Abandoned $10 billion Apple Car project referred to as 'Titanic disaster' by employees

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 29

A report shares that "many" Apple employees considered Project Titan an inevitable failure and are happy to see it die in favor of work on artificial intelligence.

A sedan hidden by a silhouette with an Apple logo on the hood
Apple's work on Project Titan cost $10 billion over a decade



The decade-long Project Titan follows a long and winding road past Jony Ive's hope for a self-driving car, secret race tracks, and a bid to buy Tesla. The Apple Car project is canceled for now, but that doesn't mean Apple won't reap the rewards of its hard work.

According to a report from The New York Times, at least some Apple employees are happy to see the end of Project Titan. The project's failure seemed likely and was sometimes referred to as "the Titanic disaster."

The concept behind Apple Car arrived just as Apple was wrapping work on Apple Watch. The company wanted to compete with Tesla and potentially capture a portion of the sizable auto industry.

Google and other Silicon Valley companies were targeting electric vehicles, so it seemed natural for Apple to take on the challenge. The report's details about engineers speaking to Jony Ive and team make it sound as if it was all but certain that a self-driving Apple Car was possible and imminent.

A custom red Fiat 600
Jony Ive was a fan of the Fiat 600, even auctioned this custom one in 2013



After a decade of research, Apple is no closer to releasing a full self-driving vehicle than Tesla. No one has managed to get it done, and there's one problem that modern "AI" algorithms can't account for -- other humans on the road.

Luckily, work on autonomous systems and vehicle AI is highly transferable to other aspects of computing. Apple has allegedly invested $10 billion in Project Titan, but those funds aren't lost, as all of that work will now benefit its push into AI.

Reallocating resources



It was reported that Apple's abandonment of a vehicle project wasn't due to engineering impossibilities -- the company had already shifted to Level 2 autonomy down from Level 4. Building an electric car at Level 2 is commonplace and entirely possible for Apple.

No, the project end came down to margins. Apple would never be able to sell vehicles at its expected margins, especially with the declining EV market and competitors racing to the bottom.

Some members of the Project Titan team may be laid off, but others are being reassigned to AI projects or asked to apply for other positions at the company. If Apple ever decides to make an Apple Car again in the future, a lot of the groundwork is done.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    Of course… $10 Billions appear impressive. But let us put it in perspective.
    But let do a little math.

    It was $10 Billions over a decade.
    So… it was $1 Billion a year.
    The last count of employees was… 2,000.
    So… $1 B / 2,000 = 500,000-
    Of course, not all employees would earn that money… but there are the cost of buildings and computers… And during the project there were a lot more employees.

    Or we can calculate how many iPhones Pro Max it costed… $1 B / $1,200 = 840,000—

    davebarnesbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 57
    am8449am8449 Posts: 392member
    I’d guess that Apple’s decision to not produce a car was about not only low profit margin, but also whether they could bring enough innovative technology to a car that would warrant a higher profit margin. 

    I can imagine Tim Cook saying in a closed door meeting, “Our current and near-future machine learning algorithms for an autonomous self driving system are not good enough to make a truly safe car experience, so we’re not going to bring it to market.”

    On a side note, this seems quite different from what Elon Musk and Tesla have done regarding their autonomous self driving system. Even letting Tesla owners be guinea pigs and risking their own safety to test their system. 
    bonobobForumPostbadmonkdrdavidwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 57
    Probably a good idea. No one is paying for premium EVs. Asia is being taken over by cheap BYD & SIAC EVs
    drdavidwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 57
    I'm not sure I would have ever bought an Apple Car. Knowing Apple, they would probably want to get rid of the steering wheel or some crazy shit like that. I would never even consider a car that I couldn't drive myself. I'm sure that Apple would also consider performance to be a low priority, and for me, performance is a high priority. I did consider the 2024 Model 3, but rejected that car because of a lack of instrument cluster screen. I don't want one gigantic iPad like screen. I prefer 2 or 3 different screens and the car I recently bought has a head-up display, which I love. Also, in the Tesla, you can't turn off adaptive cruise control. I tried it in my Integra, and I absolutely hate it. I turned that off along with pretty much all of the other active driving stuff. I don't plan on buying an EV until around 2034.
    badmonkdewmewilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 57
    am8449 said:
    I’d guess that Apple’s decision to not produce a car was about not only low profit margin, but also whether they could bring enough innovative technology to a car that would warrant a higher profit margin. 

