Apple fires dozens of Project Titan employees as autonomous car initiative shifts to underlying tec

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2016
Apple is reportedly rethinking plans to enter the self-driving car business, and in so doing has shut down portions of the widely rumored development project, laying off dozens of employees.




Citing sources familiar with the company's plans, The New York Times reports Apple's autonomous vehicle initiative, dubbed internally as Project Titan, is getting a "reboot" under new project lead Bob Mansfield. Instead of designing and producing a full-fledged self-driving car, the company has shifted focus to work on backbone autonomous vehicle technology, the report said.

The NYT claims Apple is already testing fully autonomous vehicles in closed facilities, suggesting the initiative is at least making progress. The evaluation site is unknown, though reports last year indicate Apple was looking into renting out time at GoMentum, a former naval base in California converted into a test track for autonomous vehicles.

Today's development comes just over one month after reports claimed Mansfield assumed control of Project Titan following the departure of former project head Steve Zadesky. Mansfield announced intent to retire from Apple in 2012, but stayed on as SVP of Technologies until July 2013. After he left the executive team, Mansfield continued to work as a special advisor to CEO Tim Cook.

Apple's decision to switch gears comes at the cost of employees. The Titan team was at one time said to number above 1,000, including workers pulled in from other departments and specialists poached from automotive industry heavyweights.

Underscoring Apple's new direction, the company earlier this year hired founder and former CEO of QNX Dan Dodge. Acquired by BlackBerry in 2010, QNX specializes in embedded operating systems, particularly those applied to in-car infotainment solutions.

Rumors surrounding Project Titan first surfaced early last year. Soon after, AppleInsider discovered the automotive project was being run out of a top-secret facility in Sunnyvale, Calif. Reports at the time suggested Apple would have an electric car ready to ship by 2020, but that timeline was apparently overly optimistic.

Signs of trouble emerged last September, as sources indicated top executives were unhappy with the group's slow progress. Subsequent reports estimated a production Apple Car would not see release until 2021, as the team faced mounting unforeseen obstacles.

Popularized by Tesla, self-driving technology has become something of a brass ring for established automotive firms and big tech companies, alike. To be deemed a success by pundits, Apple's segment entry would need to adequately disrupt the industry, much like iPhone transformed the mobile phone market.

It seems, however, that Project Titan lacks that most basic of Apple qualities, as people working on the project said they are not sure what, exactly, would set Apple Car apart from similar vehicles currently in development by would-be competitors, the NYT report said.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 160
    Oh too bad. Was putting money aside for the Apple Car down payment. With $200B in the bank Apple should shoot for an ambitious project.
    calirepressthish2p
  • Reply 2 of 160
    mubaili said:
    Oh too bad. Was putting money aside for the Apple Car down payment. With $200B in the bank Apple should shoot for an ambitious project.
    Jurassic Park, IMO. Well within their price range. 
    Solisuddenly newtonrepressthis
  • Reply 3 of 160
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    This sounds very un-Apple. WTF is going on?

    Why would they license tech and not develop their own product?
    jay-tdasanman69
  • Reply 4 of 160
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,690member
    The Car Upgrade Program from Apple and Citizens Bank will let you get a new model every 12 months, but not necessarily on the exact day the new Car comes out.
    edited September 2016 nolamacguyfreshmakermwhiterepressthiscnocbuih2poldbluegmc50mike1
  • Reply 5 of 160
    cali said:
    This sounds very un-Apple. WTF is going on?

    Why would they license tech and not develop their own product?
    Apple excels at the combination of hardware, software and services. If they don't think they can create that magic here I think they should shut the whole thing down. All the big car companies are far down the road of autonomous and self driving vehicles. Even Uber is testing vehicles. What do they need Apple for? To provide a nice looking dashboard UI?

