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Apple slices autonomous program

By Tim Robson, 28 Jan 2019 Car News

Apple slices autonomous car program

Apple fires a third of its Project Titan autonomous team. Is this the end of the Apple Car?

Technology behemoth Apple has slashed staff numbers within is autonomous vehicle division - known as Project Titan - which all but spells the end of the Cupertino company's dream of building its own autonomous car - at least in the short term.

The company says that staff are being redeployed to other projects throughout the company, and that it will continue to focus on projects like machine learning.

The idea of an Apple Car has been a long-held dream at the company, and reportedly even pre-dates the iPhone as an internal project.

Project Titan kicked off with a couple of thousand employees in a secret facility not far from Apple's HQ in 2014, but has changed focus a couple of times in that period.

READ MORE Apple car project on the ropes already

Reports from the US suggest that Apple was pretty serious about the project, even entering into discussions with Magna-Steyr, a contract car builder in Austria whose current resume includes the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, the BMW Z4 and its fraternal twin, the Toyota Supra.

As well, stories emerged that Apple had approached sports car maker McLaren about a possible takeover.

In 2016, the company announced that it was refocusing the division's energies towards creating autonomous software, officially moving away from the notion of creating a car from scratch. Reports suggest that staff numbers also fell in line with the announcement.

Work continued apace on the autonomous software, though, with Apple granted a licence in California to operate a fleet of autonomous R&D vehicles based on Lexus RX300s.

It's also working with Volkswagen to turn a fleet of Transporter vans into autonomous shuttles for use within its own precincts.

READ MORE Autonomy types explained

The appointment of former Tesla chief vehicle engineer (and former Apple employee) Doug Field - who joins a number of former Elon Musk workers at Apple - is thought to be behind the restructure.

The appointment of a such a senior vehicle engineer also lends credence to persistent rumours that the vehicle project is not completely dead and buried, but merely being pushed back a number of years as Apple focuses on getting the software right first.

Watch this space.