By on July 28, 2016

Apple Logo Circa 2005

Apple’s annoyingly mysterious self-driving unicorn car project has a new team member.

Dan Dodge, founder and former CEO of Blackberry’s QNX automotive software division, has already joined the ranks of Apple’s shadowy “Project Titan” team, Bloomberg reports. After endless speculation about the future iCar (and what it will look like), sources close to the company say the project is now moving in different direction.

Is the Apple car fading from view?

The sources, who claim knowledge of Apple’s self-driving car project, told Bloomberg that the team’s leader, Bob Mansfield, is shifting the focus onto developing autonomous driving technology. The car project reportedly still exists, but the effort now lies elsewhere.

Recently, Apple announced plans to open an R&D facility near QNX’s headquarters in Ottawa, Canada. The proximity of the two facilities raises eyebrows.

Last year, we were told that the car would exist in some form by 2019. That meant anything from a production-ready vehicle to a blueprint. The unveiling date was then pushed back to 2020. Now, we’re hearing that the wraps won’t come off until 2021.

Apple is treating Project Titan like the Manhattan Project. Little, if any, usable information leaks out. At least, not from official channels. Research and development spending is up at Apple, but CEO Tim Cook didn’t have much useful to say during a conference call this week.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we’re doing beyond the current products,” Cook said. You can almost feel that car, can’t you?

While the Apple car exists as a celebrity ghost for now, there’s some reason to believe a driveable product will one day roll out of the company’s labs. (Though possibly not as a production vehicle.) If Apple wanted to test its autonomous technology through a fleet of road-going vehicles, it could have gone the Google route.

In May, Google partnered with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to test its technology on a fleet of 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans. That option is still open to Apple, but the company’s been dead silence on the possibility of partnering with an automaker.

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17 Comments on “Apple Hires Blackberry Exec for Car Project; Project Team Heads in New Direction...”


  • avatar
    garuda

    Ooof, doesn’t sound good for the future of apple car project if its the same guy who ran the biggest name in PDA’s at one time to the ground.

    • 0 avatar
      TheDoctorIsOut

      Actually QNX was the more successful parts of the business providing the base OS for quite a number of in-car systems. Note that Android and Apple car apps are overlays on the base OS and not controlling the entire in-car system.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Not the same guy. Dan Dodge co-created the QNX realtime OS with Gordon Bell. That puts him in very respectable company. It was Jim Balsillie, who, as chairman of RIM, took his eye off BlackBerry and went shopping for hockey teams instead.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    Apple has said nothing about any of this. Suggesting the speculation may have been wrong? Say it ain’t so!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Dan Dodge is a pretty cool name for a car guy, but why didn’t they go even cooler and get Brogan BamBrogan formerly of Hyperloop?

  • avatar
    tylanner

    I see this project as a convergence of battery powered cars and small personal transportation devices such as Segway and those little hover scooters I saw on the twittergrams.

    As bold as the Tesla vision is, it is still basically a car….

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Apple is incredibly stupid to get into the car business.

    I’ve been an Apple shareholder for a while, love most of their products, but this will be a very painful lesson for them.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I wonder if all this Apple Car stuff is actual the development around a software / hardware package to add safety features to other cars and not an Apple designed and built car. In other words, this is imilar to CarPlay but way more advanced.

    My though process is this – Apple does a huge mount of R&D work in many fields: miniaturization, battery tech , cameras, user interface, software optimization and most recently upscale marketing (Apple Stores, the AppleWatch). These don’t point to making a car, they point to making a system an OEM would buy to add to their car. Which of course would then be sold onto a consumer as an upsell. IE: you can have our standard package or the “Apple Safe” package for $$ more. This way you could buy a Ford, BMW or Chevy with “Apple Safe” baked in. Such a product would include a unique user interface to manage options such a limiting a teen drivers speed, to active safety like auto braking, to fancy pants stuff like Telsa’s “find a parking space and automatically park my car there”. My guess is there would also be a monthly fee similar to OnStar for other services like finding the nearest charging location.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      That would make more sense, but from what I’ve read they seem to be throwing around the sort of money and hiring the amount of people to where they look to be launching an actual Apple car.

      I can understand wanting the technology and patents, but manufacturing actual cars for Apple seems incredibly stupid and the sort of move that could easily sink the company if its a misfire.

      I remember when people applauded Apple for no longer making printers since that wasn’t their core business. Now they want to get in the car business.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Nah, Apple is sitting on maybe $200B in cash. I’ve read they have allocated $1B to this project and will just walk away from it if doesn’t show promise.

        Apple’s philosophy is to control both hardware and software, so I can see why they would prefer to build their own car and write their own embedded system. Doing both is what makes their products beautiful, and beautiful to use.

        But building a car is very hard, and this article suggests Apple is realizing that. Google and Tesla also appear to be ahead of Apple. Tesla’s Model S is very attractive. It’s not a crappy Windows machine that an iMac can trounce, nor is it a clunky Blackberry phone that an iPhone can outshine. Tesla’s Model S is a very, very good car.

        Given the challenges of building a car, and the state of the competition, it’s a smart move by Apple to switch gears… for now.

        • 0 avatar
          jacob_coulter

          You can’t get a car manufacturing operation off the ground with only a billion dollars.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            I understand. Apple is spending up to $1B to see if the idea is worth pursuing, not to start a production line. It looks like they are changing course, but with Apple, being so secretive, one never really knows.

      • 0 avatar
        dash riprock

        They have raided Tesla with a very specific(in the instance I know)focus on automotive battery technology.

        Who would you rather work for long term, Tesla or Apple?.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Tesla. By a million miles. Bodyslamming Navy Seals into the sides of trucks at hyperloop speeds, beats death by a million NDA’s, lawyers, hush-hush’, credentialisms and stealth modes any day.

          I mean, one company is ran by a dude who wants to go to Mars on his own dime. The other by a bunch of geriatrics more concerned about “leveraging their brand and their IP portfolio.”

          I’m not convinced Bambrogan will ever live to see the day when regular Joes zip around in near-vacuum tubes. But by settling for the slightly downdream version of the somewhat higher air density at the top of Donner pass, he may well get to hyperloop, or at least superloop, his way from Reno to Fremont before he retires.

          While his comrades in Cupertino will have made the cellphone two millimeters thinner. And sued out of existence all those who dared dream of three.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It would be better to develop the technology, brand it, and let automakers license it, akin to what Bose does with car audio. I have to assume that this is what Apple is doing, and that any car that it may assemble would be for demonstration purposes only.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, that would be the smartest thing but Apple doesn’t license technology. I also note that the maker of the buggiest consumer OS currently available tied their first phone to AT&T back when that meant “No Data” and pulled it off.

      Apple could put that $10-12 billion in a place where it could do some good, or see some obvious return but that’s not the fashion.

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