Bloomberg: Apple gives up building a car, for now

Apple Car concept Aristomenis Tsirbas image 001

Project Titan, Apple’s ambitious initiative to build an electric vehicle by 20202021 reportedly fell apart amid management crisis, supply chain issues and departures, prompting the company’s leadership to shift gears and focus on autonomous self-driving software, for now.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported Monday that Apple will decide fate of self-driving software by late 2017 as the new direction no longer includes building its own car.

Bloomberg says that the change of plans and a tentative 2017 deadline for self-driving software came after months of strategy disagreements, leadership flux and supply chain challenges inside Apple’s unmarked car labs in Sunnyvale, California.

Apple had originally envisioned an electric car that could recognize a driver by fingerprint and autonomously navigate with the press of a button, Bloomberg writes.

“One plan sought a partially autonomous car that still had a steering wheel and pedals, while later plans migrated toward a fully autonomous vehicle,” reads the report.

The change in direction led to job cuts as hundreds of members of the 1,000-people strong Project Titan team have been reassigned, let go or have left of their own volition in two rounds of job cuts, one in August and the other in September.

More than 120 software engineers working on a car operating system and testing procedures were let go, including their lead John Wright and Dan Dodge, who created BlackBerry-owned QNX car software that powers CarPlay.

A few hundred hardware engineers working on car chassis, suspensions and undercarriages also lost their jobs.

From the article:

New leadership of the initiative, known internally as Project Titan, has re-focused on developing an autonomous driving system that gives Apple flexibility to either partner with existing carmakers, or return to designing its own vehicle in the future, the people also said. Apple has kept staff numbers in the team steady by hiring people to help with the new focus, according to another person.

Remaining engineers are now working on autonomous programs, vision sensors and simulators for testing Apple’s platform in real-world environments.

Another excerpt:

By the end of 2015, the project was blighted by internal strife. Managers battled about the project’s direction, according to people with knowledge of the operations. “It was an incredible failure of leadership,” one of the people said.

In early 2016, project head Steve Zadesky, a former Ford Motor Co. engineer and early iPod designer, left Titan. Zadesky, who remains at Apple, declined to comment.

Apple’s hardware expert Bob Mansfield was un-retired in April to lead Project Titan team. After carefully examining the project Mansfield announced a strategy shift to the team, saying Apple should “move from building an outright competitor to Tesla Motors Inc. to an underlying self-driving platform.”

Source: Bloomberg