Apple dismissed 200 people connected to its autonomous car project this week, sources told CNBC.
Without specifying that they were in fact tasked with vehicle systems development, a spokesperson for the tech giant confirmed to the news outlet that the move was part of a broader restructuring of its autonomous technology projects, with also included the reassignment of several teams.
“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 spokesperson said.
It is not clear how many people were working on the project, which is led by Doug Field. Field was a former head of Mac hardware engineering and rejoined Apple last year as vice president of its Special Projects Group, after a five-year stint as an engineering executive at Tesla. A restructuring under Field has been expected.
The so-called Project Titan has been shrouded in mystery for years. Once thought to be aimed at the development of an entire autonomous car that the company would sell, it is now understood to be part of Apple’s broader work on autonomous technology, which CEO Tim Cook has suggested includes self-driving cars, an area he has called “the mother” of all artificial intelligence projects.
Apple is licensed to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in California. It reported that one of its converted Lexus SUVs was hit by a human-driven car last year, but hasn't publically discussed their operation in any detail. Meanwhile, Google-owned Waymo announced this week plans to open a manufacturing facility in Michigan where it will convert Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs to use its self-driving hardware and software. The technology is currently being tested in a Waymo-operated ride sharing service in Phoenix among a small group of approved users.
JAGUAR I-PACE TEST DRIVE: