Apple Car project troubled by management demos and uncertain schedule

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited July 11
The Apple Car project has suffered repeated setbacks throughout its development caused in part by a need to constantly prove its worthiness to management, a report claims, with Apple spending a lot of the last eight years struggling to keep the effort on a positive trajectory.




Apple has been working on some form of automotive project for a long time, with it rumored to range from car design to the creation of self-driving systems. In a profile of the project as a whole, it seems that the attempt to impact the automotive industry is on rocky ground.

In one key example in the article by The Information, Apple used a number of prototype self-driving vehicles to travel 40 miles through Montana in August 2021. The project, which was filmed via drones, was for the creation of a polished video for upper Apple management, including CEO Tim Cook, to demonstrate it was still progressing nicely.

While the video demonstration was a success, including demonstrating that vehicles could drive without needing high-definition three-dimensional road maps over the journey, it was short-lived. The same vehicles traveling in Silicon Valley still suffered from issues, including lane issues and hitting curbs.

The article, based on interviews with 20 people who worked on the project, goes on to say it was an example of the problems caused by "constantly-shifting goals" and the "revolving door of leaders," in turn caused by an uncertainty of the project itself.

The employee changes have been numerous, including March rumors that it was dissolved. High-profile exits include Director of Machine Learning Ian Goodfellow and automotive engineer C.J. Moore in May,

The example also demonstrated how engineers "waste precious time choreographing demonstrations" along known routes, proving the technology works in specific places but practically nowhere else.

"If you spend enough money, you can get almost any fixed route to work," explained former Uber self-driving vehicle engineer Arun Venkatadri. "But what isn't shown is whether you can build your self-driving software in a scalable fashion and whether you can operate in a reasonably broad area."

There has also been supposed skepticism from upper management about the project as a whole, which has reportedly cost more than a billion dollars per year in research and development. Sources say Cook's tendency to distance himself from product designs and a resistance to visiting the Project Titan offices is supposedly hurting the program, and that Cook's unwillingness to commit to mass production has frustrated project senior executives.

Software chief Craig Federighi has also reportedly been skeptical about the project. Meanwhile, amid ridicule over changes in leadership, managers within Apple have allegedly warned employees to keep away from the project entirely.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    hammeroftruthhammeroftruth Posts: 1,196member
    I wouldn’t put too much stock in a former Uber self-driving engineer’s opinion. Apple’s project may or may not be in trouble, but at least it hasn’t killed anyone like Uber’s has. 

    Maybe that’s why he’s a “former” self-driving engineer. 
    darkvaderigorskysconosciuto
  • Reply 2 of 36
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 890member
    Apple is not going to build a car.
    anantksundaram
  • Reply 3 of 36
    I still don't get that whole AppleCar thing, as in completely lack the phantasy on what Apple might put on the table that makes an Appley impact (like the Apple I, Mac, iPhone did at their time). Just another Tesla clone, with (obviously) way better UI and Carplay integration just doesn't cut it. Also true full self driving (not the crap that Tesla sells) is so far of - even from a legal framework, I doubt it. A 'insanely great' new mobility concept!? Nah.

    So I don't get it. Also if Senior Leadership + CEO can't bother to get involved and the whole concept lacks the 'visionary' leader that twice made Apple great. So why waste all that money, as a stockholder I am pissed? For what result? Carplay v2!? Still don't get it.
    dewmeanantksundaram
  • Reply 4 of 36
    dave marshdave marsh Posts: 340member
    I think Apple has missed the window with this project.  They typically aren’t first, but when they do arrive always come out with category changing products.  I’m not sure what they could bring to the table at this point that isn’t already hitting the market in various flawed interactions.  Without a company champion driving the project, we should consider this just an expensive research effort.
    sconosciutoanantksundaram
  • Reply 5 of 36
    Not only do us plebes truly have no idea what Apple is hoping to accomplish with Project Titan... it increasingly sounds as if Apple itself doesn't know, either.

    The glass-half-full perspective might be that Apple will eventually figure it out. It took Apple YEARS to figure out how to enter the TV/film biz. That effort is finally starting to take off and it could be really huge now that ATV+ is starting to make an impact while Netflix is flailing. The move into live sports will cement Apple as a player; as recently as a year ago, observers were writing off ATV+ as a popcorn fart.

