Apple Cuts 200+ Employees From 'Project Titan' Autonomous Car Team

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jan 23, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    Apple this week removed more than 200 employees from its autonomous car team, known internally as "Project Titan," reports CNBC.

    An Apple spokesperson confirmed the layoffs to CNBC, but said that Apple continues to believe there is a "huge opportunity" with autonomous systems. According to the statement provided, some of the former Project Titan employees have been moved to other parts of the company.

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    In August, Apple hired former Tesla lead engineer Doug Field to lead Project Titan alongside Bob Mansfield, and the employee dismissals this week were reportedly not a surprise, but rather expected restructuring under the new leadership.

    Apple began work on Project Titan in 2014, and at the time, rumors suggested the company was working to develop an electric vehicle at a secret location near its Cupertino headquarters.

    Leadership issues, internal strife, and other problems impacted the development of the car, and in 2016, new information suggested Apple had shelved its plans for a car to instead focus on an autonomous driving system.

    The hiring of Field, who was once Apple's VP of Mac hardware before he went to Tesla, has, however, been seen as a sign that Apple is again developing a full autonomous vehicle.

    Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who often accurately predicts the company's product plans, also believes that an Apple Car is in development with a targeted launch date between 2023 and 2025. With the new restructuring of the project, though, Apple's ultimate autonomous driving plans are unclear, and this could be a sign that a full Apple Car is once again off the table.

    Apple has been testing autonomous driving software out on the roads of Cupertino since early 2017, and it has developed a self-driving shuttle service to transport Apple employees between various office locations in Silicon Valley.

    In June 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed Apple's work on autonomous driving software, an unusual step as Apple does not often share details on products that are still under development.

    "We're focusing on autonomous systems," said Cook. "It's a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects."

    Article Link: Apple Cuts 200+ Employees From 'Project Titan' Autonomous Car Team
     
  2. catportal macrumors regular

    catportal

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    #2
    The recent revenue guidance really has them shook. Looks like they are cutting high cost programs for shareholders. Unfortunately, iPhone is at peak saturation.
     
  3. ipponrg macrumors 65816

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    #3
    This has been this way historically throughout the company and not just this project.

    I think this should lay to rest for certain posters who claim that the autonomous car is a serious Apple project in the near future.
     
  4. johannnn macrumors 65816

    johannnn

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    #4
    Or, building an entire car is not the best thing to do.
    Not selling enough phones in China has absolutely nothing to do with if building a car is good or not.
     
  5. calstanford macrumors regular

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    #5
    Why Apple, a company with absolutely zero capabilities in car manufacturing and/or AI development has to build automotive AI is beyond me. Where's the core competency? How does it fit into the computer/mobile business?

    I just find it laughable how Apple can't invest a few millions in new wireless routers, monitors, you name it as they're not 'core' enough to the business but somehow automotive AI is deserving billions?!
     
  6. ipponrg macrumors 65816

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    #6
    Why would you start trying to build an entire car, then backtrack? You would think they'd evaluate it before wasting resources and time.

    Clearly, they thought otherwise when hiring more than 200 employees (including former Tesla employees) for said project.
     
  7. JoEw macrumors 68000

    JoEw

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    #7
    Man if this thing ever sees the light of day I hope the stories of this project leak out to the public.
     
  8. UltimaKilo macrumors 6502

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    #8
    It’s strange and slow-walking this project is probably for the best since the tech is still a decade away from level 5 autonomy.

    Sure, Apple needs a new revenue stream now that the iPhone has peaked, but they should look elsewhere.
     
  9. StevieD100 macrumors 6502a

    StevieD100

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    #9
    Perhaps they have decided that building Batteries is going to be more profitable in the long term.
    The guy who came from a stint at Tesla knows this and now that they have hired a battery guy from Samsung...
     
  10. Mike MA macrumors 68000

    Mike MA

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    #10
    Maybe better reducing some first/business flight budget.
     
  11. andyyau macrumors member

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    #11
    Forget it! Five years without making a new MacPro. How can they make a car. I never believe them.
     
  12. StevieD100 macrumors 6502a

    StevieD100

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    #12
    ROFL.
    If you talk to a real Tesla Fanboi, they will happily tell you that it will happen right after the Hardware update is applied to the Model 3. They do all seem to want to sleep on their commute for some IMHO unfathomable reason.
     
  13. timber macrumors 6502

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    #13
    Your first sentence says it all, why would you start to build a car?
    Apple does one thing well (very well indeed) and that is computers. All its products are computers.
    Perhaps all its success resulted in overconfidence and delusion.
     
  14. Jadzea97 macrumors newbie

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    #14
    I guess same reason why a bloke (James Dyson) who makes vacuum cleaners is now making EVs. Maybe cars of the future have more in common with a home appliance than a piece of mechanical engineering? It does seem to me that Apple have had a car on their radar since the days of the original iPod, but despite this they seem hesitant about entering the market. Perhaps the question is what could Apple do differently or better than any other EV manufacturer that wouldn’t just be ‘wacky’ (spherical wheels!?!)?
     
  15. Vjosullivan macrumors 6502

    Vjosullivan

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    #15
    Executives don't develop technology, scientists do; then engineers put it into practice. Battery technology has come a long way but still needs a lot of basic scientific research to develop batteries that store as much energy as we want from them.

    (Batteries in electric cars currently store about as much energy as a gallon of petrol.)
     
  16. tvquang macrumors newbie

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    #16
    Tesla can build a car from the ground up, so anyone can.

