17 autonomous vehicle engineers leave Apple for self-driving car startup Zoox

“A group of automotive engineers has left Apple Inc. for self-driving car startup Zoox Inc. after the world’s most valuable technology company backed off plans to build its own vehicle, according to people familiar with the situation,” Alex Webb reports for Bloomberg.

“The 17 engineers specialize in designing elements present in both traditional and autonomous vehicles, such as braking and suspension systems, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the moves aren’t public. Many of them originally joined Apple from Detroit carmakers and suppliers,” Webb reports. “Apple pared back its automotive ambitions last year after rising costs and headcount at Project Titan, as the program is dubbed. Hundreds of engineers were either fired, reassigned or left of their own volition and the project was given a deadline of late 2017 to prove the feasibility of its autonomous driving system and decide on a final direction, people familiar with its workings told Bloomberg News last year.”

“Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in June that Apple is focusing on autonomous driving systems,” Webb reports. “That technology could then be licensed to carmakers, or Apple’s efforts to make its own car may be resurrected at a later date.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Once again, as we wrote a week ago:

So, Apple’s going to make a vehicle operating system and license it out to other companies because that’s what they do… Oh, wait.

Or could this simply be that Apple wants to get the hard stuff (autonomous vehicle OS) done first and will wait do the easier stuff (vehicle hardware) later (based on when and if they succeed with the software)?

The answer is, most likely, “Yes.”

SEE ALSO:
Apple scales back its ambitions for a self-driving car – August 23, 2017
Apple’s ‘Project Titan’ remains as fuzzy as ever – June 14, 2017
Tim Cook says Apple is focusing on an autonomous car system; does not rule out making own vehicles – June 13, 201
How Apple is training testers for self-driving Apple Car – April 24, 2017
Apple permit reveals self-driving car testers include NASA roboticists – April 24, 2017
Apple + satellites = ? – April 22. 2017
Why Apple may be interested in space satellites – April 21, 2017
Apple’s self-driving car test program revealed in new document – April 21, 2017
Analyst: Apple ‘almost certainly’ exploring making a whole car but there’s a big challenge – April 18, 2017
Right now, the ‘Apple Car’ is a 2015 Lexus RX 450h SUV – April 17, 2017
Gene Munster on Apple Car: Exploration does not mean a product comes to market – April 17, 2017
Apple’s Project Titan: California makes it official – April 17, 2017
Why you should get your self-driving car from Apple – April 17, 2017
Apple secures permit to test autonomous vehicles – April 15, 2017
Apple’s letter to the U.S. NHTSA reveals 30-year Detroit veteran on its stealth ‘Project Titan’ team – December 8, 2016
Apple files patent for autonomous vehicle collision avoidance system – December 8, 2016
Apple letter all but confirms plans for self-driving cars and commitment to privacy – December 5, 2016
Apple drops hints about autonomous-vehicle project in letter to U.S. transportation regulators – December 3, 2016
It’s not McLaren Racing, but McLaren Applied Technologies, that’s the apple of Apple’s eye – September 23, 2016
Apple-target McLaren is a tech company disguised as a carmaker – September 22, 2016
Supercar-maker McLaren says not in discussion with Apple ‘in respect of any potential investment’ – September 22, 2016
Apple in talks to acquire British supercar maker McLaren – September 21, 2016
Apple in talks to acquire electric vehicle-maker Lit Motors – September 21, 2016

15 Comments

  1. Zoox could just be a smokescreen company for Apple autonomous vehicle development. Apple could simply purchase the company when it has a use for it in the future. Who knows how sneaky Apple may need to be to throw off the news media or competitors.

    1. I doubt that. But regarding MDN’s take: In fact, this is exactly what Apple has been doing on several fronts.

      • Apple licenses CarPlay to auto manufacturers.
      • Its MfI program licenses Lightning and other hardware-related IP to peripheral manufacturers. (Sure, Apple could make its own blood pressure monitors but the licensing program lets them concentrate on, and profit from, their real secret sauce.)
      • Apple opened the App Store specifically so that it didn’t have to write all apps for all customer needs. Two million apps later, that strategy seems to be working.
      • Apple doesn’t make its own movies and TV shows (with some remarkably crappy exceptions); it does deals with content owners.
      • And on and on.

