Titan: Apple’s secret autonomous vehicle project is much bigger than people think

“Apple has cut over 200 people from Project Titan, its famous bid to create a self-driving car, CNBC reported on Thursday,” Kif Leswing writes for Business Insider. “While this sounds like a huge number of people, it doesn’t mean Apple’s car ambitions are over nor does it mean Apple is frantically cutting costs ahead of what’s expected to be Apple’s worst earnings report in years next week.”

“Project Titan was significantly larger than many outside the company expected,” Leswing writes. “Information that emerged through a case with a former Titan employee who was arrested by the FBI said that 2,700 Apple employees had access to Titan databases and that 5,000 were ‘disclosed’ on the project, which means they had official permission to know about it.”

“Cars aren’t Apple’s only special project. It’s working on health and augmented reality glasses in its labs at the same time — and there aren’t rumors of cuts there yet,” Leswing writes. “It’s logical to interpret this week’s news as less related to Apple’s recent financial woes and more the result of an emerging reality for self-driving cars: Full autonomy might be years away, and it’s unlikely to be here in 2020, as Apple was shooting for.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we said yesterday, we’d be more concerned if there weren’t any restructuring and refocusing under Project Titan’s new leadership.

SEE ALSO:
Apple dismisses more than 200 employees from Project Titan autonomous vehicle project – January 24, 2019
Apple hires designer Andrew Kim away from Tesla – December 17, 2018
Apple Car rumor roundup: Project Titan and what it means – September 1, 2018
Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple to launch revolutionary Apple Car within 5-7 years – August 15, 2018
Doug Field, former Tesla engineering chief, returns to Apple – August 10, 2018
Apple’s Project Titan is still a go, says analyst – June 28, 2018
Apple’s autonomous vehicle fleet grows to 62 vehicles in California – May 29, 2018
Apple’s autonomous vehicle project may be closer to fruition than it appears – May 25, 2018
Apple’s Bob Mansfield reboots Apple Car project, lays off several dozen employees – September 10, 2016
Apple hires founder of QNX with Apple Car project increasing focus on self-driving software – July 28, 2016
Apple taps Bob Mansfield to oversee Apple Car project – July 25, 2016

29 Comments

    1. There will not be autonomous driving for decades. Thr idea of a car that is driverless is more absurd than a pilotless airplane. Airplanes have been autonomous for years but require two pilots to man it at all times.

      Take a car: streets are vastly more complex than airways, with multiple controlled intersections, pedestrians, changing speed limits, etc.

      This isn’t happening. Maybe at Disneyland and other controlled places going 30 km/h.

      But here’s the big issue: is this really a solution? What is the problem? You want to have something drive you so you can do work, read, etc.? We have solutions already: buses, subways, high speed rail. In my city, our Subway is driven by a computer so autonomous. Perhaps the evolution of these latter is what we need to move large numbers of people.

      But driving in a car? I want to drive and be in control, make split second decisions, take shortcuts, etc. I don’t want to be handicapped by something driving me, and I also don’t want to cede control to the government who may force autonomous cars on us. But luckily autonomous cars are decades away.

  1. There is minuscule market interest in electric self driving cars. GM just stooped production of the Volt; Tesla is laying off employees and the most plentiful ads on TV are for big hulking SUVs and pickup trucks that run on the best fuel available – gasoline. Gas prices are at bargain prices and headed down with the US becoming the worlds largest exporter and producer of oil. If Apple wants to make money it better make a big gas powered car that can compete with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

        1. Blah, blah, blah. Some rubbish environmental nonsense argument. Do you care that most of the gas you burn comes from repressive countries like Saudi, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela and Russia? Setting all that mishmash aside….none should be a primary decision point.

          Try getting into an electric vehicle and driving it for a while – just for the experience of driving one. That alone should and will make every difference in your opinion. I’m sure of it.

          Nobody is forcing anyone to like electrics….people will eventually do so in their own good time.

          1. I have, and including a Prius, which is half the experience,, it rolls down the street and you cant go faster than the speed limit.
            Kent is correct, Apple dwarfs carmaker sales, and electric cars are a total FLOP. Gas is going to be around for centuries. Where do you think the juice for the batteries comes from? last, I die laughing when I see Tesla’s at the charging stations on the turnpike.. Here are the Tesla charge times 76.75h at 110V, 8.5 to 12h at 220V how silly. Now I’m going to drive home in my V8. What’s the DIf? according to AOC “The world is going to END in 12 Years” Liberalism truly is a mental disorder.

