The Apple held this week, a big round of layoffs in Project Titan, its top secret autonomous car development program. According to unofficial information published in the international press, 200 people would have been dismissed as part of an industry restructuring, which is a mystery even for many high-ranking Apple employees.
The depth of this wave of layoffs is not known, however, whether it reaches only low-level employees or has also included executives and directors. Apple did not go into such details and, in a statement confirming the waivers, does not directly quote the Titan Project, but says it is focusing on other important areas this year.
According to a spokesperson, some employees were effectively dismissed, while others are being relocated within the company itself in initiatives involving artificial intelligence and machine learning. Despite the changes, he says he sees great potential in the work he is doing and states that the project is one of the most ambitious in its history.
Proof of this is the hiring of people from the automotive and technology market. Doug Field, Tesla’s vice president of engineering, for example, became the leader of the Titan Project in August last year. He would be working alongside Bob Mansfield, who also stepped down as senior vice president of Apple technologies to follow in the company in an undisclosed position. The two would not have been affected by the wave of layoffs.
Meanwhile, rumours have pointed not necessarily to problems in the development of autonomous vehicles, but to major shifts in focus that may have led to layoffs this week. Initially, Apple would be working on partnerships to effectively launch a car with its brand. This work, however, would have recently been modified to focus only on embedded software.
The restructuring of this beginning of year is the second realized in the history of Project Titan. The first was still in the early years of the work in 2016 when Apple also laid off employees and changed its strategy so that it was better to compete with other players in that segment, such as Alphabet’s Waymo and Tesla itself.
Meanwhile, the real progress of the Titan Project remains a mystery, with little information appearing, for example, in reports of an auto accident in the middle of last year, or the gigantic process in which a former employee was accused of stealing company secrets. Taking into account that the leaks on Apple usually come in torrent, it comes to be striking the fact that almost nothing is known about the initiative of vehicles heading alone.