    I can imagine Tim Cook saying in a closed door meeting, “Our current and near-future machine learning algorithms for an autonomous self driving system are not good enough to make a truly safe car experience, so we’re not going to bring it to market.”

    On a side note, this seems quite different from what Elon Musk and Tesla have done regarding their autonomous self driving system. Even letting Tesla owners be guinea pigs and risking their own safety to test their system. 
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Tesla is doing, and it's ridiculous to call Tesla owners guinea pigs. They are required to pay $12,000 or $200/month if they want the car to drive itself, and they have to be almost constantly touching the steering wheel, or the system will deactivate. They also use a strike system, so if you get (I believe 3 strikes) then you are cut off for a week or something like that. So people are required to take their role as a Beta Tester seriously. Also FSD 12 should go to wide release any day now. That is end-to-end AI and an elimination of 300,000 lines of code. It should be a total game changer. Tesla is still the only auto manufacturer where every vehicle they sell is capable of driving on every road in the country by itself. They are so far ahead of everyone else, it's hard to imagine that the other car companies will ever catch up. I'm guessing that they will have to license Tesla's technology. Tesla already gave away their charge port, and every auto company except Stellantis is using it starting in 2025. There is no way that Stellantis can hold out forever or people will stop buying their cars.
    Rick601williamlondonbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 57
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Tesla is doing,…

    If you ever want to know if a Muskovite is in the room just say something negative about Tesla.
    badmonkfreeassociate2williamlondonpaisleydiscoelijahgfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 57
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Tesla is doing,…

    If you ever want to know if a Muskovite is in the room just say something negative about Tesla.
    Well, you are clearly anti-Musk, with all of the name-calling. I’m not Pro or Anti. I just call it the way it is. I posted 2 in a row, so you must have seen the one just above it where I state that I will never buy a Tesla. So how do you explain, that?

    Edit: Well, I guess I wasn’t super explicit with the previous post. Referring to the Apple Car I said that I would never consider a car that I couldn’t drive myself, which means that I don’t want a self-driving car. Then further down in the post, I said that I ruled out buying a Tesla because I don’t like the iPad-like screen, plus the fact that there is no screen directly in front of me, and the fact that turning off adaptable cruise control is not possible. So you calling me a Muskovite is pretty ridiculous. You seem very closed-minded vs I can see both sides.
    edited February 29 williamlondonbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 57
    nubusnubus Posts: 377member
    lam92103 said:
    Probably a good idea. No one is paying for premium EVs. Asia is being taken over by cheap BYD & SIAC EVs
    The smartphone market isn't taken over by Asian companies. Lexus and Infinity didn't kill premium on ICE cars. So, why would 2 Chinese brands win on EV premium? Tesla is doing fine and the old boys like Mercedes and Audi (VW) are getting there. BMW is a bit confused... but still... there absolutely is a premium market.

    Cars are personal statements with most of the profits generated by services. A perfect fit. AI is one part but Apple is great a materials science, UX, knowledge of batteries, online sales, and marketing. iPhone isn't unique by having apps or being able to place calls. And the car didn't need to be fully autonomous. It should just be smarter than Tesla, the charge connector shouldn't be as on the Apple Mouse, and the seat fabric shouldn't be FineWoven. How could Apple fail?
    edited February 29 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 57
    I've been calling BS on self-driving cars since I first heard about it. Yes, driving can be easy 99.5% of the time; it's the other 0.5% that cameras and computers will never solve on existing roads with human drivers and pedestrians. 

    And "AI" is the next bubble waiting to burst. For important issues involving politics or public policy, we can't even agree on the same set of facts. Google's "artificial intelligence" couldn't even produce a picture of the Founding Fathers without introducing woke BS into the results. 
    ibillmuthuk_vanalingamtmayfreeassociate2watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 57
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 1,292member
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Tesla is doing, and it's ridiculous to call Tesla owners guinea pigs. They are required to pay $12,000 or $200/month if they want the car to drive itself, and they have to be almost constantly touching the steering wheel, or the system will deactivate. They also use a strike system, so if you get (I believe 3 strikes) then you are cut off for a week or something like that. So people are required to take their role as a Beta Tester seriously. Also FSD 12 should go to wide release any day now. That is end-to-end AI and an elimination of 300,000 lines of code. It should be a total game changer. Tesla is still the only auto manufacturer where every vehicle they sell is capable of driving on every road in the country by itself. They are so far ahead of everyone else, it's hard to imagine that the other car companies will ever catch up. I'm guessing that they will have to license Tesla's technology. Tesla already gave away their charge port, and every auto company except Stellantis is using it starting in 2025. There is no way that Stellantis can hold out forever or people will stop buying their cars.
    Good points but I think Tesla’s auto-drive system flaws are not related to insufficient software but because Elon made the decision to deprecate LIDAR as a cost-savings move.  Any self-driving system based on visible light sensors is invariably going to have holes.  My cars crash avoidance system cuts out in fog at the same time I can’t see.  What’s the point?  I agree with the article’s author that Ai cannot account for human stupidity or variance of others on the road or the perpetual construction complex.

    I would also be worried that a forever $12,000 beta-product is eventually going to poke the ire of consumers or regulators or worst of all, the mass-tort legal firms for an over-promise and under-delivery fraud class action.  Tesla has issues going forward.

    That said EVs are becoming a low-margin commodity thanks to China.  Apple made the right decision here.  I think the European automakers and EU don’t know what is going to be hitting them in the next decade as these  BYD EVs flood their market as they focus on smart phone app stores.

    I think Apple will be able to salvage the work they did here by partnering with an legacy automotive company.  I know it’s not the usual Apple thing but I think they will have something to offer and bring some value to the proposition.

    I would also add that Toyota’s plans to not jump on the EV market but instead focus on plug-in hybrids seems like a brilliant idea in retrospect.  If i had to buy today that is the way I would go.  EVs had their own ecological nightmare issues-battery waste, wanton deep sea mining, on-land mineral mining in conflict zones, vehicle weight and tire wear (which contributes to environmental plastic burden) etc, coal for electricity generation.  We just were not aware of them all.
    edited February 29 tmayfreeassociate2watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 57
    Draco said:
    I've been calling BS on self-driving cars since I first heard about it. Yes, driving can be easy 99.5% of the time; it's the other 0.5% that cameras and computers will never solve on existing roads with human drivers and pedestrians. 

    And "AI" is the next bubble waiting to burst. For important issues involving politics or public policy, we can't even agree on the same set of facts. Google's "artificial intelligence" couldn't even produce a picture of the Founding Fathers without introducing woke BS into the results. 
    Just to play Devil's Advocate, I first heard about self-driving cars in 2016. The difference between 2016 and now is like the difference between arithmetic and calculus. You make it sound like autonomous vehicles are an impossibility. It's not impossible, it's just impossible without AI. I don't want one, but they are definitely coming. There are tens of thousands of deaths per year because people refuse to pay attention to their surroundings. That number could be very drastically cut with autonomous vehicles. 
    williamlondongrandact73byronl
  • Reply 12 of 57
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,661member
    lam92103 said:
    Probably a good idea. No one is paying for premium EVs. Asia is being taken over by cheap BYD & SIAC EVs
    The Chinese brands have premium models too and they sell. 
    freeassociate2
  • Reply 13 of 57
    Absolutely.. A disaster. 

    Having worked in the German automotive sector, I know quite many people scouted by Apple. 
    They were chassis engineers, quality engineers etc. dealing with auto manufacturing components. 

    At that time, Apple was serious to make a car and convinced those classic engineers from my employer (My supervisor was contacted by Apple at that time as well). 

    Now, Apple gives up and all those hardware engineers, who made a huge decision to relocate their families and themselves from Germany to SV, are now what?

    They may get higher salaries, higher compensations etc., but they came to realize highly motivated projects with a lot of challenges. 

    Apple occupies TTL over 160.000 employees and the number of those engineers is invisibly limited. Here, everybody is asking "so what?". 

    But it is so sad to see my former colleagues working there without..... realizing their dreams. 

    retrogustostompybyronl
  • Reply 14 of 57
    tmaytmay Posts: 6,327member
    am8449 said:
    I’d guess that Apple’s decision to not produce a car was about not only low profit margin, but also whether they could bring enough innovative technology to a car that would warrant a higher profit margin. 

    I can imagine Tim Cook saying in a closed door meeting, “Our current and near-future machine learning algorithms for an autonomous self driving system are not good enough to make a truly safe car experience, so we’re not going to bring it to market.”

    On a side note, this seems quite different from what Elon Musk and Tesla have done regarding their autonomous self driving system. Even letting Tesla owners be guinea pigs and risking their own safety to test their system. 
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Tesla is doing, and it's ridiculous to call Tesla owners guinea pigs. They are required to pay $12,000 or $200/month if they want the car to drive itself, and they have to be almost constantly touching the steering wheel, or the system will deactivate. They also use a strike system, so if you get (I believe 3 strikes) then you are cut off for a week or something like that. So people are required to take their role as a Beta Tester seriously. Also FSD 12 should go to wide release any day now. That is end-to-end AI and an elimination of 300,000 lines of code. It should be a total game changer. Tesla is still the only auto manufacturer where every vehicle they sell is capable of driving on every road in the country by itself. They are so far ahead of everyone else, it's hard to imagine that the other car companies will ever catch up. I'm guessing that they will have to license Tesla's technology. Tesla already gave away their charge port, and every auto company except Stellantis is using it starting in 2025. There is no way that Stellantis can hold out forever or people will stop buying their cars.
    There sure is quite a lot of spin in your post, and very little of what you state is accurate, but sure, everyone jumped on the Tesla Charge Port standard, and you are very much a Tesla supporter.

    Contra to what you state, Tesla is not the leader in autonomous driving, and the current decision to leave out LIDAR sensors is going to keep Tesla from ever being the leader. 

    https://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-sef-driving-not-in-top-ranked-autonomy-guidehouse-research-2023-3

    Tesla is at level 2 autonomous driving, which many other car companies are at as well, but credit to Tesla for marketing FSD to the rubes for so many years as a beta. Would I be correct in stating that once you purchase FSD, it doesn't necessarily carry over to the next owner if it is ever sold? Tesla may/will allow the transfer to a new vehicle sale, but otherwise, true ownership of FSD is pretty murky.

    Whatever, there are many EV's on the market today with superior values, so Tesla has pretty much plateaued and the margins have been decreasing.

    Myself, I see EV's as mostly poor values against the leading hybrids, especially for pickups, where the Cybertruck is anything but competitive.

    Have a nice day.




    freeassociate2fastasleepStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 57
    It’s a smart move. They were likely designing just another multi-passenger car with 6 seats, which everybody else is competing with and losing money on. 
    Instead, design and build a single-passenger EV car that self-charges with a solar roof, too. The potential market is HUGE, with so many millions of single adults (some with pets), whether young adults or retired seniors, who cannot justify or afford a regular new EV car. They don’t have safe charging places, night or day. They don’t have time to wait safely in urban or remote charging stations. But a solar charging roof on a 1-passenger size car is doable, and affordable. Just need a seat, stowaway storage, battery, motor, AC, airbags and wheels.
    It’d be the next Model T or iphone moment. I’ve told this to Tim Cook, as well as Elon, and Ford CEO. It’s the only way to compete with cheaper Chinese EVs. 
    byronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 57
    thedbathedba Posts: 762member
    I'm not sure I would have ever bought an Apple Car. Knowing Apple, they would probably want to get rid of the steering wheel or some crazy shit like that. I would never even consider a car that I couldn't drive myself. I'm sure that Apple would also consider performance to be a low priority, and for me, performance is a high priority. I did consider the 2024 Model 3, but rejected that car because of a lack of instrument cluster screen. I don't want one gigantic iPad like screen. I prefer 2 or 3 different screens and the car I recently bought has a head-up display, which I love. Also, in the Tesla, you can't turn off adaptive cruise control. I tried it in my Integra, and I absolutely hate it. I turned that off along with pretty much all of the other active driving stuff. I don't plan on buying an EV until around 2034.
    A lot of assumptions about the Apple Car, that was actually never released and only existed as an internal R&D project.

