Apple Lays Off 200 Workers From Secretive Self-Driving Car Project

Viswamitra Jayavant - Jan 28, 2019

Apple Lays Off 200 Workers From Secretive Self-Driving Car Project

Project Titan - Apple's in-house autonomous car project has just suffered from a massive layoff when 200 of its employees are removed and others transferred to different departments.

If you follow news about Apple and their projects closely, you would probably know that Apple is planning on moving away from consumer electronics and services. Referred to internally and known to the public as ‘Project Titan’; All we know about this mysterious initiative is that the project’s ultimate goal is to build an Apple-branded, fully autonomous car.

Granted, the company has no experiences whatsoever in building a car. But as the most profitable business on the planet, Apple has all of the money in the world to hire people who can. One of the people Apple has managed to pull to their team is Doug Field. Field, a former Engineering Vice President at Tesla, who is currently the top manufacturer in electric vehicle and semi-autonomous driving systems.

With the company’s track record in meticulousness, great attention to perfection, as well as their ability to find the best talents on the market. Needless to say, quite a lot of people are interested in seeing what Tim Cook and his team could possibly cook up.

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Project Titan

In the atypical Apple-ish fashion, the company has been successful at keeping the project under cover of secrecy. But test vehicles bearing an impressive number of sensors and equipment on its roof had been spotted on the street. The array includes six LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) covering a 360-degree field around the vehicle. LiDAR is used extensively in the development of autonomous cars, as it is among the best methods for obstacle detection. By analyzing the map of the environment painted by LiDAR, the car’s computer can compute the most efficient and safest path through traffic.

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Whether the large array would be put on the real car is unknown. But for their almost fanatical belief in aesthetic and sleekness, it is doubtful that they would.

Mass Layoff

But any expectation of seeing at least a hint of the car’s actual design was dashed, however. It has just been revealed that Project Titan had run into huge troubles when Apple dismissed over 200 employees from the project this week. The rest of the project’s members will be transferred into other departments such as: “machine learning and other initiatives across all of Apple,” a spokesperson of the company said during an interview.

The company, apparently, gave no true reason as to why the lay off occurred. It is possible that the mediocre sales and evidenced decreasing interests in Apple products had scared off management. And the company decided that current projects such as the i-Series products (iPhone, iPad, e.t.c.) deserve more attention than the far-future prospect of Project Titan.

Or it could be simply explained that Apple’s interest in cars has waned.

Apple's Possible Strategy

Fortunately, Project Titan is not dead and buried just yet. The project is still running at the moment, although a major portion of its workforce has been stripped. Doug Field and Bob Mansfield - a veteran hardware engineer at Apple - are currently spearheading the project.

Autonomous vehicles did not just appeal to Apple. The most successful of them all, Alphabet’s Waymo has just deployed their cars on a limited scale. The technology is still very new and in need of polishing before it can be fully accepted by consumers. It can be said that instead of feeling less interested in the technology, Apple is merely biding its time. Tim Cooks’ company isn’t an inventor, it is an innovator. The company takes new or existing technologies, pass them through extensive and rapid R&D before releasing it under a product that’s better and more polished than competitors.

Waymo Car

This is arguably what Apple is trying to do. By assessing the success of Waymo and others, along with consumers’ reception to these companies. Apple can adapt and advance their own autonomous car initiative by fixing all of the flaws in other companies’ products. Eventually turning up with a car so impressive that consumers would turn their heads. Coupling with their fame, it is not particularly challenging for them to steal the spotlight once they introduce Titan into the mass market.

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