Apple has been typically secretive about its car initiative, code-named Project Titan, but multiple stories now suggest the company has reduced its ambitions significantly. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company is no longer attempting to build its own electric car to compete with companies like Tesla, but is instead focused on developing self-driving software it can deploy in partnership with existing carmakers.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Alex Webb write that in recent months, hundreds of members of Apple's 1,000-strong car team have been "reassigned, let go, or have left of their own volition." Company executives have reportedly issued a deadline of late 2017 to decide on the car's final direction, with this change said to be triggered by "months of strategy disagreements, leadership flux and supply chain challenges."
Apple originally started Project Titan in 2014, and had ambitious plans to shake up the auto industry as it had the mobile business. As Apple's COO Jeff Williams said in 2015: "The car is the ultimate mobile device, isn’t it?" However, it seems the company underestimated the complexity of the task, particularly the challenges of automotive supply chains. Today's report follows a similar story from Bloomberg in July and another from The New York Times in September.
Apple, meanwhile, has yet to even acknowledge that it has a secret car project, although CEO Tim Cook did allude to it at the company's most recent annual shareholders' meeting. "Do you remember when you were a kid, and Christmas Eve, it was so exciting, you weren’t sure what was going to be downstairs?" said Cook in February. "Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while." Now though, Apple risks disappointing fans when they do finally get a look at what's under the tree.