Apple Rethinks “Project Titan” Self-Driving Plans

5 months ago by Inside EVs Staff 21

Apple Logo

Apple Logo

Once again, reports are surfacing about Apple changing gears on Project Titan. This time, apparent layoffs sparked three people, that had been briefed about the situation, to speak out. However, as usual, they weren’t allowed to disclose much. All that was reported was that Apple is going to go in a new direction regarding its self-driving car project.

Google Flagship Autonomous Driving Car

Google Flagship Autonomous Driving Car

In the aftermath of the Tesla Autopilot fatality, autonomous vehicles has taken a more public presence. Multiple automakers have reported work in progress. Many are quick to include that their company will ease into self-driving development, rather than face a situation like Tesla.

From the very beginning of talk about an Apple Car, speculation was made that the company was making an “autonomous” electric car. However, the company has never made such an announcement. Actually, the company has never disclosed anything whatsoever. Rumors have been flying and multiple anonymous sources have come forward.

Reports have tried to establish that Apple will enter the electric car market after 2020. Some believe that the car will drive itself, while others are just banking on an Apple electric car. Many sources later included that Apple’s initial entry into the segment would actually NOT be autonomous at all. More recently, when new project leader, Bob Mansfield took the reins, information changed. Reports then agreed that Apple was directing resources more specifically toward self-driving technology. Nowhere was it said whether or not the company was still planning to build its own electric car.

Fast forward to this week and now Apple has reportedly laid off dozens of Project Titan employees in a revamp of the self-driving car program. Does this mean that the company is not making a car at all? Or, is Apple refocusing its efforts on solely electric, without the self-driving tech? Maybe Apple is diving headfirst into the autonomous field like Google, but leaving the automaking up to others?

Yet another, much addressed, scenario would have Apple, with partner Didi Chuxing (China’s top ride-sharing company that just purchased Uber China) trying to take over the future of mobility, public transportation, and ride-hailing. All of this could be done in an autonomous or traditional format.  Apple surely has the app and service segment figured out. Not to mention being one of the kings of modern technology.

Hmm …

Source: The New York Times, AppleCarFans

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21 responses to "Apple Rethinks “Project Titan” Self-Driving Plans"

  1. ffbj says:

    I thought they scotched the whole thing, except for the self driving stuff. In that there will be no more project Titan, or any car from Apple.

  2. pjwood1 says:

    Maybe among multiple other reasons, Apple sees what urban planning has in store for ALL cars, not just internal combustion.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/more-developers-kick-parking-lots-to-the-curb-1473759000

    Autonomy won’t matter if you can’t drive it there, can’t find a place to put it, or can’t afford parking it. Is this the winning trend, in the very places many expect EV success?

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      Unless autonomy is very cheap, the vast majority of people wouldn’t be buying an autonomous car. But if it’s much cheaper than a driver then hardly anybody will be buying a car, because it’ll be much cheaper not to have one.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        I find this whole meme of “Autonomous cars mean people won’t own a car” to be ridiculous. Not owning a car means you have to depend on taxi service. Making the cars self-driving will make taxi service cheaper, but it certainly won’t make it any more convenient.

        In fact, some who don’t own a car now because they can’t drive for one reason or another, especially senior citizens too old to drive safely, will be getting cars when they become reliable at self-driving.

        Also, insurance rates will be far cheaper with self-driving cars, so cars in general will be more affordable… which means, again, some who don’t own one now will own one. This especially applies to the younger generation, many of whom say they don’t want to own a car… when the reality is that they simply can’t afford one.

        People, or at least Americans, aren’t going to give up the freedom that owning your own car represents just because they become self-driving.

        1. Four Electrics says:

          It makes some sense for Apple to aggressively enter the autonomous taxi space, which is really the end game for autonomous vehicles, or really passenger cars of any type.

          You are skeptical that people will stop buying cars, but I’m absolutely certain that all but the very rich will. Take, as an analogy, flight. How many people own their own aircraft? Very few. Why? Because using is cheaper than owning. So it will be with cars.

          Even when you want a car for an entire day, or weekend, or week, reserving an autonomous vehicle for the entire span will always be cheaper and more convenient than owning your own. Cars will park on the highways at night and be in continuous use during the day, using street parking or garages when necessary. They will come to you on a few minutes notice.

          Here, owning is actually *less* convenient than using, because when you own your car you have to wait for it to show up, but when you call one, you’ll get the nearest one. You get *more* freedom using than owning, because your family can use one, or two, or three cars simultaneously when needed.

          In this world, as long as Apple controls the service, they could give a s**t if they manufactured the car themselves or not. The car is just a tool. The service is the product.

          1. Four Electrics says:

            I should mention that even in the “rush hour” scenario, where you might want to buy your car in order to have guaranteed access, owning is still a lose. The normal “rush hour” is actually about three hours long, but the average autonomous commute will be much shorter: about thirty minutes. Thus, six commuters can be serviced by every one autonomous car. That means that one can reduce the car population by half and still have 3x the capacity needed during peak commute hours, and that’s without incorporating any ride-pooling. Ride sharing further improves availability, but of course not everyone will choose to share.

            Isn’t technology wonderful?

        2. Doggydogworld says:

          In cities where parking is a major issue, autonomous taxis are more convenient, safer and much less expensive. They will dominate.

          In suburbs and exurbs where parking is rarely an issue, there will be a mix of owned and shared cars. Rural areas won’t see much impact from shared cars.

        3. Stephen Hodges says:

          Hi, me agreeing again…. the autonomous non-owned car seems a very small market… fine, but for all the rest of us, and the other 80% of roads in the world without proper markings, full of potholes and with tiny take home pay for drivers… keep making the simple rugged EV’s with a steering wheel please. Apple phones can sell in a lot more places than an autonomous car.