  2. Strike Apple car “Titan” from the pipeline, then. Not surprised with Cook at the helm.

    He is not long for Apple CEO if the board grows a pair. Perched in the first coach on the Apple gravy train as he cruises the country dragging the company into PC liberal politics.

    Something Steve advised against …

    1. Personally, I think some of Cook’s messaging is a distraction. Nevertheless, AAPL is at an all time high. If, as you claim, you are only focused on financials then I’m struggling to understand what your beef really is with Cook.

    2. If you want to make a serious point about Cook then you should leave politics and homophobia out of the discussion. This just marks you as intolerant and destroys the credibility of anything you say about the man. CEOs the world over comment on issues of social justice, and always have. As an equal opportunity employer, Cook’s stance on these issues is both measured and appropriate. Apple is a major employer and a worldwide organisation – what right wing Americans think about issues of sexuality or colour are of little relevance to the citizens of the rest of the world who buy Apple products.

      I am not a great fan of Tim Cook – but for issues wholly concerned with his stewardship of Apple. In my view, accountants do not make great CEOs – they tend to focus on the shareholders instead of their customers and we see that in Apple’s failures with the Mac Pro, Apple displays, the dumbing down of iWork apps, the useless iCloud, the AppleID restrictions, compatibility issues with Safari, the focus on the stripped down iOS while Mac OSX languishes, the disaster of the unreliable networking component of Mac OSX which was finally abandoned, the pathetic Apple TV and his most stupid statement ever about running Apple on an iPad.

      Cook is clearly not a technical guru. His strength is in keeping the share price going up. However, if someone doesn’t keep an eye on on user satisfaction, the customers will drift and the share price will start falling – and when this happens as a consequence of a long decline in product capability it is very difficult to reverse.

      1. “If you want to make a serious point about Cook then you should leave politics and homophobia out of the discussion.”

        I made a SERIOUS POINT. Cook spending way too much time on activist identity politics is exactly the point allowing the Mac to languish far behind the competition is just ONE example. It is affecting his performance as CEO and distracting the company. Guess you missed Steve’s famous quote about Apple steering clear of politics. Guess you also missed the board reprimanding Cook months ago.

        I don’t appreciate carelessly throwing out words like “homophobia.” A well known tactic wielding the PC sword that means back down and shut up or I’ll label you a bigot. Where exactly do you detect I do not support the LGBT community? When have I written anything remotely anti-gay? Answer: NONE EXIST. I fully support relationship rights.

        “This just marks you as intolerant and destroys the credibility of anything you say about the man.”

        No, this just marks you as clueless conflating misperceptions, sorry. If you want to impugn my credibility you need facts and proof. You have none.

        I’ve posted enough about my beliefs and engaged civil discussions respecting all points of view.

        Your first two paragraphs (above) was enough for me. If it was meant as advice, appreciate it. Have a great day …

  3. Avoiding politics…

    This is the stuff of a skunk works. The difference here is that Apple is watched with a variety of subversive microscopes. The motives for doing so make sense, at least within the minds of those with the microscopes.

    Now, consider Xerox PARC (now simply PARC). There was possibly the most famous/productive skunk works of recent times. But how much did they actually turn into successful, sellable products? How long did they hang on and on and on to pet projects that never went much of anywhere? Consider the history of their Star OS and the Alto computer. Xerox didn’t know what to make of them and ended up handing their basic concepts to Apple in exchange for a small interest in Apple’s future. The LISA computer resulted, which became mother-of the Mac. Etc.

    Who knows what will become of ‘Titan’? At least Apple had the intelligence to dive into it, examine the concept and thrash through what they could do and could not do reasonable well.

    Plenty of people knew very well that auto mechanics is NOT a natural fit for Apple. It’s not in their skill set. Taking in auto design skilled employees was not going to be a culture or even an interest fit. They tried it. For whatever reason, they figured it didn’t have a future at Apple. That makes total sense to me!

    So blame anyone at Apple for an autonomous car skunk works, as if that was a waste of time and money? Sorry, but that accusation is absurd.

    Here’s a concept: Go read the most recent biography of beloved Nikola Tesla and count how many ingenious things he invented. Then make a parallel list of how many of them saw the light of day in public. Then make another parallel list of how many of them were successful out in the light of day in public. The successive lists become incredibly smaller. So was he a failure? Should we be lambasting him, with our modern day perspective, as a failure? NO.

    Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age @Amazon

    Example: Inductive charging of Apple devices. Tesla invented that! He clearly was way ahead of his time. Only now are we putting that particular idea to work in public with success.

    Count how many Apple patents are actually put to work in their public devices!

    Blasting Tim Cook for misguiding Apple in the sphere of research and development? That’s silly. We know very well that plenty of Cook hate is POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. He’s gay. He champions ‘Left’ causes. He does so within his personal life and within the work culture of Apple. Haters gonna HATE. So what.

    1. While I appreciate your Apple defense of failed car project “Titan” it is clear and agree with you they could not get it done.

      Why?

      They spent billions on auto execs and engineers, R&D and made more money than any company in history. Resources are not the problem.

      The problem is a weak CEO with care taking duties minus the vision and fire to get things done. He’d rather march in pride parades than upgrade MacPros on a yearly basis.

      It is absolutely ridiculous and more importantly of you to say it is because he is gay and a leftist activist. Where is your proof?

      You know my politics and I don’t care an atomic particle about his lifestyle and voting affiliation. All I care about as a shareholder is RESULTS.

      Where the rubber meets the road he can’t get the job done and needs to go, sorry. Bring in Forstall or someone else with vision and the sky is the limit …

      1. It is absolutely ridiculous and more importantly of you to say it is because he is gay and a leftist activist. Where is your proof?

        How about: The fact that Cook is constantly slammed around here for
        (A) Being gay
        (B) Expressing his ‘Left’ interests both privately and at Apple.

        Seriously.

        I’m pleased that you, personally GoeB, don’t fit into the haters club. Caring about RESULTS is part of every stockholder’s duty and expectations.

        As such, read through my further commentary anyway as it applies with or without the ‘hater’ tag attached to his critics.

        Would it be insanely-great to have another inventive mind as CEO of Apple? YES! Might Scott Forstall qualify? I don’t know where his head is at these days. He had some maturing to do as he could be contentious to the point of worthless annoyance. I’ll point out that Steve Jobs initially was very similar! Thus his being eventually shoved into a back office by Sculley and the Board, before he decided to quit Apple. Forstall may be a superior and terrific new CEO! Maybe.

        Meanwhile, Cook has lead Apple into this era where they are the #1 most successful company in the world, the most highly valued, the company whose stock value has THE most affect on the rest of the stock market. They have their own paparazzi. They are constantly in the rumor mill. They’re well beyond a tech company. They’re a cultural icon.

        Meanwhile: The ‘Titan’ project is nothing new relative to ANY company EVER. What’s not standard in its implosion is that it was wisely brought to conclusion in this short a time frame. Again, compare with Xerox PARC, the most famous skunk works of our time.

        1. Derek,
          I have not seen anyone slam Cook for being gay. That is a ridiculous extension you are making. He DOES take criticism for involving politics in the business. Jobs didn’t do it, and even disdained it, for a reason.
          Reading the threads, you can see the division of opinions on party lines. That didn’t happen under Jobs. It wasn’t an issue and was not reflective of Apple, one way or the other. As it should be. Stick to business, leave the politics and social issues for the family dinner table or his own personal charitable work.

          1. I have not seen anyone slam Cook for being gay.

            I have seen it frequently over the years here in comments at MDN. There have been extensive threads about specifically that subject. Since this is the case, it’s up to you to do your own verification homework. I have no reason to defend my consistent observation.

            I understand your point regarding Jobs’ approach to business versus Cook. All I can add is that Cook has kept Apple on what I personally consider to be the good side of progressive politics. He, like Jobs, wants to benefit the world. Cook does so both personally and through his leadership of Apple.

            Who do haters benefit? I don’t personally care as I don’t care for haters at all. I’ll be at odds with them. That’s part of my personality and my personal manifesto.

      2. “Where the rubber meets the road he can’t get the job done and needs to go, sorry. Bring in Forstall or someone else with vision and the sky is the limit …”

        In total agreement.
        Forstall or even Mask would be a far better fit to lead Apple while maintaining the DNA of it. Timiddy Cook is merely harvesting what Jobs seeded.
        Phone phone phone… and the world is rosy…

  4. I for one, do not see why the Apple car project should be linked to self-driving capabilities. There are many basic ways that Apple design would improve cars. If self-driving is not yet ready, do the other things first.

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