Is Apple preparing to take a bite out of the automotive industry?

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Technology giant Apple is looking beyond mobile devices to learn how to make a self-driving electric car, according to reports.

The US firm is talking to experts at carmakers and automotive suppliers, an automotive industry source said.

Apple is gathering advice on parts and production methods, focusing on electric and connected-car technologies, while studying the potential for automated driving, the source added.

Whether it will build and release an electric car or a more evolved autonomous vehicle remains to be seen, the source said.

But clearly Apple has sharply raised its ambitions in automotive technology. Car technology has become a prime area of interest for Silicon Valley companies ranging from Google, which has built a prototype self-driving car, to electric car-maker Tesla Motors.

An Apple spokesman in London declined to comment on “rumours or speculation”.

Trying to build an actual car would mark a dramatic shift for the maker of the iPhone and iPad.

Apple often researches projects which are then discarded, but has so far mainly stuck to its core expertise in mobile and electronic devices.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Apple had set up a secret lab working on the creation of an Apple-branded electric car. The lab was set up late last year, soon after Apple revealed its forthcoming smart watch and latest iPhones, the Financial Times said.

Autonomous driving is likely to emerge progressively as driver assistance systems become more sophisticated. BMW and Audi have revealed cars that can travel long distances without human intervention.