Report: Apple’s Ditching the Car and Focusing on Autonomous Driving

A new report by Bloomberg has surfaced which claims to shed light on the recent happenings from within Apple‘s Project Titan plans, a.k.a. their self driving car plans. Within the article, the publication claims that the Cupertino-based company has shifted gears (see what I did there?) from focusing on building a car to focusing on building an autonomous driving platform likely for future vehicles the company may develop. Hundreds of members of the project have reportedly been let go or re-assigned to different departments so further development of the latter can take place.

Apple Inc. has drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that, for now, no longer includes building its own car, according to people familiar with the project.

Hundreds of members of the car team, which comprises about 1,000 people, have been reassigned, let go, or have left of their own volition in recent months, the people said, asking not to be identified because the moves aren’t public.

New leadership of the initiative, known internally as Project Titan, has re-focused on developing an autonomous driving system that gives Apple flexibility to either partner with existing carmakers, or return to designing its own vehicle in the future, the people also said. Apple has kept staff numbers in the team steady by hiring people to help with the new focus, according to another person.

Bloomberg states that the main reason behind this move is due to Apple not being able to secure partnerships with manufacturers. In other words, Apple couldn’t get the right people to make the right parts for them, hence focus has been shifted to the software side of things. A car possibly with a biometric fingerprint recognition method to tell who the driver is alongside no pedals or even a steering wheel (to make the vehicle fully autonomous) were reportedly being considered by the company’s executive board, but arrangements couldn’t be established between them and approached suppliers nevertheless.

In May of this year, Bloomberg claims that Apple held a conference from within an auditorium in Silicon Valley to announce this strategy change regarding Project Titan. The stage was taken by Bob Mansfield, a developer behind the original iPad who had a part-time job at the company before becoming the team leader of Titan. Mansfield explained how rather directly targeting someone like Tesla, Apple would be focusing on building a self-driving platform that could be used some time in the future.

Bob Mansfield, a highly regarded manager who helped develop the original iPad, returned in April from a part-time role at Apple to lead the team.

About a month later, Mansfield took the stage in a Silicon Valley auditorium packed with hundreds of Titan employees to announce the strategy shift, according to people who attended the meeting. Mansfield explained that he had examined the project and determined that Apple should move from building an outright competitor to Tesla Motors Inc. to an underlying self-driving platform.

At this time, it’s unclear just what will result from this strategy shift. An apparent deadline of late 2017 has been set by Apple executives to “prove the feasibility” of an autonomous driving system, so we’ll have to wait until then to really learn more about what changes Apple’s making in this department.