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Abandoned $10 billion Apple Car project referred to as 'Titanic disaster' by employees

Apple's work on Project Titan cost $10 billion over a decade

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A report shares that "many" Apple employees considered Project Titan an inevitable failure and are happy to see it die in favor of work on artificial intelligence.

The decade-long Project Titan follows a long and winding road past Jony Ive's hope for a self-driving car, secret race tracks, and a bid to buy Tesla. The Apple Car project is canceled for now, but that doesn't mean Apple won't reap the rewards of its hard work.

According to a report from The New York Times, at least some Apple employees are happy to see the end of Project Titan. The project's failure seemed likely and was sometimes referred to as "the Titanic disaster."

The concept behind Apple Car arrived just as Apple was wrapping work on Apple Watch. The company wanted to compete with Tesla and potentially capture a portion of the sizable auto industry.

Google and other Silicon Valley companies were targeting electric vehicles, so it seemed natural for Apple to take on the challenge. The report's details about engineers speaking to Jony Ive and team make it sound as if it was all but certain that a self-driving Apple Car was possible and imminent.

A custom red Fiat 600
Jony Ive was a fan of the Fiat 600, even auctioned this custom one in 2013

After a decade of research, Apple is no closer to releasing a full self-driving vehicle than Tesla. No one has managed to get it done, and there's one problem that modern "AI" algorithms can't account for — other humans on the road.

Luckily, work on autonomous systems and vehicle AI is highly transferable to other aspects of computing. Apple has allegedly invested $10 billion in Project Titan, but those funds aren't lost, as all of that work will now benefit its push into AI.

Reallocating resources

It was reported that Apple's abandonment of a vehicle project wasn't due to engineering impossibilities — the company had already shifted to Level 2 autonomy down from Level 4. Building an electric car at Level 2 is commonplace and entirely possible for Apple.

No, the project end came down to margins. Apple would never be able to sell vehicles at its expected margins, especially with the declining EV market and competitors racing to the bottom.

Some members of the Project Titan team may be laid off, but others are being reassigned to AI projects or asked to apply for other positions at the company. If Apple ever decides to make an Apple Car again in the future, a lot of the groundwork is done.