            1. Tesla charging stations are nothing like what you described. I plug in at them on the highway while we stop to order a cup of coffee or use the restroom…the charging is bonus range for zero time spent “filling”. I pick up 200+ miles just using the restroom and driving away (it’s also cost free for me). There is NEVER a need to run a battery to zero or fill to 100 percent, so even the charge times you mentioned for home charging aren’t accurate. You’re absolutely welcome to drive home in your V8 – I’m fine with that. I’ll just pass you on your way (higher top speed), or at the stoplight (much faster acceleration), or get to my destination in greater comfort and with greater ease (autopilot).

              We agree on one thing though…liberalism is a mental disorder. Maybe your attitude about electric cars is because you associate them with liberals or environmental folks? If so, you shouldn’t. They simply are much better vehicles by a long shot. Try it….you absolutely will be blown away.

        1. That’s far too strong a generalized statement. My first electric car cost me $120,000 give or take. I paid cash (actually, a personal check for the amount). The tax credit was a refund I received almost a year after I bought the car. It did NOT impact whether I would buy it, though it was a nice inducement to do so after the fact. My second electric vehicle was purchased this summer, again for cash. I’ve yet to receive the tax credit but expect to do so later this year. In each case, the actual decision to buy was not driven because of some tax bribe. The cars themselves are absolutely, incredibly, remarkably superior to anything else on the market.

          I do agree that the tax credit will have a marginal impact on some buyers though, but probably mostly on timing (when), not on whether to actually purchase or not unless they are somehow stretching their budgets unwisely.

            1. Now you’re really being silly. Neither of my vehicles have been in an accident or have run into another person, let alone killed them. Are you trying to say that no car from Ford or Chevy or Toyota or whatever hasn’t ever been in an auto accident? Have they not been recalled for safety reasons, including for people having died in them? If you can’t make a reasonable or logical argument, save us the time reading your responses please.

            2. Teslas are not self driving. They are driver assisted. I can’t speak to the Google example. According to NHTSA, there’s an accident for every 492k miles driven on average in the US. For Tesla drivers not using autopilot, the number is an accident for every 1.92 million miles driven. And for Teslas with autopilot turned on…the figure rises to an accident event every 3.34 million miles driven on autopilot. So you’re correct, autopilot incidents are not zero…but accident events are more than 7x less likely to happen than someone driving another vehicle without it. And if you’re really, really interested in safety…then again, electric vehicles have larger crumple zones than gas cars too if you’re ever involved in an accident. The number 1, 2, and 3 cars ever tested for crash safety happen also to be the Tesla Model 3, Model X and Model S (not sure the order).

              I don’t much care if you ever buy one Kent…I’m just pointing out that if you actually stopped looking for dumb arguments why you shouldn’t enjoy one….you might actually find that you like them more than you think you would. :). I sure did.

          1. Actually, it’s nothing like that because it is a stupid comparison. Tesla buyers get a direct payment of $7500 for buying this overpriced car. Apple buyers get zero credit from any government for buying any Apple products. There are no government subsidies to buy Macs or iPhones. You are definition of Know Nothing.

            1. My parents already drive electric “Cars” for years, especially at their retirement village. They are called “golf carts” point is, they didn’t change the world. Full size electric cars wont either, but if the technology comes around and some people are thrilled by them cool! Get one, just don’t force me to. They will be a small niche for centuries. By the way, the huge batteries in golf carts have to be replaces every 2-3 years. Just the way it is.

            2. Replying to Jr here in this one. Golf carts are not like electric vehicles on the road today and the batteries also are not designed the same. A Tesla’s battery would need to be driven about 600,000 miles before it “wears” down to about 80 percent of its original capacity…about 200,000 miles to get to 90 percent. Other car companies may not see that sort of longevity but their batteries will last a lot longer than any person would normally ever own the vehicle. Also, nobody should ever force you to buy one….I’m just saying that when you take your blinders off, you’ll eventually decide its an upgrade too.

    1. Do you have any marketing studies to justify your statements, kent? By your logic, everything that was invented after you graduated high school is no good. Sorry, but these newfangled things that are powered by batteries — including the Apple device you own — are only going to become more prevalent and, yes, more capable in key ways that matter, compared to what was available when you were in knee pants.

      There is huge interest in self-driving cars, which is proven by the amount of money investors are pouring into it. I don’t think in our lifetimes the tech for true self driving will be safe and affordable for individual car ownership. Perhaps never. Instead maybe someone in the automotive world will wake up and instead spend their energy on automating vehicles that operate in constrained environments: railways, agriculture, mining, and perhaps limited interstate access lane big rigs on key shipping routes between major cities. The number of people who don’t want to drive is large — they are iPad toting Amazon Prime customers who don’t have any reason to leave the house. But they won’t fund the costs required to get a personal vehicle to have more flight controls electronics than an Airbus A350 jetliner. But again, don’t focus on Tesla’s fundamentally flawed business model, look at the whole of the EV world from bikes to motorcycles to electric streetcars. They are all on the market today and only getting better. Electric propulsion was here a century ago and it’ll be dominant again in practically all urban areas within the next two decades for too many reasons to list here. Perhaps the most important reason is because urban infrastructure cannot tolerate millions of congested cars pumping out pollution at red lights in every constrained urban area. That’s zero efficiency no matter how energy dense your petrol is.

