Apple has dismissed a significant number of employees from its autonomous vehicle group, Project Titan.
Apple cut about 200 jobs from its secretive autonomous car division, Project Titan, CNBC reported early this morning. The move is being described as an “anticipated restructuring.”
An Apple spokesperson acknowledged the changes but attributed them to staff restructuring rather than layoffs.
Project Titan has been a significant but closely guarded project at the iPhone creator for nearly five years. At its height, it was said that over 5,000 employees were either working on or aware of the self-driving car projects reportedly lead by Ford and Apple veteran Bob Mansfield since 2014.
Apple issued a statement confirming cuts at the effort, but the company also reiterated its interest in the broad category of autonomous systems. The size of the team has varied over time but has been on the order of 1,000 workers.
“We have an incredibly talented team working on autonomous systems and associated technologies at Apple,” reads the statement. “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.
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.”
The company’s confirmation came after CNBC sources disclosed the dismissals, which were explained as internally expected following Apple’s August 2018 hiring of former Tesla engineering VP Doug Field to lead Project Titan with longtime Apple “special projects” SVP Bob Mansfield.
In the past, Apple was rumored to be working on a fully self-driving car. Over the last couple of years, Apple has had dozens of vehicles driving around California streets, outfitted with a distinctive rack of sensors.
But CNBC says that the project “appears to have been scaled back from the initial rumored vehicle to a focus on software.”