Apple waves white flag – scales back Project Titan car plans, focuses on developing autonomous tech


Apple’s dreams of making a full scale self-driving car seems to have stalled. Bloomberg reports that the iPhone maker has drastically scaled back its Project Titan, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that no longer includes building its own car, for now.

The report’s sources said that hundreds of members of the 1,000-strong car team have been reassigned, let go, or voluntarily left in recent months. Instead of making a full car, Apple’s car team will now focus on developing an autonomous driving system that gives it flexibility to either partner with existing carmakers, or return to designing its own vehicle in the future, the people also said.

Management has given the car team a deadline of late 2017 to prove the feasibility of the self-driving system and decide on a final direction, two of the people told Bloomberg. Apparently, this development comes after months of strategy disagreements, leadership flux and supply chain challenges inside Apple’s secret car development facility in Sunnyvale, California, a stone’s throw from its Cupertino HQ. Apple declined to comment.

Project Titan started with big dreams in 2014, and a hiring spree with a target of an Apple car by the early 2020s. The tech giant wanted to revolutionise the car market the same way the iPhone did to mobile phones in 2007. “The car is the ultimate mobile device, isn’t it?” Apple COO Jeff Williams said in 2015. CEO Tim Cook said that the auto industry was “at an inflection point for massive change.”


The report says that by the end of 2015, the project was blighted by infighting. According to insiders, managers battled about the project’s direction. “It was an incredible failure of leadership,” one of them said. Project head Steve Zadesky, a former Ford engineer and early iPod designer, left in early 2016. He remains at Apple and declined comment.

The car baton was passed to his boss Dan Riccio, whose engineering responsibilities include the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. In April, Bob Mansfield, a manager who helped develop the original iPad, returned to lead the team. About a month later, Mansfield announced the strategy shift to Titan employees, explaining that he had looked at the project and determined that Apple should move from building a Tesla competitor to an underlying self-driving platform. That led to a staff exodus.

The report says that remaining software engineers are working on autonomous programs, vision sensors, and simulators for testing the platform in real-world environments. The team also has regulatory specialists to navigate the heavily regulated auto industry.

What were the issues that led to Apple waving the white flag? The tech giant struggled to tackle complex automotive supply chains, according to someone familiar with the project. It’s used to big influence over suppliers and often secures exclusive rights to certain parts, and that’s impossible for a newcomer with initial small volumes to achieve in the car industry.


“When they started digging into the details of what that would entail it likely became an intractable problem,” said Eric Paul Dennis, an analyst at the Center for Automotive Research.

Another possible issue could be profit margins. It is pointed out that tech investors are used to big margins, in contrast to carmakers who survive on nett margins well below 10%. “For a quality Apple-branded car they could probably get a healthy margin. They probably weren’t willing to compromise on quality issues” because that could hurt the perception of its other products, Dennis added.

The carmakers we know and love – the Detroit Big Three, the Germans and the Japanese giants – will collectively heave a sigh of relieve now. “You thought that it was so easy, now you know,” a joint-statement would have probably read.

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Danny Tan

Danny Tan loves driving as much as he loves a certain herbal meat soup, and sweet engine music as much as drum beats. He has been in the auto industry since 2006, previously filling the pages of two motoring magazines before joining this website. Enjoys detailing the experience more than the technical details.



  • Jonn Dol on Oct 18, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Let cars be designed & produced by REAL CAR MAKERS who know a thing or to about cars, not by some IT companies..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2
    • for the last few years, apple have been recruiting expert in automobile for this titan project. the reason for them to back off from the idea is because of the profit.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3
    • Yokohama24 on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      It very much depends on the consumers.
      For example,
      Real watch enthusiast wouldn’t get an Apple Watch to tell the time. They would go for Tissot or Seiko,etc (around Apple Watch price range) or something more like Rolex, Tag Heuer, Breitling, that appreciates them for their timekeeping mechanism.

      However a tech-savvy would of course get an Apple Watch or some other smartwatches, that favours more technology and functionality.

      Both watches tells time. But both are different in their own way.

      In this case, it’s like combustion engine and PHEV/Hybrid vehicle.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
    • hailthepurist on Oct 19, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      a lorry being hit in singapore.. lol

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • lousy Apple. Samsung pipu oredi making cars long long time

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3
  • Yeast Lump on Oct 18, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Future vehicles will have CPU inside instead of just ECU rite?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
    • Prince Kaji Longkang on Oct 18, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      yup! octa-core automobile processor with plenty of ddr4, ssd, SLI/crossfire GPU…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  • Apple took on and lost to Detroit’s gorillas. They have joined forces with Tesla instead

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • ss427 on Oct 18, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Well Microsoft has been developing and supplying car OS for quite some time.
    So far, there was no report of drivers requiring to step on the clutch, brake and gas pedal at the same time to restart the car!
    And thank god no reports of users reinstalling the whole car in the middle of a busy highway hahaha

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1
  • Why not Apple focus for car head unit. ICE is in dire need for technology advancement. From there, they can create smart car system that can seamlessly integrated with mobile devices & smart home. Autonomous car can be developed from there too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
    • U wud not want apple to automate ur car, otherwise type kajang u will end up in “holland”

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
  • lanpa on Oct 18, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    The wheels is more than 100 years old lets remove it #Courage


    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • Roads? Where we go we dun need, roads.
      -Doc Brown

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
    • Bash Basher on Oct 19, 2016 at 8:07 am

      To add on:

      :Later, Apple then introduce the Tyre Jack adapter for consumers who still insist on using wheels :D

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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