Bob Mansfield Reportedly Shaking Up Apple Car Project With Layoffs

| Analysis

The Apple Crystal Ball with Artist Rendering of Apple CarApple has been laying off people from Project Titan, the company’s not-so-secret car project. The New York Times reported that Apple is rethinking its plans for a car, has “shuttered parts of its self-driving car project,” and laid off “dozens of people.”

The Times also characterized these moves as “signs of trouble,” and said that people within the project have, “struggled to explain what Apple could bring to a self-driving car that other companies could not.”

At the same time, Apple veteran Bob Mansfield took over project Titan in July. Even if Apple’s car plans were going swimmingly, Mr. Mansfield is known as a no-nonsense exec willing to shake things up. The Times may be right that the project is in trouble, or it may be that as Mr. Mansfield reshapes the project, people and sub-projects will get trimmed.

Where Will Apple Car Go?

The question remains on where Apple will eventually decide to go. The report noted the company has functioning autonomous vehicles operating in controlled environments. That suggests Apple has made real progress on fundamental technology for self-driving cars.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Apple will follow through with its original plans to make an actual car. Apple could, like Google, license out its software to automakers. That could take the form of self-driving software, human-to-car interface technology, dashboard software, or some other element. Doing so would go against Apple’s modus operandi of making its own devices where controls the software and the hardware.

Apple could also continue down the path of developing a branded Apple car, or Bob Mansfield could instead put a bullet in the whole thing.

I wouldn’t make too much of Mr. Mansfield laying off dozens of employees when Project Titan has more than 1,000 team members. Instead, I’d take it as a sign that he’s honing in on the direction he wants to take.

Your mileage may vary.

7 Comments Add a comment

  1. My belief is that the autonomous car industry has advanced FAR faster than Apple thought it would. Tesla has a semi-self driving car on the road now. Ford and others have announced they will bring similar cars to market in the next couple of years. Electric cars from Nissan, Tesla and others are on the road now with more to follow very soon. Yet, Apple is still on the timeline for mid 2020’s. By then the field will be crowded and Apple will struggle to make itself distinctive. So yes I see this as the project being in trouble, but it’s not Apple’s fault.

  2. My belief is that the autonomous car industry has advanced FAR faster than Apple thought it would.

    It has, ahem, miles to go before the general public gives up driving their own vehicles. Of course we don’t yet know what Apple has, ahem. under the hood with their auto.

  3. miles to go before the general public gives up driving their own vehicles

    California is trying to develop drivers with better knowledge, defensive driving skills and a calm, share the road attitude. Yet in far too many drivers, there are poor driving skills, selfish actions and defensive attitudes.

    Hopefully, autonomous cars—when they finally are ready for daily use by average people—will make getting around safer, faster, and with less stress.

  4. Hmmmmm, I believe a couple months ago I said that given Mansfield’s reputation that he would do exactly what he is doing. Meanwhile Tesla is releasing version 8 this week of it’s Autopilot suite with a boatload of improvements. Time waits for no one and Apple moves incredibly slow at everything -adding copycat features late like NFC and dual cameras, thin bodies, big screens-smaller screens etc seems to work as a business plan for the iPhone but you can’t be incomplete and play catch-up every year with the 2nd most expensive purchase in anyone’s life i.e. a car, so apparently they will fold like a cheap suit rather than compete with the real world already out there making paradigm disruption shifts. I don’t mind one bit as it insures that the stock price will be somewhat stable.
    Seriously, has Apple done anything cool since the iPhone now a million years old? Don’t even mention the Watch as that is more or less an iPhone extension. Please put all of those wasted resources into a new Mac Pro without any cute Ive’s bullsh•t crippling it. In fact – I thought I’d never say this but isn’t it time to get rid of Ive? He seems to be stuck in 2001 design language.

  5. Developing a car is very difficult. Testing it is very difficult because there is no “Public Beta”. Those are serious challenges. Now we’re hearing the schedule is bumped further out than 2020; no big surprise there. Full level 5 cars( level 1 to 5 is an SAE designation and most manufacturers are working on level 3 vehicles ), with no human intervention required, might be technically possible ( but aren’t there yet ) but convincing the public to give up control of their vehicle is going to be difficult. Pundits predicting the eminent demise of an old approach are constantly wrong ( fully “paperless office” was predicted in 1975 and said paper would be completely obsolete and difficult to find by the 1990s – didn’t happen –although we’re closer ). Apple today is about taking established/accepted ideas and making them better( they built a better Blackberry with the iPhone ). I can’t remember the last time they innovated a totally new product that hadn’t already been produced by another company. A fully autonomous car is NOT an established/accepted product in the market place, so gaining public acceptance is another challenge and, as far as I can remember, not a challenge Apple has encountered in their recent ( last 10/11 years ) products history

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