For quite some time, the tech world has buzzed with rumors that Apple is planning on building an electric, possibly self-driving car. Codenamed ‘Project Titan,’ this initiative had reportedly grown over the past few years to as many as 1,000 employees. Although Apple CEO Tim Cook and his executives have never officially admitted that a car of some sort is in the making, virtually the whole tech industry expected an Apple-branded car to hit the streets by 2020 or so.
But in tech, there’s always an element of uncertainty, and a new report suggests that Apple is scaling back its car plans. According to Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, Apple has shifted its focus to vehicle software, possibly with a heavy emphasis on autonomous-driving features.
As part of that shift, Bloomberg claims that Apple has laid off a large number of engineers and other employees; still more have quit. Executives continue to debate the final direction for Titan.
Whatever its final decision, Apple faces an incredible amount of competition in the automotive space. Tesla currently dominates the high end of the electric car market, and CEO Elon Musk has made no secret of his plans to eventually make his vehicles autonomous. Traditional carmakers like Ford are devoting more resources and focus to electric vehicles. Meanwhile, Google, Uber, and other major tech firms are rapidly improving their own versions of self-driving technology.
Although Apple has enjoyed considerable success as a “fast follower,” or a company that enters an already-established industry with a refined product, it would be difficult for any firm to go from zero to sixty with those sorts of headwinds. Adding to the difficulty is the nature of the automotive industry itself, with complex supply chains and huge startup costs.
If any company has the money and brainpower to tackle those challenges, it’s Apple; but if the firm has decided to scale back its automotive ambitions to software, it would prove a welcome development for Google, Uber, Tesla, and other tech firms that want to make their own mark on cars.