For more than a year, there have been consistent leaks and rumors that Apple has been working on a top-secret Project Titan aka Apple car. Last week, the tech giant stunned the tech world by investing $1 billion in Chinese tax-hailing firm Didi Chuxing. Why would Apple invest in a ride-hailing service? And why the hell in China? Of course, factors like promoting CarPlay, pushing the Apple Pay and appeasing Beijing played a role. But the driving force was the Apple car.

What AAPL's $1 Billion Investment In Didi Says About Apple Car

Apple needs massive data for Apple car

Imagine a few years from now, you can press a button on your Apple Watch or iPhone and a self-driving car arrives at your doorstep. You jump in and tell Siri where you want to go. And then you can ask the digital assistant to stream your favorite song. While the autonomous car drives you to your destination, you can relax or work or play on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. Apple is reimagining transport as ride-hailing firms like Uber, Ola, Didi, and Lyft have changed the way people view car ownership.

To develop an autonomous car, the Cupertino company will need tons of valuable data. Investing in Didi would give Apple access to data on 11 million trips made by people using Didi’s service. And China is moving at lightning speed to dominate the next frontier of automobile technology. The government has unveiled a draft proposal that would allow fully self-driving cars to run on highways by 2020 and on crowded city streets by 2025.

software more important than hardware in autonomous cars

Traffic jams in China are well-known. Understanding the rider habits, driving patterns, and traffic data in the world’s largest automobile market would help Apple improve the so-called Apple car. When it comes to autonomous cars, the most important thing is software rather than hardware. Self-driving cars are fast becoming a reality – thanks to Google, Tesla and Baidu – and Apple needs to catch up. According to BI Intelligence, there could be as many as 10 million autonomous vehicles on roads worldwide by 2020.

In the last few years, Apple has hired hundreds of automobile engineers and lease large real-estate properties in the Silicon Valley to design, develop, and test the Apple car, which is rumored to be an electric vehicle with autonomous driving capabilities.