Remember when Apple reshuffled some 200 employees that had been associated with Project Titan to other areas of the company back in January? Remember the chorus of “Project Titan is dead,” afterwards? If not, you can see Mashable getting their digs in here as a reminder. The fact is, this isn’t the first time that Apple has moved people away from Project Titan. I’m sure you could guess this, but the tech press got it wrong then, as well.
Apple scaled back and rebooted their autonomous driving project back in 2016 as well, when longtime Apple executive Bob Mansfield came back to Apple and took charge of it. Many guessed that it was a failure or that Apple was giving up, but that didn’t happen. In fact, there was a point last year when Apple had more autonomous cars testing on the road than any other company in this growing field. Considering the overall size of the staff and the scale of this project within Apple, 200 people isn’t the big news it was made out to be.
Today, we have a fresh report that suggests an interesting direction for Apple’s Project Titan. According to German publication Manager Magazin, Apple’s car project may not be working on a car at all, but rather an electric van. This would actually line up with some older rumors and predictions that Apple might end up working on vehicle fleets for environmentally-friendly autonomous ride sharing, rather than cars for individuals. A van may not be sexy, but it would be perfect for this kind of application. It’s an interesting concept that could actually solve a lot of traffic issues and dependence on vehicles in areas where public transportation isn’t strong.
During Apple’s 2016 restructuring of Project Titan, the prevailing theory was that Apple was abandoning the idea of a car and was focusing on autonomous systems. It is very possible that this was the case at the time. However, Manager Magazin’s report also states that Apple engineers are now working on the interior of an automobile, as well as other car components. If this is true, then it indicates another potential shift back to building entire vehicles.
It is very possible that Apple re-hiring Doug Field last August and then hiring Andrew Kim in December were because of this shift. Both were at Tesla before making the move to Apple, where the both worked on different elements of vehicle design. It is doubtful that Apple would be going after guys with this kind of design experience if they were only interested in autonomous systems. Who knows. Maybe the 200 employees who were just shuffled were due to this same restructuring.
If Project Titan tells us anything, it is that Apple is constantly changing and adapting internal projects before they come to market. We can only see through the limited lens or rumors and leaks, so we never get the full picture or proper context as they unfold. It often isn’t until many years later that the full picture of how Apple products are developed comes to light. It took the better part of a decade, but we now know a lot of the inside scoop on how the original iPhone came into being. Maybe one day we will know exactly how things played out with Project Titan. Until then, I’m sure we will have a steady stream of rumors to go on.