A single car is likely responsible for “Project Titan,” the secret Apple Car program that has hundreds if not thousands of engineers working on in order to produce and later manufacturer Apple’s debut entry into the automobile industry. The V-Vehicle caught Steve Jobs eye and Bryan Thompson was largely responsible for its design and creation.
And email that simply read “Steve Jobs” in the subject line
Thompson, an industrial engineer, was working on a secret car prototype that ran on gasoline and was meant to sell for around $14,000. While modern, this was not an electric vehicle but it caught Job’s eye in 2010 and Thompson found himself on a plane to speak with the Apple CEO after he received the email.
The V-Vehicle was backed by venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Job’s wanted to see it. It’s tough to keep a secret in Silicon Valley.
Thompson and his team deplaned and drove to Steve Jobs home outside of Palo Alto where if they were paying attention they would have gotten a glimpse of an iPhone prototype in the hands of Job’s son Reed when he followed his father to answer the door for the small team.
Reed was apparently holding a prototype of a yet unveiled iPhone and complaining about it not working properly to which Job’s responded, “Get back in the house.”
The Apple CEO’s attention then turned to the car he wanted to see where he essentially told all in attendance except Thompson to piss off and got in the driver’s seat while Thompson took the passenger’s.
While Thompson had years of experience in the field he told The Guardian that jobs taught him more about plastics than he had ever learned before in the next half hour.
Looking at the “plastic” car (actually a composite of glass fiber and polypropylene) Jobs told Thompson to emphasize this lost cost, lightweight material with, “let the material be honest.”
Jobs then went about criticizing and complimenting the car suggesting that it needed surface tension inside the vehicle.
“He didn’t spell out the solutions; that’s what I do. But the sensibilities and feeling resonated with me deeply and I took that moment of high energy buzz to get that sensibility into the interior,” said Thompson.
What happened to the V-Vehicle?
The short answer is nothing. Firstly, the state subsidies for its plants never came through and VC money went the route of the subsidies, here today gone tomorrow.
In Thompson’s, Elon Musk’s and anyone who follows this stuff’s mind, Project Titan is real and Apple will certainly be showing the world a car in the coming years.
That’s not quite the case, the V-Vehicle and its $89 million in development costs as well as research were bought by LCV Capital Management in 2015. The company is hoping to take what they have and move it to Italy for the first production model.
Whether or not the V-Vehicle is ever made is hardly the point. Apple will release a car and it most certainly won’t run on gasoline. For a well-kept secret it’s just not and estimates have Apple’s spending through the roof given its aggregate R&D budget. While it’s been long-rumored that Apple will make a bid for Tesla it’s more likely that Musk and Tesla will see the emergence of a legitimate rival in Apple but don’t expect CEO Tim Cook are anyone else acknowledge this within the company.