      Next year, FYI, you will be able to purchase a 4 seat, 600 hp, all wheel drive, 310 mile range EV that comes with 3 years of free public charging included in its purchase price … which is not out of line with the similar capability the gasoline powered car in the lineup. Look no further:
      https://www.porsche.com/uk/aboutporsche/e-performance/
      https://www.autoblog.com/tag/porsche+taycan/

      Where to charge? Well your home is one option. If you need to drive more than 310 miles someday, then the EA network currently has 300 stations (with multiple chargers at each station) in 42 states. It will be 484 stations and >2000 chargers by July. All Porsche dealers will also have charging stations for travelers to use. It takes only 4 minutes to charge the battery to a 60 mile range, which is further than urban commuters go any day of the week.

      https://electricrevs.com/2019/01/28/porsche-taycan-owners-will-get-free-ultra-fast-charging-for-3-years/

      https://autoweek.com/article/luxury/heres-how-porsche-getting-ready-age-evs

      It is amazing that anyone would go to an Apple blog that reveres the battery powered stuff that Apple makes, and then turn around and complain that batteries are no good for any other purpose.

    1. ..and nothing likely ever will. Batteries will never become as energy dense as gasoline is…but they also never need to come even close to that. Most of the energy stored in gas is wasted as heat anyway and isn’t used in actual propulsion.

      You only need “enough” stored energy for your transportation needs and “enough” refilling capacity. That said, an electric motor is undeniably superior performance-wise compared to a gas engine. A gas car feels like a silly dinosaur we all had to put up with because we didn’t know any better before.

      Just like many today cannot yet envision preferring an electric car today over their gas car….the reverse is true for me, having experienced both. Gasoline cars are horse drawn buggies. Basic, boring, antiquated, capable but inferior.

      1. I would put the effort into recovery of the “wasted” heat energy that you refer to. The later Smoky Yunick of NASCAR fame actually produced a working prototype of an engine that was 90% heat efficient. The materials, I don’t exactly remember what they were, possibly silicone carbide related. were so hard and heat resistant that they were not machineable on a production basis, but that was before the days of lasers, etc. The engine literally required no cooling system, so there was almost no waste heat. He was a genius but was not taken seriously probably because he wore a cowboy hat and had an accent.

        I have no faith in our ability to produce the amount of electricity that would be needed to change transportation over to electric, no faith in our ability to get the rare earths necessary to build large quantities of batteries, without surrendering our economy to China in the regard, no faith in our ability to deal with the waste materials from replaced batteries, absolutely zero faith in electric reliability in cold weather, heavy load, long distance situations.

        So other than those factors, sure, keep on believing.

        1. First off, I can’t believe I’ve written so many responses on this thread. Certainly has to be a record. Secondly, I appreciate your reasoned response.

          I believe that if there is demand, the capacity will grow to meet it when it comes to electricity generation. We already have plenty. Also, rare earths don’t get their name from actually being all that rare…they are in the earth’s crust the whole world over. They just aren’t mined everywhere. They also aren’t a significant part or expense of car batteries. Neither lithium or cobalt (the two primary components) are rare earths. Replaced car batteries are likely to go on existing as batteries in fixed storage units when they wear down. LiOn car batteries don’t become useless with wear, they are, in fact, starting to replace peaker electric production plants ironically. Electric reliability in cold weather isn’t an issue (it doesn’t freeze solid like gas cars to in Canada), but range is certainly diminished somewhat for sure. It’s diminished for gas cars too btw…though electric moreso.

    2. Approximately 80% of the energy in gasoline is wasted when used in an internal combustion engine. It is dissipated as heat. Another 10% or so is wasted due to friction from all the moving parts. So only about 10% of gasoline’s energy is actually used to propel the vehicle. I think we can do better.

  2. The major automakers are dumping sedans and gas-powered vehicles, and building SUVs and Pickup Trucks.

    By the middle of the next decade the majority of autos produced will probably be electric. (Read some of the recent PRs from Ford and GM.) The changes are coming at us quickly.

    What it could mean for the price of oil may be alarming to investors.

  3. I absolutely can’t wait to never have to see another airport again. For frequent business travel, airlines are a nightmare and driving long hours when you are tired is even worse. I would pay a substantial premium for a driverless car that will let me work and relax in privacy while I criss-cross the country, and I would certainly be an early adopter.

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