Apple may not be leaving the world of self-driving cars, but it has been scaling back on its employees assigned to the secretive project.
Apple has closed off parts of its project, code-named Titan, and laid off dozens of employees, three people briefed on the matter told the New York Times.
While Apple has declined to comment on Titan, the company has been struggling to make progress, the Times reported. In July, the company handed over leadership of the project to Bob Mansfield, a highly regarded Apple veteran who had left the company’s executive team in 2013.
Apple, known for its secrecy, has declined to comment on its self-driving car project. Apple CEO Timothy Cook did confirm the existence of the car project at its annual shareholders meeting earlier this year.
“Do you remember when you were a kid, and Christmas Eve, it was so exciting, you weren’t sure what was going to be downstairs?” Cook said at the meeting. “Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.”
During the recent developments, Apple employees were told that the layoffs were part of a “reboot” of the car project, sources said. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
Under Mansfield, Apple may be following Google’s strategy more closely. Apple has been changing the focus of the project from manufacturing a car to building out the technology for an autonomous vehicle.
Apple may also be considering providing technology to electric cars. About two years ago, the company delved into plug-in electrified vehicle seriously, poaching experts in battery technology and veterans from the auto industry. The team also pulled in staff members from other Apple divisions to grow the car project to more than 1,000 employees over about 18 months. Problems started mounting for the team as the project grew rapidly.
Steven Zadesky, a longtime Apple employee who initially lead the car project, left the company for personal reasons this year. That opened the door for Mansfield, who had worked closely with Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs.
Apple appears to be staying in the race for self-driving cars. The company is in the middle of testing autonomous vehicles, using limited operating routes in a closed environment, according to people briefed on the company’s plans. The sources said that the self-driving car technology is likely to be a number of years away from seeing mainstream use.