By on September 12, 2016

hello_missing_apple_car

Apple’s self-driving car project seems to have reached the point in a TV show where new actors take on old roles and the script flies out the window.

According to the New York Times, the tech giant’s Project Titan has been hit with a slew of layoffs, leaving several areas of the project boarded up and in the dark.

Is the shadowy Apple car, once the dream of nerds everywhere, powering down?

News of the layoffs, described by an Apple employee as being in the dozens, comes after project leaders seemed to pull a mid-summer U-turn. After Bob Mansfield took the lead on the project back in July, reports arose of a sudden change in direction. The focus of Project Titan reportedly switched from building an autonomous car to developing autonomous car technology.

Sources claim Apple employees were told that the layoffs are part of a “reboot” of the self-driving electric car project.

This, after repeated pushbacks of the release date of a real, physical vehicle, be it prototype or production. Is it time to stop speculating on what form the mysterymobile will take?

Sources claim the company already has several fully autonomous vehicles currently undergoing testing, though it isn’t clear if Apple designed the vehicles — not the autonomous technology — in-house. The testing takes place on closed tracks, which explains the lack of spy photos.

The question plaguing Apple (one mentioned by company sources) is what exactly can the company produce that isn’t already in development by a number of other companies? Several automakers, as well as tech companies like Google and ride-hailing company Uber, have self-driving car projects underway.

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43 Comments on “iCar or noCar? Apple Car Project Hit With Layoffs, Future Uncertain...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Apple is showing great courage in not doing what they started out to do.

    I’m surprised they didn’t just announce that people don’t need cars, and make courageous blenders instead. And those blenders will only be compatible with Japanese outlets, and will require a converter to work in the US.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Automotive is an incredibly saturated, cut-throat, low-margin, and highly regulated business. Apple hates all of those things. And unlike what companies like Uber are doing, simply ignoring those regulations will bring you a world of pain.

    Just ask VW.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      Computers are a low-margin business too, except for the Mac which has high margins. Mobile phones are highly regulated (though far less than cars), fairly saturated, and cut-throat, yet the iPhone is wildly profitable. Apple has a long history of entering seemingly crowded markets (there were dozens of MP3 players before the iPod) and blowing everyone away with standout products. It’s not impossible they can do it again.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    IMO, Apple, Google and some of the others need to stay in their lanes..They both make great software and IMO if they just partnered with a OEM to develop their plans and then license it to all that will take it. Auto OEM’s know far less about software than Google or APple and vice versa.

    At this point I expected Google to approach an AUTO OEM and present what they have to them and ask if they are willing to license it. I love Ford but I wouldn’t do this with them as their are known for partnering and once they get to a certain point back out with all the information they learned to “create” their own stuff. They did it with Ecoboost, truck hybrid units with Toyota and also the Hydraulic Hybrid they were working on with the Gov.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I’m surprised Apple hasn’t just bought up Tesla. That would be more than just pocket change for them, but the financial stability would help them address the glaring flaws in their cars.

      and, maybe launch the Model 3 on time.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        That would mean the end of Tesla’s revenue stream…GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE.

        Tesla’s biggest product so far is vaporware. Apple’s masters may respect that; but they’re not going to purchase it.

        And a cash-rich company like Apple, owning Tesla, would either immediately end tax giveaways or else harken up cries of “CRONYISM” and comparisons to GE.

        It’s potentially disruptive enough, distracting enough, to change the whole nature of Apple’s business. So IMHO they’re wise to stay out.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          it’s not “Vaporware” until they start missing their targeted release dates.

        • 0 avatar
          la834

          Their corporate cultures are so different. Apple keeps everything a secret until two weeks before it ships; Tesla tells us what they have planned for the next two years. I’m not sure sure these two companies could mesh.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Tesla *has to,* they can’t raise capital unless they can convince investors they have a future. showing off tangible examples of future product is a good way to do that.

            witness how every other automaker keeps new models under wraps until they’re good and ready to reveal them.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @JustPassinThru:

          Please specify this government assistance you speak of.

          Are you referring to the $7500 EV tax credit that every EV buyer gets, historically led by Nissan, but also including Ford, BMW, GM, M-B, Fiat, Porsche, VW, and others?

          Or are you referring to the corporate welfare that every car mfr receives?

          And speaking of vaporware, Tesla is now producing their third actual vehicle line. Are you thinking of Elio Motors?

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        But that would mean that all Teslas would come only in black or silver and the top model would be incredibly overpriced for the performance you’re getting.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          In other words, little change in the product and none in pricing.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Well the very nice green I’ve seen on the Model S would beg to differ with the first point…

            (Seriously though, the Mac Pro is stupid-looking, incredibly difficult to repair or upgrade compared to a standard form factor PC, and is enormously expensive. I miss the old PowerMac G3 and G4.)

