Is Apple Getting Cold Feet Over Autonomous Driving Technology?
Tech giant is reportedly not doing well in developing its self-driving techby Kirby Garlitos, on
Tech giant Apple may be coming off of a high with the introduction of the iPhone 7, but not everything appears to be on the up-and-up over there at 1 Infinite Loop. According to a report by The New York Times, Apple is reevaluating its plans to develop autonomous driving cars just as some of its rivals – Google and Uber among them – are doubling down on their own efforts to develop their versions of the technology.
The report mentioned that Apple has already laid off “dozens of employees” in the wake of struggles to gain any significant ground on Project Titan, the code name for the company’s autonomous driving initiative. The layoffs are reportedly tied into a reboot of the whole project and come two months after Apple executive Bob Mansfield took the reigns for the project. Apparently, Mansfield pushed to change the whole objective of Project Titan in an attempt to distance itself on designing and producing an actual Apple Car and instead focus on developing technologies that can be used on autonomous driving vehicles, including batteries, sensors, and actual software.
There hasn’t been any confirmation or denial on Apple’s side on whether this shift in focus played a role in the layoffs, but for what it’s worth, the tech company isn’t abandoning its development altogether. For one, it’s already invested heavily in the space as it already has a number of self-driving cars that are in the middle of testing. Second, Apple’s already two years into the project and has assembled an impressive team made up of some of the brightest minds in both battery technology and the automobile industry – at least those who survived the layoff.
It’s highly unlikely that the company will pull the plug entirely on what it has accomplished so far, but it is disconcerting to hear that the company that’s known for its innovations isn’t gaining as much ground on autonomous driving technology.
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Did Apple bite off more than it could chew?
It’s easy to make some jokes about Apple biting off more than it could chew when you look at the company’s logo, but this news report is actually very serious as it points to some truths about the development of autonomous driving technology that a lot of us have to accept.
First and most important is that this whole business of self-driving cars isn’t a cake-walk like some have come to expect it to be. It’s a very difficult technology to develop given what it could mean for the future of the auto industry. Even some of the biggest tech firms in the world have their hands full with its development. That’s not to say that they can’t get the job done, but the excitement behind the progress of the tech should be tempered, at the very least.
Then there’s the challenge of developing something that isn’t in Apple’s wheelhouse. Sure, company’s like Google and Uber aren’t automakers themselves, but each company places different priorities on a specific project. Comparing what Google and Uber are doing to Apple isn’t fair because each have different objectives they’d like to achieve in pursuing this technology. If this report from The New York Times is accurate, then it would seem like Apple isn’t as fully invested in developing the technology or that it’s streamlining its own project to focus on aspects of the technology that it thinks it could be successful in.
That’s not a slight in the slightest; it’s just a commentary on the realities of jumping into the development of autonomous driving technology and the difficulties that come with it. I don’t blame Apple in rethinking its plans to develop the tech, although I do wonder if these lay-offs are a sign of things to come. I hope it doesn’t come to that because that stagnate the technology, which by the standards of the auto industry, is already years away from actually becoming feasible.
Source: The New York Times