Apple Car Project Backtracks Before Moving Forward

Sometimes, Apple’s mania for secrecy can be frustrating. We have been hearing rumors about it’s super-secret electric car program for years now. Supposedly, it has hired the best and brightest engineers from Tesla and other carmakers to work on the car. We hear reports that the team has expanded to over 1,000 employees. But how far have they gotten?

Apple car rendering by Motor1

Earlier this year, project leader Steven Zadesky suddenly was no longer with the company. Officially, he left for “personal reasons.” Unofficially, that phrase is often code in the business world for someone who was given a generous severance package and told to clean out his office. Apple brought in Bob Mansfield, a longtime member of Apple senior management who had a special relationship with Steve Jobs.

Mansfield has been on the job for about a month now. The New York Times reports that he has laid off several dozen people and that Project Titan is undergoing a complete reboot, whatever that means. The most likely interpretation is that Apple has no idea what its goal is for Project Titan. As Forrest Gump so famously said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’re not likely to end up there.”

According to The Cult Of Mac, Mansfield is pulling back on the idea of making an electric car to concentrate on the software that will empower autonomous cars. Presumably, Apple could sell that system to carmakers that don’t have the resources to develop their own self-driving technology. Not quite the breakthrough the iPhone was, but better than nothing. Apple is seeing a decline in iPhone sales and desperately needs some blockbuster new products to keep its edge in the digital world.

Whatever Apple expects Project Titan to lead to, insiders now think it won’t see the light of day before 2021. The world of automobiles will be well into the electric car revolution by then. It seems ridiculous that the company with the largest stockpile of free cash in the world can’t get a handle on how to participate in that revolution, but as Elon Musk said after the Tesla Model X finally went into production two years late, building automobiles is really hard.

There have been reports from inside Apple that the seasoned production people Apple hired from other companies were scandalized by how clueless the eggheads who only write code were. They apparently have no idea what it takes to actually build an automobile. Some are said to have quit in disgust, convinced that Apple does not have the faintest idea how to turn Project Titan into a reality.

Of course, nobody knows for sure what is going on inside the company, which is more tight lipped than the NSA. But it looks for all the world like Project Titan is a quagmire that threatens to eat up piles of cash for no apparent gain. Steve Jobs would be embarrassed by this debacle.

Graphic by Motor1 via Cult of Mac

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.