Apple drops 200 staff from Project Titan self-driving car skunkworks

Apple’s self-driving system atop a Lexus RX - Image via MacCallister Higgins

Apple’s self-driving system atop a Lexus RX – Image via MacCallister Higgins

Apple has let more than 200 employees go from its secretive Project Titan self-driving car operation.

CNBC first reported on the move Thursday and an Apple spokesperson acknowledged the cuts in a statement to the news organization. The spokesperson said Apple will refocus on other projects and areas in 2019 and some groups were moved to other parts of the company. However, the company still believes “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.”

Last year, we learned Doug Field left his position as vice president of engineering at Tesla to return to Apple where he previously worked. Field now leads Project Titan alongside Bob Mansfield. The CNBC report said it’s viewed inside the company that the layoffs were part of an anticipated restructuring under the new leadership. It’s unclear how many employees will be transferred to other projects and how many will leave the company altogether.

Apple logo

Apple logo

Project Titan has shifted focus a few times in the past few years. Originally, it was widely speculated Apple planned to build its own car and self-driving vehicle software. However, Project Titan largely went dormant after managers pulled the team in too many directions and a do-it-all approach eroded morale. For the past couple of years, it’s understood Apple has focused largely on self-driving car software and not a physical car. However, some patents and the recent hiring of a former Tesla designer once again ignited rumors the physical car might not be dead.

This past June, Apple also hired an ex-Waymo engineer for self-driving car technology—another boost to its internal program.

Apple will contend with numerous other companies racing to build their own software, and in some cases, offer the entire package. Google’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise Automation are seen as the two major players in the self-driving car space at present.

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