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Apple’s Project Titan

When the initial rush to develop autonomous driving first erupted, all eyes were not on the traditional automakers. Rather, the focus was aimed squarely on Silicon Valley the Googles and Apples of the world. This speaks volumes as to the shift in thinking when it comes to car manufacturing in the U.S. As we reported on in an earlier post, traditional auto shows have taken a back seat to shows like CES (Consumer Electroincis Show) which breaks not only the hottest developments in tech, but cars included.

Getting back to the tech giants, both Google and Apple have dipped their toes in the autonomous driving waters. In fact, theyve done more than dip with both putting together robust tech team divisions to work actively on the topic. Project Titan, Apples foray, first came about in 2015. They had their eyes at the time focused on 2019 to reveal their autonomous driving machine. There have been some bumps and bruises along the way and 2019 is here so wheres the car?

Suffice it to say, details surrounding Project Titan could not be murkier. In 2016 Apple laid off not a handful, but hundreds of Project Titan employees. Still, over the years test vehicles have been spotted and in 2017 CEO Tim Cook confirmed that a focus on autonomous systems was alive and well. Some more auspicious news surfaced in 2018 when ex engineering exec Doug Field made his way back to Apple after spending 5 years at Tesla. So, this gets us to the present, and once again, last week it was reported that Apple has laid off 200 plus workers from Project Titan. Whats going on?

Long story short, nobody really knows whats happening. At its height Project Titan had 1,000 folks working on it and this latest lay-off reportedly has to do with Fields restructuring process. Cook is still bullish, calling Project Titan, the most ambitious machine learning project ever. In October of last year, a test car was side-swiped and later rear-ended while driving in autonomous mode. In California all companies that test autonomous vehicles must report collisions and of the 129 reported since 2014, Apple has only registered 2.

Odds are Apple is still pushing along, but the goal of their first autonomous, street-legal car by 2019 has certainly been placed on the back-burner. Perhaps we should set our sights to 2025.

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