    What confuses me is if Apple has decided to shift focus to providing software to existing manufacturers why did Cook put a former hardware executive in charge of the project?
    zoetmbjay-trepressthisdasanman69awilliams871983h2ppte apple
  • Reply 6 of 160
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,664member
    Doomed! How will Apple recover! /s
    Solianton zuykovnolamacguyrepressthisjbdragon
  • Reply 7 of 160
    The project was supposed to have many hundreds working on it, so this is basically non news.
    tmayrepressthish2p
  • Reply 8 of 160
    Bob Mansfield cleaning house.
    fastasleeptmaycalirepressthispscooter63
  • Reply 9 of 160
    I'm starting to wonder if Apple is paralyzed by their obsession with perfection. With all of their money and staff and the opportunities in connected home, wearables, VR, auto and beyond—how is it possible that all we've gotten is an OK watch? I'm not saying I want them to release any old junk, but there is a threshold after which perfection in detail simply doesn't matter as much as having a real product in hand. A lot of artists and creator-driven companies get caught in an echo chamber of high expectations and lose site of just how good what they've already created is. Release, iterate, perfect over time so I can have more Apple, sooner!
    dasanman69h2poldbluegmc50
  • Reply 10 of 160
    Autonomous technology fits well with the new Apple campus on site employee transportation and many facilities maintainance use cases. Of course all or many HOV and limited access vehicle traffic environments would also be served well. Why build a body when you can provide the tech and sensors, much better margins.
    Solih2p
  • Reply 11 of 160
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,690member
    I'm starting to wonder if Apple is paralyzed by their obsession with perfection. With all of their money and staff and the opportunities in connected home, wearables, VR, auto and beyond—how is it possible that all we've gotten is an OK watch? I'm not saying I want them to release any old junk, but there is a threshold after which perfection in detail simply doesn't matter as much as having a real product in hand. A lot of artists and creator-driven companies get caught in an echo chamber of high expectations and lose site of just how good what they've already created is. Release, iterate, perfect over time so I can have more Apple, sooner!
    I'm confused by your comment. What do you mean by "all we've gotten." You know they just announced new iPhones this week with amazing new innovations, right? Or is this where you only think a company is innovating if it's a completely new product category, because Steve Jobs had a new one every year, right?¡ What decade did the Mac come out, and then how much time passed before the iPod first appeared, and then how much time before the iOS-based devices, and then the Apple Watch, which was just last year.
    tmayRayz2016baconstangcalirepressthispscooter63awilliams87h2ppte apple
  • Reply 12 of 160
    Autonomous technology fits well with the new Apple campus on site employee transportation and many facilities maintainance use cases. Of course all or many HOV and limited access vehicle traffic environments would also be served well. Why build a body when you can provide the tech and sensors, much better margins.
    Honestly Apple probably has better experience building the body than the tech and sensors. Apple excels at manufacturing. Do they really excel at the type of real-time computing required for autonomous and self driving vehicles?  Would anyone consider their AI and ML to be best in class?
    gatorguyh2p
  • Reply 13 of 160
    The story makes no sense -- it's not internally consistent.

    Project Titan is firing employees, but then cites NYT that Apple is testing autonomous vehicles. I suppose this could mean the tests are failing. 

    In any case, I've had this expectation that Tesla and Apple have been trading employee's behind the scenes and the supposed competition for employees is a marketing ruse.


    caliawilliams87palomineh2prepressthis
  • Reply 14 of 160
    cali said:
    This sounds very un-Apple. WTF is going on?

    Why would they license tech and not develop their own product?
    Apple excels at the combination of hardware, software and services. If they don't think they can create that magic here I think they should shut the whole thing down. All the big car companies are far down the road of autonomous and self driving vehicles. Even Uber is testing vehicles. What do they need Apple for? To provide a nice looking dashboard UI?

