Infographic shows how far behind Apple is in autonomous car development

28 Feb 2019541 Views

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Apple is letting go of a large number of staff from its autonomous car team, showing it is not assured success in every venture.

Apple is famous for taking tech concepts and turning them into multibillion-dollar products, such as taking the clunky MP3 player and turning it into the iconic iPod, or using different technologies that make up a smartphone to create the iPhone. However, while it may seem as if everything it touches turns to gold, one area where it has seriously struggled is in autonomous cars.

Last January, reports emerged that Apple was to cut up to 200 of its staff from its autotech project – dubbed Project Titan – over worries its iPhone sales wouldn’t be able to financially support it in the future. Now, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Apple has confirmed a total of 190 staff members are to be laid off in a letter sent to the California Employment Development Department.

Details from the letter show that most of the employees to be cut are from engineering, including 38 engineering program managers, 33 hardware engineers, 31 product design engineers and 22 software engineers. Apple expects that the layoffs will come into effect starting 16 April this year.

Following the news last month, Lynx Equity Strategies in an analyst report said there was a strong possibility that the entire project could be shut down after Apple missed Wall Street revenue expectations by $4bn. Apple confirmed at the time that revenues from iPhone sales were down 15pc while total revenues from other products and services were up 19pc.

We’ve been here before

This isn’t the first setback for Project Titan, however. In July 2016 the company said it was going to focus on building the tech behind autonomous cars, rather than an actual autonomous vehicle. This again made headlines about a year later when Apple staff spoke anonymously to The New York Times about internal confusion in the company as to what the parameters of the hypothetical Apple car would be.

The project was both “dogged by its size” and a victim of unrealistic deadlines and ever-changing priorities, from the staff’s point of view. All of these delays and confusion have led to Apple being a total outsider in the ongoing race to release the first commercially available autonomous car.

To put it into perspective, Statista has made an infographic showing the total number of miles per disengagement – the metric used to describe how far a car has driven autonomously – among 13 different companies. As it shows, Google spin-off Waymo remains the company to beat in road testing.

Infographic showing Waymo with the most miles per disengagement, and Apple second last.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: Statista

Updated, 1.59pm, 28 February 2019: This article was updated to amend a figure taken from the San Francisco Chronicle, which stated that Apple is set to let go 38 engineering program managers, not eight.

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com