    2. Intrepid says:

      Once cars are able to drive fully autonomously, they will be able to drop passengers off directly in front of their destination then proceed to park in automated high rise parking structures, charge and return when passengers are ready to leave.

      VW has already proven the concept and the economics make sense

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Absolutely. That is the wave of the future, not people giving up personal car ownership.

  3. Rob Stark says:

    Goldman Sachs estimates that an autonomous electric car will reduce the price of an Uber 20 minute ride in Los Angeles from $38 to $15.

    IF you drive 20 minutes to work every day plus take 1-2 trips on the weekend that is roughly $600 per month.

    Much cheaper to buy your own electric car and keep it 10 years if you are a commuter.Leasing a near luxury car for 36 months is not the only option. If you work at home, are retired, or are a college student that lives on campus much cheaper to hire mobility services.

    The idea that urban planning will kill automobiles is pure fantasy.

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      So, $15 per 20 minutes, 1/3 use and you have $360 per day.

      You can currently easily rent a people-mover for $50.

      They must be assuming an expensive autonomous system.

      1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

        I think that must be ignoring the potential for ride-sharing, which becomes much more likely in an autonomous system.

    2. Tim says:

      That example might work if all I did with my car was drive to and from work. I don’t.

      Cars are an affordable luxury, and I suspect many (or most) of us who already have one aren’t going to give them up. Can’t say for the next generation. Perhaps they haven’t adopted the habit.

    3. Doggydogworld says:

      That’s by far the most expensive estimate for automated taxis I’ve seen. If you do the math a fleet of autonomous EVs can profit at 25-30 cents/mile. Personal vehicle ownership is twice that, excluding parking fees. A 15k mile commuter/errand runner can thus save $300/month plus another $300/month parking. That’s 7k extra per year in your pocket, like getting a $10k+/year raise.

  4. Terawatt says:

    Well, one thing is pretty certain. Apple is not going to make an electric car that isn’t autonomous.

    The autonomous tech is obviously interesting to any IT company. There’s not just all the knowledge it’ll allow them to gather about where people are and their patterns of movements and what this says about us. From a technical point of view, the autonomous technology involves solving a simplified version of many very general problems – how to use sensors and build a model of the world, how to recognize objects and predict their behavior, how to make decisions with presented with imperfect and sometimes contradictory data, and much else besides. In short, it is likely that much of what is learned and of the intellectual property aquired as part of making computers able to drive cars will also be valuable in many other areas. The holy grail is generalized AI that can outperform people at almost any task, making everyone but those who own the IP immediately useless.

    Scientists and doctors and computer programmers and so on have pretty complicated jobs, but the AI optimists (or pessimists, depending on your POV) do expect computers and robots to be able to do their jobs along with most other jobs better, and of course much more cheaply, in time.

    Apple, Google, Microsoft and many others are all thinking about this endgame – and the things that will happen in between. Autonomous cars have become the most important “thing in between” because driving is a relatively well-defined job and an easier problem to grapple with than most other things we do that robots don’t already outperform us at. It is easy to specify a destination and the mapping and routing stuff is largely in place. How to drive is more complicated, but still much easier than, say, making a robot that can make coffee using whatever coffee machine it encounters (such as my Moccamaster). Keep a certain distance to other cars, stay in your lane, and so on. As hiccups have shown it’s not a trivial problem, but the combination of it being an unsolved but relatively solvable problem and a technology that has enormous value potential in direct applications PLUS enormous potential as a stepping stone towards software and hardware that can do more complicated things.

    Things like making the car go a certain speed, turn, or brake when the software decides so is of course trivial. All of the complexity is in sensing, modeling, and decision making. And those problems are relevant in endless other applications as well. Robot surgeons and nurses may be next.

  5. Lord Vexen says:

    Millions of people really LIKE to drive their cars. They like getting into them and just hitting the road. Driving is a huge pain in a large city where the traffic and narrow streets make driving stressful. However, most Americans don’t live in New York or Chicago. Tell someone in Sioux Falls South Dakota or Nashville or Tulsa that they have to buy a self-driving electric car now. This issue will become politicized (it already is) and right wing crazies and left wing loonies will do battle over self-driving cars versus traditional pick-up trucks. Just watch.

    1. G2 says:

      In the US (2010) just over 80% of the population lived in defined ‘urban’ areas while the remainder were ‘rural’.
      Facts; you’ve got to love them

      https://ask.census.gov/faq.php?id=5000&faqId=5971

  6. Brunurb says:

    I’m going to give my 2 cents, which is different from everyone else’s thoughts on Apple. I don’t think they are making an electric/autonomous car at all. I think they are developing only the software for one.

    Think about this: they are primarily a design and software firm. They design the iPhone, etc and contract out the actual manufacturing to Foxconn. They focus more on the software, which they DO do themselves.

    They are certainly aware of what Tesla is doing with their software, and also with what Google is doing. Software is the heart and soul of the car, and will be the main driver (so to speak) of cars in the future.

    I’m envisioning that they are creating a software ecosystem like iOS, which will of course integrate with the drivers iPhone, but will control everything in the car.

    You know how Intel doesn’t actually build computers, but the computers have a sticker on them saying “Intel Inside”? I think Apple is going to partner with a car company and it’s going to basically be “Apple Inside”.

  7. Latheesh V M Villa says:

    How my design work is used with out my permission here.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Latheesh,

      Is that image an original work by yourself? Our sincere apologies on that, it was completely unintentional and will be removed immediately and replaced with something else. Or if you would prefer, we can bring re-post it with proper attribution to you and a source location/linkback.

      Again, please accept our apologies and we will endeavor to be more careful in the future.

      Jay Cole
      Editor-in-Chief
      InsideEVs

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