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Apple Reportedly Scaling Back Automotive Ambitions

Despite all of the work that’s gone into it to date, it seems that Apple execs have made the decision to drastically cut back on its automotive plans — and have thus let go of, or reassigned, large numbers (hundreds, apparently) of employees in recent months — according to unnamed people “familiar with the project.” A number of other employees have apparently left of their own volition recently as well.

The company’s plans apparently don’t involve manufacturing its own car anymore, and are now refocused on the development of an autonomous driving system that can be used to win partnerships with existing manufacturers. However, the company may possibly “return to designing its own vehicle” at some point in the future, according to those involved.

Very interestingly, Apple execs have apparently given the project team a “deadline of late next year to prove the feasibility of the self-driving system and decide on a final direction,” according to two of the unnamed sources.

Bloomberg provides more: “The new shift and deadline come after months of strategy disagreements, leadership flux and supply chain challenges inside Apple’s unmarked car labs in Sunnyvale, California, a short drive from its Cupertino headquarters. … Apple started Titan in 2014 with grand ambitions to make a dent in an auto industry that consultant McKinsey & Co estimates will be worth $6.7 trillion by 2030. The iPhone maker embarked upon an aggressive hiring spree, and an Apple-designed vehicle was targeted by the early 2020s. The hope was to revolutionize cars in the way the iPhone upended the mobile industry in 2007.”

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Continuing: “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. Zadesky handed the reins to his boss, Dan Riccio, adding to responsibilities that already included engineering annual iPhone, iPad, and Mac refreshes. Bob Mansfield, a highly regarded manager who helped develop the original iPad, returned in April from a part-time role at Apple to lead the team. About a month later, Mansfield took the stage in a Silicon Valley auditorium packed with hundreds of Titan employees to announce the strategy shift, according to people who attended the meeting. Mansfield explained that he had examined the project and determined that Apple should move from building an outright competitor to Tesla Motors Inc to an underlying self-driving platform.”

Following this meeting, over 120 software engineers working on the car’s operating system and testing procedures were fired or reassigned, according to the sources. In addition, several hundred hardware engineers (working on the chassis, undercarriage, and suspension) were also cut.

The remaining software engineers are apparently working almost exclusively on autonomous driving technology, sensor technology, and simulators for use in testing.

Not good news for those hoping to eventually drive an Apple car. Though, not particularly surprising, considering what it takes to bring a compelling car to market.

 
Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

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