Leaks Reveal Strain Inside Apple’s Self-Driving Car Project

August 24, 2017 - 2 minutes read

iPad app developers are all too familiar with grumblings about what Apple’s next great innovation will be. For a little while, the tech giant seemed to believe that its self-driving car would be its Next Big Thing. When Project Titan, Apple’s autonomous car project, kicked off in 2014, the goal was not just to build proprietary self-driving technology, but to engineer the car that would run on it. Apple being Apple, this would be no ordinary car — the company literally wanted to reinvent the wheel (no, I’m not misusing the word “literal” — the team was working on spherical wheels).

Perhaps it was inevitable that such a radical revamping of the car was doomed to fail. According to leakers that spoke to New York Times reporters, the project hit a wall thanks in part to in-fighting over the direction of the project. Project Titan’s original leader, Steve Zadesky (iPad app developers may recognize the name: he played a pivotal role in the creation of the iPod and iPhone), was in favor of building a semiautonomous vehicle, while the industrial design team pushed for a fully autonomous vehicle. They wanted the challenge (and the glory) of redefining of the automobile. Zadesky walked away from the project last year, and his replacement, Bob Mansfield, laid off an undisclosed number of people on the hardware staff and put Apple’s car ambitions on hold.

Now Project Titan is exclusively focused on building the technology for driverless cars. The team is recruiting new members, with a specific focus on those with expertise in autonomous vehicle software development. Apple is also testing its self-driving tech with its PAIL commuter service, which travels between the company’s campus and Palo Alto. But Apple started far later than its competitors in the self-driving car game, and according to one source who spoke with Business Insider, the company is lagging three years behind Waymo. Any Denver iPad app developers with high hopes for Apple’s self-driving car tech as its next triumph might need to reconsider.

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