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Apple's Autonomous Car Program Takes A Hit

Industry News / Comments

Will we ever get to see Apple's self-driving car?

The saga of the Apple Car has taken some interesting turns over the years. After the company's co-founder claimed he didn't believe in self-driving cars and reports emerged saying Apple would switch its focus to designing software rather than an actual car, we didn't think the Apple Car would ever see the light of day. Then Apple signed a deal with Volkswagen to build self-driving vans, so clearly, the company still had autonomous cars on the brain.

Apple calls its autonomous vehicle group Project Titan - not be confused with the Nissan Titan pickup truck. Project Titan has experienced issues in the past, even losing one of its executives to VW. CNBC now reports that Apple has laid off over 200 employees from Project Titan as part of a restructuring effort.

An Apple spokesperson confirmed the layoffs and issued a statement 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."

Project Titan employs several former Tesla employees such as former engineering vice president, Doug Field. Field leads the Titan team along with Bob Mansfield, Apple veteran and a fellow Tesla alumn. This recent restructuring effort was likely anticipated under Project Titan's new leadership.

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It is difficult to guess where this leaves Apple's autonomous car program. With 200 fewer employees, it seems unlikely that we will see anything concrete from Project Titan in the near future. Apple hasn't said it will end Project Titan but the company clearly has more important priorities for these 200 employees. Speaking to CNBC, Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized the company's contributions to health. "I believe if you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, 'What was Apple's greatest contribution to mankind?' it will be about health," said Cook.