    I would like to think the same dynamic is going on here... there's a huge opportunity and Apple is trying to figure out its place. Also as a shareholder, I would be pissed if they threw in the towel on PT. They can't and they won't. The fact their biggest competitor is working hard on this, is reason enough for Apple to continue its efforts.
    edited July 11 clemynxFileMakerFellerbyronl
  • Reply 6 of 36
    igorskyigorsky Posts: 642member
    These comments are funny.  People still bringing the same skepticism as from 5 years ago...how did that work out?
  • Reply 7 of 36
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,424member
    I wouldn’t put too much stock in a former Uber self-driving engineer’s opinion. Apple’s project may or may not be in trouble, but at least it hasn’t killed anyone like Uber’s has. 

    Maybe that’s why he’s a “former” self-driving engineer. 
    ???

    "The article, based on interviews with 20 people who worked on the project..."

    It's not just a single Uber engineer's observations.
    muthuk_vanalingamFileMakerFellerbyronlgrandact73
  • Reply 8 of 36
    1348513485 Posts: 239member
    Well, "just another Tesla clone" is what a large number of automotive companies are selling (or planning to sell), so unless the entire world is committed solely to Teslas or ICE vehicles, a battery-electric vehicle still has purchase in the market, and will for decades. So it's not a bad idea, it just needs top down commitment, which apparently is lacking. If Cook is genuinely indifferent to the project, that's a problem. Commit or cancel.

    I'm no management genius, but either pull the plug or go in and solve the problems. You don't let it eat capital while it's on a death bed.

    If you're looking for "iphone magic" that's not likely to happen given the statutory requirements imposed on the auto industry, from bumper height to square inches of tail light reflectors. Most of the innovations are going to be "under the hood" or in the body. That doesn't mean the project is not worth doing, as there is a lot of money to be made when done right.

    As a separate concept, self driving is on another plane of competence right now, nobody has it worked out. If they are saying they do, they're lying. Just as I told the kids I taught to drive over the years, the people in your car and in every other car on the road are depending on *you* not to kill them. It's a life-changing responsibility, and the same applies to software self driving controls. 


    sconosciutobyronl
  • Reply 9 of 36
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,401member
    I think Apple has missed the window with this project.  They typically aren’t first, but when they do arrive always come out with category changing products.  I’m not sure what they could bring to the table at this point that isn’t already hitting the market in various flawed interactions.  Without a company champion driving the project, we should consider this just an expensive research effort.
    Apple may have missed the market for the very early adopter phase but the whole EV market is still very far from being ready for the start of mainstream adoption, which is where Apple stands the greatest chance of winning in a big way. The whole charging infrastructure is way too fragile at the present time. 

    I could probably get by with an EV as a second vehicle for around town driving but for longer trips in the US driving an EV would require a lot more attention and preparation than I’m willing to take on at this point. I have no doubt that it can be done, but it’s not yet a no-brainer. At some point we need a universal standard for charging stations and rates and need to start transitioning all gas-only stations to mixed source stations. Some have started the changeover, but they are few and far between. 

    I’d prefer that companies like Apple that are working on EVs focus on building the best possible EV. Putting a dependency on delivering autonomous driving capability at the same time they’re trying to roll out their initial EV products is too much of a distraction, in my opinion. Just build the damn car. Figure out the autonomous driving stuff later on as new sensor technology, AI, and ML finally move from the laboratory to mainstream. 
    muthuk_vanalingamtmaysconosciutoFileMakerFellerentropysbyronl
  • Reply 10 of 36
    stoneygstoneyg Posts: 43member
    Not only do us plebes truly have no idea what Apple is hoping to accomplish with Project Titan... it increasingly sounds as if Apple itself doesn't know, either.

    The glass-half-full perspective might be that Apple will eventually figure it out. It took Apple YEARS to figure out how to enter the TV/film biz. That effort is finally starting to take off and it could be really huge now that ATV+ is starting to make an impact while Netflix is flailing. The move into live sports will cement Apple as a player; as recently as a year ago, observers were writing off ATV+ as a popcorn fart.

    I would like to think the same dynamic is going on here... there's a huge opportunity and Apple is trying to figure out its place. Also as a shareholder, I would be pissed if they threw in the towel on PT. They can't and they won't. The fact their biggest competitor is working hard on this, is reason enough for Apple to continue its efforts.
    I agree. Some of Apple's most impressive and successful products (iPod, iPhone) are a result of taking efforts of their R&D department and features of other failed products and waiting for that right moment when the technology can be applied in a unique and compelling way.

    The Newton was prime example of some amazing technology that just wasn't ready for the market. Fast forward 10 years and they're able to take those efforts with better display, sensor, and processor technology to create iPhone.