    What confuses me is if Apple has decided to shift focus to providing software to existing manufacturers why did Cook put a former hardware executive in charge of the project?
    i don't see how any rumors of rumored changes in a rumored project can be taken seriously or confuse anyone. nobody reading or writing for this site has any idea whats actually going on.

    also, considering how awful car infotainment software is, i don't see how anyone could believe carmakers can do any software better than apple.
    fastasleepdysamoriacalipscooter63repressthisidrey
  • Reply 15 of 160

    I'm starting to wonder if Apple is paralyzed by their obsession with perfection. With all of their money and staff and the opportunities in connected home, wearables, VR, auto and beyond—how is it possible that all we've gotten is an OK watch? I'm not saying I want them to release any old junk, but there is a threshold after which perfection in detail simply doesn't matter as much as having a real product in hand. A lot of artists and creator-driven companies get caught in an echo chamber of high expectations and lose site of just how good what they've already created is. Release, iterate, perfect over time so I can have more Apple, sooner!
    wait so which is it -- is it that apple has "only" released a merely OK watch, or is it that they not releasing un-finished products early enough? you seem to be making contradictory claims.
    edited September 2016 dysamoriatmaycaliawilliams87repressthisai46kevin kee
  • Reply 16 of 160
    cali said:
    This sounds very un-Apple. WTF is going on?

    Why would they license tech and not develop their own product?
    Apple excels at the combination of hardware, software and services. If they don't think they can create that magic here I think they should shut the whole thing down. All the big car companies are far down the road of autonomous and self driving vehicles. Even Uber is testing vehicles. What do they need Apple for? To provide a nice looking dashboard UI?

    What confuses me is if Apple has decided to shift focus to providing software to existing manufacturers why did Cook put a former hardware executive in charge of the project?
    i don't see how any rumors of rumored changes in a rumored project can be taken seriously or confuse anyone. nobody reading or writing for this site has any idea whats actually going on.

    also, considering how awful car infotainment software is, i don't see how anyone could believe carmakers can do any software better than apple.
    I consider autonomous and self driving to be separate from infotainment systems. Way more complex than anything CarPlay is doing. If this is just about in infotainment system with a better UI well we have CarPlay now. Personally I think this technology is way further out than anyone is admitting.
    dysamoriah2prepressthis
  • Reply 17 of 160
    Keep in mind that the NYT authors who wrote this, DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI and BRIAN X. CHEN, also wrote extensive reports that maintained for months that Samsung had basically crushed Apple's smartphone business and was fated to knock iPhones out of relevance, and prior to that, that Japan "hated" the iPhone and it would never catch on there, respectively. This year, Samsung limped back toward its all time smartphone performance peak from 2014 while Apple essentially maintained/replicated the world-leading megacycle performance it achieved with iPhone 6. And for the last few years, Japan has been one of the world's top markets for iPhone and everything else Apple makes, with globally leading market share for iPhone sales. What they print is frequently not journalism. It is advocacy mixed with pure credulity in anonymous "sources" with no clear track record. So take their scoop with a grain of salt.
    iqatedofastasleepanantksundarambrucemctmaycalibaconstangwelshdogpropodwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 160
    Bob Mansfield cleaning house.
    Thank Goodness!  Mansfield is "Tuning" tne team.  Booyah!  
    tmaycaliwatto_cobrarepressthis
  • Reply 19 of 160
    It's the right call. It's an enormous undertaking and Apple needs to focus on studying the underlying tech with basic research first. And let's not forget that new battery technology is blooming in different directions. 
    They need far more time in the basic research stage before even thinking they are putting anything under production. 
    dysamoriacalih2prepressthis
  • Reply 20 of 160
    cali said:
    This sounds very un-Apple. WTF is going on?

    Why would they license tech and not develop their own product?
    Maybe because you're hearing about it 3rd or 4th or 5th hand. They were probably finished with the initial engineering portions and those people were no longer needed? Then again this is the NY Times and I don't put much stock in what they report anymore.
    baconstangnolamacguyrepressthismonstrosity
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