Reports have surfaced suggesting that Apple may be working on an electric car as its next big project.

While an Apple Car could potentially change the auto industry, it seems more likely that the company is working on something along the lines of an in-car dash system.

"Apple wants to own the dashboard," said Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies. "It does not want to build a car. If Apple was going to make a car, it would be 10 times easier to just buy Tesla. But Apple doesn't want a single branded experience, it wants Apple in many, many cars."

Apple first entered the auto industry when it introduced CarPlay, an in-car entertainment system that was available on a handful of vehicles in 2014. The system essentially allowed users to use their iPhone while on the road. However, more recent speculation suggests that the company wants to take that a step further.

Does that mean building a car? Probably not. While Google is working on a self-driving car, that rivalry seems to be the only reason that Apple would join the auto industry.

Apple is great at generating revenue through products that get refreshed every year. The average car in the U.S. on the road is 11 years old. Because of this, it would be hard for Apple to guarantee long-term revenue in the auto industry.

Some suggest that it would make much more sense for Apple to build a television. The company has already made moves into the living room with Apple TV, so a television itself would make sense as a next step.

It is highly likely, however, that Apple is interested in expanding the iPhone experience into the car. CarPlay was announced almost a year ago, and Ferrari is currently the only manufacturer offering the system in its cars.

Apple has announced partnerships with other carmakers, but it has not given any release dates or specifics. CarPlay is also offered in third-party dash systems from Pioneer and Alpine.

So what could Apple do with the dash in a vehicle? Could it completely replace all the cluttered buttons and meters with a voice-activated, Siri-based system? Could it allow for full control of the car from a simple screen? Only time will tell, but it seems as though it could be a very long time.

"Auto companies are always working three to four years out," said Richard Wallace, suggesting that 2019 or 2020 would be the earliest we would see anything from Apple.

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