBook.
Currently, Apple’s chips designed for products like MacBook, iPad, and iPad Pro are produced using TSMC’s 3nm process technology. In 2023, the company announced the inclusion of the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips in the new MacBook Pro models.
Additionally, TSMC will utilize new technology based on the GAAFET (Gate-All-Around Field-Effect Transistor) transistors instead of the traditional FinFET. While this new architecture makes the manufacturing process more complex, it also brings advantages such as smaller transistor sizes and lower power consumption.
In terms of performance analysis, Apple’s current chips are transitioning from the 5nm process to the 3nm process. This transition has resulted in a 10% increase in CPU performance and a 20% increase in GPU performance.
For now, TSMC is actively planning the capacity for future 2nm process technology through the construction of two new factories. Additionally, TSMC will utilize new technology based on the GAAFET (Gate-All-Around Field-Effect Transistor) architecture instead of the traditional FinFET architecture.
While this new architecture makes the manufacturing process more complex, it also brings advantages such as smaller transistor sizes and lower power consumption.
The report further indicates that Apple is expected to adopt the 2nm process for chip production in the iPhone 17 by 2025. Additionally, the same technology will also be applicable to the production of Mac’s M-series chips.
Furthermore, as TSMC is quietly developing 1.4nm process, it is expected to be unveiled in 2027. This development means that, like the 2nm process technology, Apple could potentially be the first company to receive the latest process technology from TSMC for chip production, whether it’s 1.4nm or 2nm.
Ennostar, a Taiwanese group focusing on the R&D and manufacturing of Micro LED, LED and compound semiconductor, has announced on January 19th a NTD 670 million (roughly USD 21.36 million) sale of the planned Micro LED production facility in Zhunan, Taiwan.
Its subsidiary, EPISTAR, is anticipated to expedite Micro LED development by integrating existing resources in alternative locations.
According to TechNews’ report, Chin-Yung Fan, chairman of EPISTAR, anticipates “symbolic revenue” from Micro LED starting this year. He notes that in 2021, with the rise of Micro LED and Mini LED, existing facilities were insufficient. While planning to build new facilities based on customer demand and market predictions, the pandemic delayed many new technologies.
Following the integration of Ennostar’s factory resources, which are now available for EPISTAR’s use, the decision has been made to sell the Zhunan facility.
During an earnings call in 2023, Ennostar mentioned that the initial capacity demand for Micro LED is still low. Consequently, the company has slightly postponed its plans for new production capacity and will closely monitor the actual market demand.
Fan also emphasized that the volume of Micro LED will undoubtedly increase, and the significant symbolic revenue is expected around 2027, given the longer evaluation time for Micro LED in automotive applications.
However, the sale of Ennostar’s factory also highlights the delayed mass production of Micro LED. Currently, Micro LED is primarily used in large display products like TVs and small displays for smartwatches.
AUO, a Taiwanese company that specializes in optoelectronic solutions, commenced Micro LED production at the end of last year, supplying to high-end smartwatch clients, expected to achieve cost efficiency.
As for Samsung and LG, they view Micro LED TVs as a core market, aiming to enhance profitability through positioning them as high-end television options. At CES 2024, Samsung showcased a transparent Micro LED screen, reaffirming the potential of Micro LED as the next-generation display technology. However, due to the high unit price, mass adoption in the consumer market is currently limited.
Furthermore, despite being a key industry influencer, Apple has not yet integrated Micro LED into its product roadmap. Notably, the Vision Pro, currently available for pre-orders, opts for Micro OLED instead, signaling that the practical implementation of Micro LED in products may still be some time away.
Although it will take some time for mass production to ramp up, Taiwanese manufacturers are actively laying the groundwork for Micro LED technology. Major Micro LED manufacturers, such as PlayNitride, have signed production line construction contracts with EPISTAR and AUO.
EPISTAR has completed construction by the end of last year, while AUO is expected to have production capacity by the end of next year. Both AUO and Innolux, under the umbrella of the CarUX initiative, showcased Micro LED automotive technology at this year’s CES.
