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Apple aims to get a fully driverless car on the road

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Apple has hit the accelerator on its electric car plans to opt for a fully automated driverless design that may lack a steering wheel.

It had been deciding between a model that included some self-driving features and a more radical design that does not have a conventional steering wheel and pedals.

The project's new leader, Apple Watch executive Kevin Lynch, is said to be pushing for a car with a full self-driving system in its first version, Bloomberg reported, citing sources at Cupertino.

Apple has been working on "Project Titan" since about 2014. In that time its enthusiasm has waxed and waned with a series of leadership changes.

It reportedly wants to have a model ready by 2025, considered an ambitious target, and one which may be revised.

The company has a fleet of 69 Lexus SUVs experimenting with its technology, according to California's Department of Motor Vehicles.

While engineers at Tesla have made basic versions of the technology available in its cars, fully automated models are still considered to be some way off. Existing versions require a driver to be fully alert and supervising any automation.

There have been a number of deaths involving use of Tesla's Autopilot. The company insists the technology makes its cars safer as long as users follow the rules.

Last year Uber cast off its ambitions to make a self-driving car, selling what it had developed to a start-up company.

With no steering wheel or pedals, Apple has a blank canvas for designing the car, and could opt to have a ring of seats inside the cabin that let passengers face each other.

Like other manufacturers, it must overcome a maze of local regulation, as well as complex decision-making when it comes to managing accidents.

Last month the project was reportedly dealt a blow after failing to attract large battery manufacturers to set up factories in the US.

Chinese battery makers CATL, the world’s number one supplier of EV batteries, and BYD were reluctant to set up production for one customer alone, Reuters reported.

In March, it was reported that Apple had decided to build the cars itself after talks with car manufacturers ended in stalemate.

The company had courted Nissan, but the two firms disagreed over branding, with each party insistent that its own badge should be on the car.

As early as 2008 Apple was considering a move into cars under the stewardship of Steve Jobs.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.