Rumors continue to swirl around the existence of an Apple-branded electric car, even in the absence of any official confirmation of the project by the tech company.

News stories point to the hiring of employees with auto-industry experience, and discussions between Apple and car-related entities.

Now, there's at least an indication of when the Apple car may appear.

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The company has designated the electric car a "committed project," and set a shipping date of 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

Leaders of the so-called "Project Titan" have been given permission to triple the 600-person team working on it, the paper said, citing anonymous sources close to the matter.

The sources say Apple is investigating autonomous driving, but claim the first Apple production car will not be self-driving.

Apple store

Apple store

However, the 2019 target date doesn't necessarily mean consumers will be able to buy an Apple car in less than four years.

In Apple parlance, a "ship date" does not always refer to when a product is put on sale; it can also refer to the date engineers sign off on its main features.

It's also possible that the car project will miss the target date.

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There is reportedly skepticism within the team that a 2019 completion date is achievable.

Designing a car and putting it on sale in under four years is a difficult task, even for companies with previous experience.

It's also unclear whether Apple will contract with an outside manufacturer to build its car, as it does with its current products.

Liviu Tudoran's

Liviu Tudoran's

Contract manufacturing is fairly common with consumer electronics, but not unheard of in the car industry.

Assembly of the Fisker Karma was originally contracted out to Valmet Automotive in Finland.

A report that surfaced back in July claimed Apple had approached BMW about using the i3 as the basis for its electric car.

MORE: Samsung To Make Electric Cars As Well As Smartphones, Etc.? (Dec 2013)

Apple has reportedly ramped up hiring of people with automotive and battery experience since the first reports of "Project Titan" earlier this year.

In May, Apple employees also reportedly met with officials from GoMentum Station--a former Navy weapons station near San Francisco that's been converted into an automotive testing facility.

In August, an Apple lawyer reportedly met with officials from California's Department of Motor Vehicles, to discuss California laws allowing for the testing of autonomous cars on public roads.


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