Apple Putting the Brakes on ‘Project Titan’ Self-Driving Car Program, Confirms More Layoffs

Apple has confirmed it’s putting the brakes on its self-driving car program and either relocating or laying off a significant amount of workers involved in the project.

According to a new report from the San Francisco Chronicle, Apple said on Wednesday it planned to lay off 190 employees in its self-driving car program, “Project Titan,” changes that provide a rare window into the automotive technologies the company has been pursuing.

The exact number of layoffs came via a filing Apple lodged yesterday with the California Employment Development Department. The staff to be cut are housed in two Apple offices: Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, both in the Bay Area and not far from Apple’s head office in Cupertino.

According to the report, the cuts include 38 engineering program managers, 33 hardware engineers, 31 product design engineers and 22 software engineers. The layoffs are also said to take effect April 16.

News of the reported layoffs circulated last month, with people inside the company saying the dismissals were part of a restructuring, according to CNBC. Some other employees will move to different parts of the company, the report said.

These latest lay-offs suggest Apple is taking yet more of its self-driving car talent and shoving staffers into other divisions; for example, driverless car systems rely heavily on computer vision, tech that could be passed onto improving the camera chops of its next iPhone.

Commenting on the last round of job cuts, an Apple spokesperson said. “As the team focuses their work on several key areas for 2019, some groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple,” an Apple spokesperson said.

“We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever.”

Alphabet’s Waymo has led the self-driving car industry with 11,017 miles between driver disengagements in 2018, a 50 percent improvement from 5,595 miles the year before. Waymo said the improvement came despite driving 1.2 million miles in California, where roads are much busier than other areas where it is testing vehicles.

“A lower rate of disengagements shows that our cars are getting better at recognizing and handling a wide variety of driving situations, including ‘edge cases’ across the cities we’ve been testing in: those unusual situations that a human driver might see only once (or never) in a lifetime of driving,” Waymo said in blog post.