Apple is long rumored to be secretly working on its very own Google-like autonomous car under a project called Project Titan. While the company has been tight-lipped about its secret car project, the reports have been all over the web about how the smartphone giant is now channelizing its potential on automobiles and this time it is more than just Apple CarPlay. Now, according to the latest rumors, the company has taken a reverse gear and in fact scaled back its ambitious project, leading to job cuts and a complete change in the vision. Also Read - Now you will have to pay a processing fee for mobile recharges on PhonePeAlso Read - Google cuts Play Store fee to 15 percent for all subscription apps from 2022
If the newest reports are to be believed, Apple is no longer chasing its dream of building a self-driving car but instead wants to build an autonomous driving system that gives the company flexibility to work with existing carmakers or return to designing its own vehicle in the future. People familiar with the project have revealed that about 1,000 people have been reassigned, let go, or have left of their own will in recent months. Apple has also kept the staff numbers in the team steady by hiring resources, which will help the company in its renewed focus. Also Read - Facebook’s new name could be Meta or Horizon, or will it be called FB?
According to a report on Bloomberg, with the change in vision, Apple executives have now given the car team a deadline of late 2017 to prove the feasibility of the self-driving system. Given the perfection Apple aspires to achieve with even the idea behind its new products, the timeline seems appropriate, however delayed it may appear in comparison with Google s already up and running electric car project. While Google s parent company Alphabet aspires to commercially launch its self-driving car project by 2020, Apple appears indecisive about its take on the entire technology. Google has been in the ambitious business since 2009, Apple has only recently shown interest in the technology. ALSO READ: Move over Google and Ford; Indian man builds himself a self-driving Tata Nano
The latest change in vision and job cuts follow months of strategy disagreements, leadership changes, and supply chain challenges inside Apple s secret car labs in California. The Bloomberg report states that tech investors are used to large profit margins while carmakers survive on net margins below 10 percent. According to Eric Paul Dennis, an analyst at the Center for Automotive Research, for a quality Apple-branded car, manufacturers could get a healthy margin but it seems they weren’t willing to compromise on quality issues as it could hurt the perception of its other products.
Apple s Project Titan was estimated to be worth $6.7 trillion by 2030 according to consultant McKinsey & Co. back in 2014 when it was started. Down the years, it first saw a change in leadership and later a shift in focus. A few reports have hinted at struggling supply chains which, given Apple s initial plan of rolling out limiting units, might have faced skepticism from automotive part suppliers. Apple s vision behind Project Titan was to build an electric car that could recognize its driver by fingerprint and autonomously navigate with the press of a button. While one idea was about a semi-autonomous car with steering wheel and pedals, other idea envisioned a fully autonomous vehicle. ALSO READ: Google takes the blame of their self-driving car hitting public bus
In what was hoped to bring the same revolution as the iPhone did way back in 2007, Project Titan appears to have become a victim of its fate. A year after it started, the project was marred by internal conflicts. According to people with knowledge of the operations, It was an incredible failure of leadership. Earlier this year, project head Steve Zadesky, a former Ford Motor Co. engineer and early iPod designer, left Titan. In April, Bob Mansfield, who helped develop the original iPad, returned to lead the Titan team and announced the drastic change in vision from a car to autonomous system. What followed was engineers abandoning their jobs over security issues and also mass layoffs some willingly, others announced by Apple. The remaining engineers are now said to be working on autonomous programs, vision sensors, and simulators for testing the platform in real-world environments.
Given the surge in interest from phone makers in automobiles, car makers have been on a red alert and ramping up their efforts to bring the technology on roads faster than the tech rivals. A support from tech companies is indispensable. Companies ranging from the likes of GM Motors, Daimler, to BMW and Bosch are exploring the idea, Google is believed to be the game changer for this industry. Apple s backtracking is likely to add towards Google s advantage in realizing the ambitious project. Although both Google and Apple had targeted the year 2020 to commercialize the autonomous technology, given Apple s indecisiveness, consumers might as well be able to see Google s cars hitting the roads sooner than an Apple car. ALSO READ: 40 percent Indians will be too scared in a self-driving car to be productive, says study