IN BRIEF: Apple has laid off dozens of employees working on its secretive car initiative codenamed ‘Titan’. The layoffs mask a recent shift in the Cupertino company’s strategy to move away from building its electric cars to focus on developing a self-driving car software. Apple layoffs arrive as its secretive, self-driving car project progresses to real-world testing on closed tracks.
Apple has been working on a self-driving car project since early 2015. It has hundreds of employees working on an Apple-branded electric car. Since, it has also hired high-profile car technologists and filed patents for technology often used in self driving cars. It has been widely rumored that Apple owns a fleet of unmarked vehicles decked with camera and sensor equipment.
Bloomberg first reported that Apple is making a shift from designing a full electric car to building a self-driving car software. The Apple layoffs, most certainly look like a shift in that direction.
The Titan team is said to be above 1,000 including employees pulled over from other departments. Not so long ago, Apple lost automotive industry heavyweight Bart Nabbe to Chinese-backed electric car startup Faraday Future. Nabbe reportedly worked on computer vision, navigation and AI on Apple’s Titan team. In the same fashion, Apple lost key technologist Steve Zadesky who was believed to be leading the push in January. The high-profile departures marked recent change in headwind.
Reboot Self Driving Car Project
Mounting issues, including employee defections have caused a major delay in Apple’s highly anticipated car debut from 2020 to 2021. Apple executive Bob Mansfield, recently came out of retirement to lead the Titan team after Steve Zadesky left the company. It is said to be Bob’s idea to refine focus which has led to a number of Apple layoffs from the self-driving car initiative. The recent move highlights the difficulties of initially trying to develop an electric car and an autonomous software simultaneously.
While Apple has yet to publicly acknowledge whether it is considering making a car, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has described the initiative as Silicon Valley’s ‘worst kept secret’. On the other hand, tech companies like Tesla, Google, and Uber are aggressively pushing forth their self-driving cars. Google has tested autonomous cars on the road for years. Tesla has made headlines for both, self-driving electric cars and self-driving software. Separately, Uber is also planning to start picking up passengers in self-driving cars soon. Meanwhile, companies like Ford and General Motors are working on their own autonomous cars too.
While it may look like Apple is keeping pace with some of the biggest players in the industry, its inability to deliver the product is evident. It’s highly doubtful if Apple will be able to proceed for long before it begins testing on public roads.