Innolux has also purchased a significant amount of transfer equipment from PlayNitride, further enhancing the completeness of the Taiwanese Micro LED supply chain.
Apple, despite maintaining its position as the best-selling smartphone brand in China in 2023, is currently resorting to drastic measures to boost sales. An unusual promotional campaign featuring significant price reductions has surfaced on the official Chinese Apple website.
Customers using specific payment methods to purchase select Apple products can enjoy discounts of up to 800 Chinese yuan. This promotion includes the latest iPhone 15 series, Macs, AirPods, and Apple Watch.
According to an announcement on Apple China’s official website on the 15th of the month, Apple China is set to launch the “Welcome the Spring Festival Limited-Time Offer” from January 18th to January 21st. Customers who meet certain payment criteria will be eligible for varying discounts.
Taking the iPhone as an example, models like the iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, and iPhone 13 are all part of this promotion, with potential savings of up to 500 Chinese yuan.
For those interested in purchasing the 13-inch or 15-inch MacBook Air (M2), or the 13-inch MacBook Air (M1), the discounts can reach up to 800 Chinese yuan. Other products such as the iPad series, Apple Watch SE, AirPods, and Apple Pencil-related models are also covered under this special offer.
It’s worth noting that this move by Apple is quite unusual, as they rarely introduce such significant price reductions for new products in the same year. For instance, during last year’s Chinese New Year event, only the previous generation models, iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, were included in the promotion.
This is seen as Apple’s effort to boost sales in response to increasing competition, particularly from Huawei, which made a comeback in 2023 with flagship smartphones dominating the high-end Chinese smartphone market.
As Huawei plans to expand its market share in the high-end flagship category this year, targeting the domestic demand in China, coupled with geopolitical factors, this could directly compete with Apple and potentially exert significant pressure on Apple’s production performance in the this year.
Recent reports from Jefferies analysts cited by Bloomberg highlight the impact of the Huawei Mate 60 Pro’s presence and the Chinese government’s ban on iPhones for officials. It is estimated that the sales volume of Apple’s latest products in China in 2024 could decline significantly by 30% compared to the previous year, potentially resulting in a double-digit decline in sales for the entire year.
Please note that this article cites information from Bloomberg
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently made the official announcement that the company’s inaugural spatial computing product, Vision Pro, is set to go on sale on February 2nd in the United States. According to a report by TechNews, due to the limited preparation of Vision Pro units, with an estimated quantity of only 60,000 to 80,000, there is a high likelihood that the product will sell out on the first day of its release.
TechNews cites the latest analysis from China’s TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently posted on X. According to Kuo, Apple has prepared only about 60,000 to 80,000 units of the Vision Pro before its launch, and due to the limited quantity, it is expected to quickly sell out once it hits the market.
Kuo also notes that despite questions about Apple’s lack of clear positioning and key features for the Vision Pro, as well as its relatively high price, the company is likely to sell out rapidly based on its groundbreaking technological innovations, creating a user experience that includes the illusion of mind-controlled interfaces. This, coupled with Apple’s strong core user base and a significant number of heavy users, should result in a swift sellout after the product’s release.
There are rumors suggesting that even though online ordering is possible, users may need to adjust the head circumference size, and Apple may prefer customers to try fitting it in person, which could lead to some consumers adopting a wait-and-see approach.
However, a user on the X platform, Aaron @aaronp613, discovered an encoding set as ‘ You will be able to use the Apple Store app to scan your face to pick the right size,’ indicating that users who are unable to visit stores for fitting may use the Apple Store app to scan their faces and order the correct Vision Pro size. Vision Pro requires a proper fit for functionality, involving a tight seal and correct headgear.
Apple has also introduced the Head Measure and Fit app to help developers test Vision Pro and determine the correct product size. Similar functionality may be built into the Apple Store app.
According to the latest data from TrendForce, global shipments of Apple Vision Pro are expected to reach 500,000 units in 2024.
Please note that this article cites information fromTechNews