    What's wrong with adaptive cruise control? Don't you want your car to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front while you're speeding down the highway at at least 100 km/h (=60 mph)? Besides there are least three or more settings to most cars (my terms ==> safe, safer and safest).   
    freeassociate2fastasleepbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 57
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,356member
    I'm not sure I would have ever bought an Apple Car. Knowing Apple, they would probably want to get rid of the steering wheel or some crazy shit like that. I would never even consider a car that I couldn't drive myself. I'm sure that Apple would also consider performance to be a low priority, and for me, performance is a high priority. I did consider the 2024 Model 3, but rejected that car because of a lack of instrument cluster screen. I don't want one gigantic iPad like screen. I prefer 2 or 3 different screens and the car I recently bought has a head-up display, which I love. Also, in the Tesla, you can't turn off adaptive cruise control. I tried it in my Integra, and I absolutely hate it. I turned that off along with pretty much all of the other active driving stuff. I don't plan on buying an EV until around 2034.
    Yeah, I’m definitely of the same mind. Maybe it’s an old school thing. I find the “Giant iPad Stuck on the Dash” look on all modern cars, not just the Tesla, to be absolutely hideous. But that’s just me. I actually hate driving cars with automatic transmissions because it removes one more responsibility from the driver. Having to manually shift and maintain speed and acceleration control via making the right gear shifts simply keeps me more engaged in the driving experience.

    It boggles my mind why automakers seemingly want to do everything possible to diminish the “driving” part of driving a car from driving a car. Maybe it’s because they’ve seen all of the “drivers” on the road who devote 10% of their driving focus to kind-of driving their 2-3 ton ramming device they are sitting in while the other 90% is focused on their smartphone or other things they deem to be more important than the driving part. 

    I hate to generalize with statements like “most drivers are idiots” but finding evidence to the contrary is getting increasingly difficult. Will reliable autonomous vehicles save humanity from itself? Maybe, but I have my doubts.
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 57

    Just to play Devil's Advocate, I first heard about self-driving cars in 2016. The difference between 2016 and now is like the difference between arithmetic and calculus. You make it sound like autonomous vehicles are an impossibility. 
    It's not just the technology. It's about liability. If I as an individual injure someone in a car accident, there's only so much money they can extract from me. If Apple's code can be shown to be at fault in an accident, there's an almost limitless pool of money that a plaintiff's attorneys could go after. 
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonMplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 57
    sbdudesbdude Posts: 256member
    am8449 said:
    I’d guess that Apple’s decision to not produce a car was about not only low profit margin, but also whether they could bring enough innovative technology to a car that would warrant a higher profit margin. 

    I can imagine Tim Cook saying in a closed door meeting, “Our current and near-future machine learning algorithms for an autonomous self driving system are not good enough to make a truly safe car experience, so we’re not going to bring it to market.”

    On a side note, this seems quite different from what Elon Musk and Tesla have done regarding their autonomous self driving system. Even letting Tesla owners be guinea pigs and risking their own safety to test their system. 
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Tesla is doing, and it's ridiculous to call Tesla owners guinea pigs. They are required to pay $12,000 or $200/month if they want the car to drive itself, and they have to be almost constantly touching the steering wheel, or the system will deactivate. They also use a strike system, so if you get (I believe 3 strikes) then you are cut off for a week or something like that. So people are required to take their role as a Beta Tester seriously. Also FSD 12 should go to wide release any day now. That is end-to-end AI and an elimination of 300,000 lines of code. It should be a total game changer. Tesla is still the only auto manufacturer where every vehicle they sell is capable of driving on every road in the country by itself. They are so far ahead of everyone else, it's hard to imagine that the other car companies will ever catch up. I'm guessing that they will have to license Tesla's technology. Tesla already gave away their charge port, and every auto company except Stellantis is using it starting in 2025. There is no way that Stellantis can hold out forever or people will stop buying their cars.

    Whatever helps you sleep at night. If you don't think the numerous people that have died behind the wheel of a Tesla with FSD activated weren't guinea pigs heading for the slaughter, you have a severe lack of clarity and ethical understanding.
    edited February 29 tmaywilliamlondonStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 57
    sbdudesbdude Posts: 256member
    Curious that Apple ever believed they could squeeze 40-50% margins (like their current products) out of a car. Most automakers live in the 10-12% range, at best. That was foolishness from the start.
    williamlondon
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