Apple shrinks autonomous vehicle team by 200 employees

Apple has dismissed as many as 200 people from Project Titan, its secretive autonomous vehicle project, reports CNBC. In a statement Apple confirmed the change, and said that the affected employees would be moved on to projects in other parts of the company. The changes are relatively small, given that as many as 5,000 people were either working on the project or had access to its details as of July last year.

Confirming the restructuring, Apple said that former Titan employees will “support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple.” It described the project’s focus as “autonomous systems” rather than vehicles, echoing comments from CEO Tim Cook which suggested that the company’s focus has expanded beyond cars. The company described the initiative as “the most ambitious machine learning project ever.”

The exact scope of Project Titan remains a mystery. After reportedly beginning with the aim of developing both self-driving hardware and software, the plans were later scaled back to just developing software, with Apple partnering with car manufacturers such as Volkswagen to provide the hardware. The New York Times has reported that “hundreds” of employees left the project between 2016 and 2018 as a result of these changes in direction.

CNBC reports that this latest change is being described internally as a restructuring, thought to be related to the project’s relatively new leadership. Last year, Apple hired Tesla’s chief vehicle engineer Doug Field, who is reportedly running Project Titan alongside longtime executive Bob Mansfield.

However, despite this apparent reduced focus, the amount of self-driving cars Apple is testing on the roads has continued to increase, with the company having more registered test vehicles in California than Google’s autonomous spin-off Waymo as of March 2018.

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