Much has been said about Apple’s fledgling automative efforts, with reports of its Project Titan car division shifting its focus away from building a vehicle and toward automation and software. Today on an earnings call, CEO Tim Cook offered perhaps the most definitive recognition that his company was eyeing the auto industry. Although in typical Apple fashion, Cook kept it light on details when asked to elaborate on what he thinks the company can bring to the table.
"I can’t speak about rumors," he said. "But as you know, we look for ways we can improve the customer’s experience on different sets of products. We’re always looking at new things and the car space in general is an area where it’s clear there’s a lot of technologies that will either become available or will be able to revolutionize the car experience." Cook added that it was "interesting" from that point of view, but that the company certainly has nothing it can announce at this time.
"It's clear there's a lot of technologies that will ... revolutionize the car experience."
Apple’s Project Titan appears to remain in flux since earlier this year, when the company put former executive Bob Mansfield in charge of the division. Mansfield reportedly reduced staff and shifted Apple’s focus to developing an operating system for cars that would act similar to iOS for smartphones. Another team is focused on building a self-driving software system that would rival those of Tesla, Uber, Google, and the many traditional automotive players now shifting their focus to automation. It's a strategic decision, but a departure for Apple, which has historically eschewed any product approach that would divorce simultaneous control over both software and hardware.
According to a Bloomberg report this morning, Apple is even building a way to test self-driving systems by using virtual reality, to avoid putting actual cars on city and suburban roads. These units, all part of Project Titan, now consist of several former key members of BlackBerry’s QNX car software division that Apple has poached specifically for their expertise, Bloomberg says.