    A car is no longer just a mean of transportation. It's getting smarter and more personal. A smart autonomous car which can take its owner everywhere without a driver is the future. For example, an apple car that connect to apple watch, which know the owner's health, can take the owner to the hospital in case it detect illness. You don't know what a smart car can do until they show you, just like you didn't know what a smart phone was capable of until Apple shows us.

    Wireless router, monitors,... are old stuffs. There are others who can do these better than Apple. These are not Apple's core business anymore. And it takes a lot of effort to enter and lead an existing market.

    In order to lead the world and open new chapter, Apple need to enter another new market first, just like it did with the iPod, iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad. There's a lot of risk in new market, but the opportunity is high.

    Microsoft and Google are also researching the autonomous vehicles market (Google is doing it). If Apple doesn't do it, Apple will fall behind once Microsoft and Google make their own autonomous car or cooperate with an auto manufacturer.

    The autonomous vehicle involves AI, which is Apple's focus now. Apple has been working hard on AI lately, so definitely it needs to at least own an autonomous vehicles software.
     
  17. Piggie macrumors G3

    Piggie

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    #17
    Perhaps these 200 employee's can be put to work making new watch bands, or the money used to pay for Tim to go around the world like some international spokesperson?
    They certainly don't seem to be able to develop many actual products other than the ones they keep minor refreshing.
     
  18. Amacfa macrumors 68000

    Amacfa

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    #18
    Did anyone read the article?


     
  19. Grey Area macrumors regular

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    #19
    Those parts read like typical corporate damage control PR to me. "Our failure was exactly the way we wanted it, everything is awesome!"
     
  20. keysofanxiety macrumors G3

    keysofanxiety

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    #20
    You’re thinking in the past. Self-driving cars and AI are the way of the future. Our children’s children will be incredulous to consider that people used to “drive” their own cars.

    Apple, as ever, are working to ensure they have a foothold in the next technology jump.

    I’ve said it many times, though MacRumors’ legacy comments section will give you the proof. From every new item Apple have released — most notably with the iPod, or iPhone — there were people here complaining that they just want a faster PowerBook and that Apple is neglecting its core customers.

    You’ll be eating your words within a decade. Guaranteed.
     
  21. MultiMan macrumors member

    MultiMan

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    #21
    Again I get the impression that profitability is main focus in all things Apple nowadays. I think it's a mistake not to look for and develop great products first and then figure out how we can maximize profits. That's at least the way Apple used to work (imho), and the company that made many revolutionary products people didn't even knew they needed.
     
  22. mi7chy macrumors 603

    mi7chy

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    #22
    Sounds more like a RIF than restructuring which usually occurs shortly after the new head hire and not five months later.

    Can't blame them for exploring new markets but it has already become too saturated combined with the rise of ride sharing services plus driverless Waymo and a release in 2023+ would be way too late.
     
  23. sw1tcher, Jan 24, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019

    sw1tcher macrumors 65816

    sw1tcher

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    #23
    Not in my future. I enjoy being behind the wheel.

    If a person is too ill to drive, that person would be better off calling an ambulance/EMT who would get the individual to the hospital much quicker and be able to treat the patient along the way.

    Thank God Apple brought us emojis. What would the world be like without them? :p

    Apple didn't enter any of those product segments first.

    Portable music/media players existed long before the iPod. Mobile phones existed long before the iPhone. There were smartwatches before the Apple Watch. There were tablets before the iPad.

    Apple entered the segment with their own product once they could improve upon it.

    I don't see how an autonomous Apple car makes sense. It would be prohibitively expensive for many people which means they won't be able to sell as many compared to mass market devices like the Mac, iPod, iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad, and the replacement cycle for it would be much much longer. People keep their cars an average of 6-7 years. People aren't going to rush out and buy a new Apple car every 1 to 3 years like they do with the iPhone, Mac, iPad, etc.

    Where would Apple display and sell their car, in an Apple store? They'd have to set up their own dealer network to handle sales and repairs. That's going to require a lot more capital because you know Apple isn't going to let the owner work on their own car in any way. An Apple car is going to be super locked down and will require special equipment to work on it. Look at how difficult Apple makes it to work on and repair/upgrade a Mac or any one of their other devices. And Apple isn't going to provide manuals on how to service it either since Apple's against the right to repair.

    Look at Tesla. They've poured countless billions into their business and they have never had a profitable year. I know Apple has the cash to do it, but entering the car business is going to be a huge cash drain for many years (decade?). And the car business can be unpredictable. If the economy goes down the drain, so will Apple's car sales. It's a very cyclical business unlike the consumer hardware and services businesses they're already in.

    I'd also point out the tiny margins in the car business where gross margins average around 6%. Net margins are 1%-2%. That's a far cry from the 40% average gross margins Apple's used to. (I believe Tesla is averaging around 22% in gross margins while their net margins are in the negative teens).

    I suppose Apple could develop an autonomous car and get into the ride hailing business with Uber and Google to expand their services business. It would definitely have a greater reach vs selling cars and there would be many more repeat customers. But that's also a huge money pit of a business. Uber has lost over $10 billion over the years (their average quarterly loss has been around $1 billion per quarter over the past 2 years, if I remember correctly).
     
  24. coolfactor macrumors 68040

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    #24
    Unfortunately, the media will spin this as Apple letting employees go, when clearly they are not doing that, but moving staffing assets around to areas that will have a quick return on the investment.

    And I firmly believe they are not set on building a car, but a "car platform"... the best that the market will see. If they are smart, they'll release it as an OEM option for car manufacturers. That will be a first (other than the failed Mac clone program). Apple does not need to get into building cars. They should focus on what they do best... the technology aspect.
     
  25. nerdAFK macrumors 6502

    nerdAFK

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