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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Hyundai is in preliminary talks with Apple about the tech giant's mysterious plan to develop self-driving electric cars, per reports in CNBC and Bloomberg.

Driving the news: "We understand that Apple is in discussion with a variety of global automakers, including Hyundai Motor. As the discussion is at its early stage, nothing has been decided," a Hyundai rep tells CNBC.

Why it matters: It's another sign that Apple, which first launched its auto tech program years ago, may indeed have products on the market later this decade.

  • And while the world is bursting with electric vehicle and autonomous driving startups, not to mention legacy automakers' plans, Apple's financial and engineering power would make it an important player.

Quick take: It shows how new entrants into the EV and self-driving space, even with insanely deep pockets like Apple, would benefit from working with established automakers to achieve launch velocity.

The intrigue: Hyundai, in a separate statement last night, declined to name-check Apple again.

  • “We’ve been receiving requests for potential cooperation from various companies regarding development of autonomous EVs. No decisions have been made as discussions are in early stage," the automaker said.

What they're saying: Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives sees a 35%–40% chance of Apple unveiling its own car by 2024.

  • He cited the mix of "Herculean-like auto production capabilities, battery technology ramp, financial model implications, and regulatory hurdles" involved.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2021 - Economy & Business

The cloud-based car is arriving

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The notion of the car as a "computer on wheels" is moving past the realm of hype and closer to reality, which will transform the driving experience and improve road safety, too.

Why it matters: The arrival of long-promised technologies like 5G connectivity and new high-performance computers means cars will improve over time, instead of depreciating the minute they leave the dealer lot.

Ina Fried, author of Login
32 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."