Apple seems to be rebooting its self-driving electric car project, shifting its focus among stiff competition from other companies.
Cupertino has reportedly laid off several dozen employees who were working on the project and is restructuring parts of the initiative, according to three unnamed sources quoted in The New York Times. The sources were told that the layoffs were part of a “reboot” of the project, according to the Times.
Apple’s electric car project — which is codenamed Titan — has hit several roadblocks since its alleged inception several years ago. Earlier in 2016, Apple executive and car mastermind Steve Zadesky left the company for “personal reasons,” according to Cult of Mac.
In his place, the tech giant brought on retired Apple veteran Bob Mansfield to head up the project, which now reportedly consists of more than 1,000 employees. But progress has allegedly been slow, and Cupertino has apparently shifted its focus from actually building a car to developing the under-the-hood navigation technology that would make such a vehicle a mainstream possibility, according to Fortune.
But despite slow progress and this sudden shift in focus, Apple has reportedly made some headway. The New York Times’ sources, who were not allowed to speak publicly about the project, said that there were currently several vehicle prototypes in the midst of testing in closed environments.
Apple’s self-driving car initiative is just one of a handful. Other big tech companies working on autonomous vehicles include Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which has been testing self-driving cars on public roads for years. But like Cupertino, Google seems to be concentrating on developing and refining the underlying self-driving technology.
Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors is also a big player in the autonomous vehicle market. The company’s cars already have a self-driving feature — that has come under scrutiny after a fatal crash involving the technology. Ride-sharing giant Uber is also about to test passenger-carrying, self-driving cars in some limited trials in Pittsburgh in the coming weeks.
Along with these Silicon Valley giants, a handful of traditional auto companies —namely Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler — have announced plans to release self-driving cars within five years, according to the New York Times.
But Apple’s Project Titan sets itself apart because of its secrecy. Cupertino has never publicly acknowledged the fact that it’s even working on an electric car. Even some comments made by CEO Tim Cook at an Apple shareholder meeting this year only seem to vaguely hint at the possibility. During the meeting, Cook said that the auto industry is changing drastically, according to the Times — and only offered this cryptic statement.
“Do you remember when you were a kid, and Christmas Eve, it was so exciting, you weren’t sure what was going to be downstairs,” Cook said at the meeting. “Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.”