Apple reportedly cancels electric car project, lays off some employees while shifts others to AI

According to media reports, Apple has decided to wind down its secretive Project Titan, the company’s decade-long endeavor to develop a self-driving electric car. The news was delivered internally by Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams and Kevin Lynch, Vice President overseeing the project. As of now, Apple’s car team has several hundred hardware engineers and vehicle designers.

The announcement, made during an internal meeting, reportedly caught nearly 2,000 employees working on the project off guard. This development also comes a month after Apple delayed the release date of the car by two years, pushing it from 2026 to 2028. Elon Musk, head of EV maker Tesla, celebrated the move. He shared a post on the X social media site with a saluting emoji and a cigarette.

Following the project’s cancellation, Apple is undertaking a strategic shift. According to reports, many employees from Project Titan team — known as the Special Projects Group, or SPG — will be reassigned to the company’s burgeoning AI division, which is under executive John Giannandrea. The exact number of layoffs remains uncertain. This development currently aligns with Apple’s newfound focus on generative AI and comes amidst the ChatGPT era, wherein the company is focused on bringing AI to its lineup of devices. The Cupertino-headquartered tech titan currently views AI as a more promising avenue for future growth and innovation compared to the complex and resource-intensive task of building a self-driving car.

In the short term, Apple’s exit is unlikely to cause significant disruption to the EV market. The company was still years away from launching a commercially viable product, and its departure from the scene doesn’t create a major void. After all, the EV market already boasts of established players like Tesla, General Motors, Ford, and Volkswagen, along with emerging players like BYD and Rivian. Nonetheless, Apple’s entry into the EV market was highly anticipated and could have intensified competition in an already crowded space. With its brand recognition, design expertise, and technological prowess, Apple posed a potential threat to existing EV manufacturers like Tesla, General Motors, and Ford.

For those who are unaware, Project Titan, shrouded in secrecy from its inception in 2014, was envisioned as a revolutionary vehicle. Initially, the project aimed to develop a fully autonomous car with a futuristic, steering-wheel-free design. While such a vehicle has not come to pass (so far, and may not come at all, from the looks of it), analysts estimated that such a vehicle would cost around $100,000. The problem has been further compounded with numerous challenges – for example, technological hurdles, such as cracking the complexities of self-driving technology, proved to be formidable obstacles, while the project struggled nearly from the start. Additionally, the project faced internal struggles, including leadership changes and evolving goals. These factors, coupled with a rapidly changing market landscape, hampered progress significantly. Despite significant financial resources poured into research and development, Apple remained years away from launching a commercially viable product.

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