A new report says that Apple has made another big hire with ties to the automotive industry.
Drive.ai is back in the Apple news cycle, with a new report suggesting that Apple is hiring up at least a handful of engineers from the startup.
Update: Apple confirmed the purchase of Drive.ai to Axios.
It's not uncommon to hear that Apple has acquired a company, especially when it comes to start-ups that Apple may be interested in. In most of those cases, Apple has a canned response that basically confirms an acquisition without actually coming out and saying it. That hasn't happened this time, though, as a new rumor crops up suggesting Apple has bought a self-driving startup.
Apple has held preliminary discussions with four unnamed suppliers of LiDAR sensors for self-driving vehicles. That might indicate that the Cupertino giant has rebooted its self-driving hardware, code-named Project Titan, although the sensors could also be for the vehicles used in the company's in-house shuttle service for employees.
Apple will lay off 190 employees from its self-driving car division located in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, California. The company acknowledged the move in a letter to the California Employment Development Department this month, and a spokesman confirmed it today with the San Francisco Chronicle.
Nearly three years ago, the Project Titan initiative went from building an Apple-branded electric vehicle to the creation of an autonomous driving system, but a new report out of Germany on Thursday alleges that Apple could instead be building an electric-powered van.
Apple this week reportedly laid off more than two-hundred employees from its stealthy autonomous vehicle group, dubbed Project Titan.
Other employees who were impacted by the project's restructuring are staying at Apple, but moving to different parts of the company.
According to people familiar with Apple's motives who spoke with CNBC, the layoffs were internally billed "as a kind of restructuring under the relatively new leadership."
A spokesperson for the California firm was quoted as saying:
We have an incredibly talented team working on autonomous systems and associated technologies at Apple. As the team focuses their work on several key areas for 2019, some groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple.
We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever.
"The most ambitious machine learning project ever" could not be a more apt description of any autonomous driving project, really.
Apple last August hired Doug Field, Tesla's engineering vice president, to lead the Project Titan team alongside Apple's former un-retired hardware chief Bob Mansfield.
Although investors have burned billions of dollars on autonomous driving startups and companies like Tesla, Uber, Waymo and Cruise, the technology just isn't there yet.
In 2016, Project Titan shifted focus from electric cars to autonomous driving systems, but fruits of those efforts have yet to materialize as details of what Apple's up to are hazy.
What do you think about Project Titan?
Let us know in the comments!
A recently published patent application suggests Apple is hard at work on developing high-voltage battery power converters for electronic cars. The U.S. patent for “Converter Architecture” explains how power from a high voltage source could be transferred downward to a lower voltage.
As AppleInsider explains, electric and hybrid cars are usually powered by a high voltage battery, which is mostly used to get the vehicle moving. The same energy sources are then used to fuel other parts of the automobile, such as the infotainment display, dashboard, and air conditioning system.
Unfortunately, Apple believes current systems that convert high voltage power to a lower voltage are “inefficient and suffer from load transients that are absorbed by and may cause damage to a low voltage battery.”
The company's solution:
In one implementation, an unregulated DC-to-DC converter is electrically connected to a first energy source to down convert a first voltage supplied by the first energy source. A load is electrically connected to the unregulated DC-to-DC converter to receive the down converted first voltage. A regulated DC-to-DC converter is electrically connected to the unregulated DC-to-DC converter to regulate the down converted first voltage to a second voltage. A second power source is electrically connected to the regulated DC-to-DC converter to charge the second power source using the second voltage, and the second power source is switchably connectable to the load.
Improving battery efficiency for electric and hybrid cars is a worthwhile goal, especially as these type of vehicles become more popular. What's not yet known, however, is whether this patent has to do with the company's secretive Project Titan and how.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts below.
One of Apple's self-driving Lexus SUVs was involved in an accident in Cupertino, California on Aug. 24. The car was rear-ended by a Nissan Leaf, according to details published on the California Department of Motor Vehicles website and first reported MacRumors.
Two recently approved U.S. patents are shining new light on Apple's long-gestating and secretive automotive initiative, Project Titan. The patents cover two areas of the driving experience, including seating and sunroofs.
Since 2017, Apple has attracted "scores of employees" away from Tesla, including manufacturing, security, and software engineers. However, not all of the recent hires are going to the company's secretive vehicle initiative, Project Titan. Instead, some are headed elsewhere in the company where it needs software, display, optics, and battery-tech talent for other products, according to CNBC.
Doug Field, who once worked as Apple's vice president of Mac hardware, is returning to the company after a five-year stint at Tesla. He's coming back to work on Apple's all-secretive "Project Titan" automotive initiative, according to Daring Fireball.