Apple’s “Project Titan”, called Silicon Valley’s “biggest open secret” by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has generated plenty of buzz since talk of it hit the web last February. The team assigned to the project reportedly set out to design and build an Apple branded car from scratch. As the months passed, the project expanded drastically, at one point employing some 2,000 employees, many of them former experts from Tesla, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Ford, and a number of other auto manufacturers. However, according to Bloomberg, Apple isn’t looking to build their own car anymore – they’re looking to build the brains behind other manufacturers’ cars.
Back in July, after hiring former head of Blackberry’s auto software unit and co-creator of the QNX Realtime operating system Dan Dodge, Bloomberg reported that the priority of Project Titan had shifted from designing and building a vehicle towards designing an autonomous driving system. Developing such a system would allow Apple’s options to be left open, “should the company eventually decide to partner with or acquire an established car maker, rather than building a car itself.”
A recent Bloomberg article, however, claims the project has shifted entirely away from building a car, focusing all of their efforts into the autonomous driving system. Apple 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.” Citing “people familiar with the project”, Bloomberg claims that “hundreds of members of the car team… have been reassigned, let go, or have left of their own volition in recent months.” With the entire team focused on the autonomous driving system, Apple executives have reportedly established a deadline of late next year “to prove the feasibility of the self-driving system and decide on a final direction” of the project.
The decision to shift the entirety of the team’s focus towards the self-driving system reportedly comes “after months of strategy disagreements, leadership flux and supply challenges inside Apple’s unmarked car labs in Sunnyvale, California.” Some experts cite low profit margins on automobiles as the catalyst behind Apple’s recent decision, while others claim that Apple may return to design and build a car after the kinks have been worked out in the autonomous automobile market, which will likely be years down the road. Developing a car from the ground up – especially a self-driving one – would be a huge investment for Apple, and is perhaps a chance they’re not willing to take until the market is firmly established. It will be interesting to see where Project Titan ends up in the near future.
Featured Image: AutoCar