    I think that's the main reason Apple can't seem to find the direction for Project Titan. They either don't feel like the technology is quite there to support what is the actual long term vision for it, or they can't seem to align features together in a product that is actually compelling enough to making it a no-brainer to release. Patience always seems to be where Apple manages to excel above most other companies, so I'm still excited to see what they end up doing in the automotive space.
    sconosciutoFileMakerFellerbyronl
  • Reply 11 of 36
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,534member
    This project is hard. Apple needs to deliver a product that innovates, like all product they create. At the same time, it needs to be perfect from the start. With the watch for example, they could switch focus after one year or two, they won’t be able to do that with a car

    The focus is clear : a self driving electric car. Anything less and people won’t be happy. 
    Add to that the risk of having a product that doesn’t work and hurts people, you have a disaster on your hands. 

    I’m confident Apple can make it but at the same time the state of their maps, inevitably related to the car, worries me a little. The frequency of regional updates is way too slow. France just got street imagery this week, when the first images were taken 7 YEARS ago. 
    byronl
  • Reply 12 of 36
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,534member
    I still don't get that whole AppleCar thing, as in completely lack the phantasy on what Apple might put on the table that makes an Appley impact (like the Apple I, Mac, iPhone did at their time). Just another Tesla clone, with (obviously) way better UI and Carplay integration just doesn't cut it. Also true full self driving (not the crap that Tesla sells) is so far of - even from a legal framework, I doubt it. A 'insanely great' new mobility concept!? Nah.

    So I don't get it. Also if Senior Leadership + CEO can't bother to get involved and the whole concept lacks the 'visionary' leader that twice made Apple great. So why waste all that money, as a stockholder I am pissed? For what result? Carplay v2!? Still don't get it.
    Tesla didn’t invent electrical cars. Calling anyone’s project of an electric car a Tesla clone is ridiculous. Especially since Tesla is now lacking compared to other companies. 
    tmaysconosciutodanox
  • Reply 13 of 36
    jas99jas99 Posts: 114member
    I want Apple to take the time to get it right. 
    If a truly transformative experience cannot be created, don’t launch it. 
    Apple has the strength to say “No.” to products that simply aren’t worthwhile. 
    Let’s see where this goes. 
    sconosciutoFileMakerFellerclemynxbyronldanox
  • Reply 14 of 36
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,261member
    I am always skeptical when Apple promises things in the ML or AI areas. Remember when Siri was first launched and we were promised conversational interaction from the get go? Yeah, it's still not here. ML and AI is more fitting for Amazon, Google, IBM, or even MS corporate cultures.
    gatorguybyronl
  • Reply 15 of 36
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,261member
    Also, if Apple just bought Tesla when they had the chance, they would've been years ahead of where they are now. They would have engineers, manufacturing, and the ability to boot Musk.
  • Reply 16 of 36
    omasouomasou Posts: 367member
    Please Apple get your act together I really do not want to rely on Android Auto to mange my car.
    edited July 11 sconosciuto
  • Reply 17 of 36
    Fred257Fred257 Posts: 196member
    It sounds like this project hasn’t had the coding expertise it needs. Cooks main job is to make the company money. This project has more proved to be a money loser..
  • Reply 18 of 36
    Also, if Apple just bought Tesla when they had the chance, they would've been years ahead of where they are now. They would have engineers, manufacturing, and the ability to boot Musk.
    terrible, terrible idea.

    Booting Musk after buying Tesla? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL look at how he's handling the Twitter debacle. It would have been an utter shitshow. Also contrary to Apple's entire history since Jobs came back, if not further back. They make strategic acquisitions of smaller, easily-digestible companies that fit with their vision and plans. They don't make showy, blockbuster acquisitions to buy their way into a market. The Beats acquisition is the sole exception and even then it wasn't exactly one of the showy, blockbuster acquisitions that Wall Street loves.
    edited July 11
  • Reply 19 of 36
    Fred257 said:
    It sounds like this project hasn’t had the coding expertise it needs. Cooks main job is to make the company money. This project has more proved to be a money loser..
    AppleTV+ is losing a billion a year. I don't think you understand at all what Cook's job is.

    Long 10,640 shares. How many you got?
    byronl
  • Reply 20 of 36
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,220member
    Titan is showing a lot of the signs of a vanity project. It keeps going but has nowhere to go. Eventually they’ll put it out of its misery. In the mean time it’ll keep burning money because nobody has the guts to pull the plug. 
    byronl
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