Apple Axes Self-Driving Car Staff

Apple has provided some rare insight into its self-driving car program, codenamed Project Titan.

In a regulatory filing, the iPad maker reportedly said it planned in mid April to lay off 190 staff from eight different Santa Clara County facilities near its Cupertino headquarters.

Ever since 2015, Apple had been rumoured to be releasing an electric car sometime in 2019. Rumours were strengthened in July 2015 when CEO Tim Cook was in spotted in Leipzig, Germany in July, amid reports that Apple was to agree a partnership with BMW.

Staff lay-offs

Apple was reportedly going to use the BMW i3 vehicle as the basis for its long rumoured ‘Apple Car’.

This partnership would have solved the manufacturing issue, as Apple doesn’t actually make its own devices. Most of its iPhones for example are made by a third party (Foxconn etc).

Car makers on the other hand have their own purpose-built factories and build their own products, and the BMW tie up would have solved Apple’s lack of experience in building actual vehicles.

There are thought to be 1,200 staff working on Project Titan at the moment, and in typical Apple fashion, the firm does not reveal any information about the car except to those on a “need-to-know” basis.

Whatever the progress here, it seems that Apple feels it has too many staff on the project.

Reuters reportedly got an Apple spokesman to confirm that the staff reduction was from Apple self-driving car program.

The letter to California employment regulators reveals that Apple will lay off at least two dozen software engineers, including a machine learning engineer, and 40 hardware engineers. Three product design engineers and an ergonomics engineer also face the axe, as does a machine shop supervisor.

Long term

But Reuters warned that the lay-offs does not necessarily mean Apple is scaling back its self-driving car ambitions in the long term, as the firm appears to have ramped up its testing on California roads.

It cited a filing with regulators earlier this month, in which Apple said it had logged nearly 80,000 miles of testing in California in 2018, compared to just 1,000 testing miles in 2017.

But this is still a long way off than Alphabet’s Waymo unit, which logged 1.2 million miles in California last year.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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