          • 0 avatar
            healthy skeptic

            @JustPassinThru

            >>> That would mean the end of Tesla’s revenue stream…GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE.

            Why would an Apple acquisition of Tesla cause various green incentives to go away? Those incentives are available to every manufacturer in the auto industry, and nothing in the law stipulates that they end because a manufacturer gets acquired.

            Regardless of an Apple acquisition, Tesla’s customers will start to lose the $7,500/car federal tax credit once Tesla makes its 200,000th car. At that point the phaseout begins. In which case, the incentives will have worked exactly as they were supposed to: a temporary helping hand that gets a promising new technology or business model up to speed, not a way of life.

          • 0 avatar
            JustPassinThru

            “Why would an Apple acquisition of Tesla cause various green incentives to go away?”

            Actually a very-good question. One we should be asking more of.

            The POINT to that government assistance is, in theory, to shepherd along new technologies which won’t immediately pay for themselves, but which, to government social-engineer planners, appear to be very beneficial.

            In other words, to provide seed money for something that will take a long time to produce returns.

            Now, why would they do that with an outfit that’s overflowing with cash? Apple can certainly afford to invest their stashed profits on long-term projects. Why would they need government assistance?

            Of course, the model as I painted it doesn’t always hold up. Tesla, like Fisker, like Solyndra, did need “seed” money. They were starting with nothing

            (and that’s what we the taxpayers would up with, nothing)

            but other established businesses, such as GE, the archtypical Crony model today…have found it profitable to latch onto the government money-teat and suck. HARD.

            But I don’t think Apple wants any more government involvement than they already have; and they have been going through a Microsoft-type examination for some years now.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Really?

            Government tax incentives for “new technologies which won’t immediately pay for themselves” are only for startups?

            IBM wasn’t much of a startup in the early ’80s when tax incentives were handed out to business who bought that newfangled personal computer.

            And the “social engineering” this tax credit was meant to advance? Why, it was the productivity revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. I seem to remember that working out decently for IBM, Apple, and a dozen other PC makers…plus the companies that bought the computers (including my father’s).

            But what does the big dumb gubmint know? It’s all about social engineering. I mean, no one made a dime off all that new PC tech, did they?

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @justPassinThru: As a reward for buying an EV, the government allowed me to keep $7500 of my own hard owned money rather than handing it over to them. What’s wrong with that?

          • 0 avatar
            whitworth

            Are you really going to try and make the ridiculous assertion that PCs would have never become a reality if it wasn’t for some silly, special tax break?

            The problem with this type of taxation is it is crony capitalism where the industry with the best lobbyists wins at the expense of other industries.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Right wingers hate tax relief for hard working Americans when it helps save the planet from climate change because it threatens their backers’ business model.

  • avatar

    Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is no visionary like Steve Jobs was. His initial thought was, let’s poach away from the competition the best engineers and designers, and we’ll come up with something. WRONG! You need to have a vision first. Most designers are just stylists with an attitude. Engineers lack outside the box imagination. It’s what you need. http://evworld.com/blogs.cfm?blogID=1351

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      no he’s not; Cook is an operations guy. In terms of its day to day functions, Tim Cook has been “running” Apple since well before Steve Jobs died. Jobs is why the iPhone exists, Cook is why they had millions ready to sell on launch day.

      Thing is, the CEO doesn’t necessarily need to be the visionary or the “product guy.” But they need to have one.

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      Tim Cook is an embarrassment.

      I’ve been an Apple user and stockholder for a while, the company will die if it doesn’t get rid of him.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    On the one hand, this shows guts and honesty on Tim Cook’s part.

    On the other hand, it seems clear that this has taken a great deal of Apple’s R&D attention over the last couple of years, and you wonder what other companies have been doing in Apple’s core space during that time. Apple is lucky in that its competition is a bunch of PC and phone OEMs that usually can’t shoot straight and that still (especially in the PC space) struggle with the basics of design, but that won’t last forever. This puts Apple under a whole lot of pressure to figure out the Next Thing very quickly indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “his shows guts and honesty on Tim Cook’s part.”

      Agreed. It was part of their original plan that they would put in $1B and be willing to walk away from it if things don’t turn out right.

      I’m sure a lot of their work can be reapplied to autonomous car tech. Hmmm… will people buy cars with an “Apple Inside” logo?

      • 0 avatar
        whitworth

        I didn’t need to spend a billion dollars of shareholder money to know Apple Computers shouldn’t be manufacturing automobiles.

        Apple should just use their surplus to buy back shares rather throw it around on dumb projects that lead nowhere.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    It was incredibly stupid for Apple to get anywhere near the idea of actually producing automobiles. It makes about as much sense as them getting in the airline business.

    Apple has gone in a lot of dumb directions since Tim Cook became CEO.

    I guess “courage” these days is not having a headphone jack.


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