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Apple cancels its autonomous electric car project

Intro LO:

Apple’s decision (to cancel its autonomous electric car project) may well be far more important than it looks like. Probably, it will also imply that Tesla will never be able to deliver on its many (similar) promises. Once that thought sinks in, Tesla’s share price will sink further.

Autonomous driving has five (or six) levels (source):

  • Level 0: no Driving Automation (eg, T-Ford in 1908);
  • Level 1: Driver Assistance (most cars);
  • Level 2: Partial Driving Automation (several cars including Tesla);
  • Level 3: Conditional Driving Automation (ie, only Mercedes Benz since late 2023; source);
  • Level 4: High Driving Automation (none);
  • Level 5: Full Driving Automation (none and perhaps impossible).

For years, both Apple and Tesla have assumed that the highest level 5 was in reach. Now, Apple has abandoned that thought. Level 5 autonomous driving requires far more artificial intelligence. The real problem – in my view – is that everyone continues to underestimate human intelligence.

Slowly, it is becoming clear that artificial intelligence is like level 1 (see above) while human intelligence is like level 5 (see above). Hence, the ginormous future investments in AI by both Apple and Tesla.

The ultimate autonomous (electric) car will be like an artificially intelligent robotic auto-mobile. It may well only remotely resemble our current cars. The remote hacking of those cars will become its future danger. Also see episode 1 of season 1 of Upload, a TV series rated at 7.8 in IMDb,


TechCrunch title: Apple cancels its autonomous electric car project and is laying off some workers

By: Shane O’Kane
Date: 27 february 2024

Apple is scuttling its secretive, long-running effort to build an autonomous electric car, executives announced in a short meeting with the team Tuesday morning. The company is likely cutting hundreds of employees from the team and all work on the project has stopped, TechCrunch has learned.

Some remaining employees will be shifted to Apple’s generative AI projects, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the project’s cancellation. Others will have 90 days to find a reassignment to other roles inside the company, or they will be let go. The car project still had around 1,400 employees working on it, according to one employee who was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about their work.

The decision to kill the project comes at a time when major automakers are reevaluating their investments in electric vehicles, and amid increased scrutiny on autonomous vehicle projects. Apple’s entry into the automotive sector was also seen as a possible boon to its bottom line, giving it a new source of revenue to help bolster against stagnating hardware sales and regulatory threats to its services business. Apple declined to comment.

Apple first started working on its car project, known internally as “Project Titan,” in 2014. At one point, it had around 5,000 workers dedicated to the effort. But Apple pivoted repeatedly over the last decade, oscillating between an emphasis on making an all-electric Tesla competitor and a fully autonomous vehicle more akin to what Waymo has created. Most recently, Bloomberg reported in January that the project’s leadership was under pressure from Apple’s top executives and its board to find a way to bring something to market sooner than later.

Apple’s chief operating officer Jeff Williams and the vice president in charge of Titan, Kevin Lynch, announced the news to the team Tuesday in a short meeting that lasted about 12 minutes, and did not take questions, according to the employee. While this person described the announcement as abrupt, they said the decision was not, citing the constantly shifting priorities.

A number of high-profile automotive executives cycled through Project Titan over the years. Most notably, the project was once run by former Tesla executive Doug Field (who eventually left to take a role at Ford). Apple also poached executives from Lamborghini and Ford.

In 2021, it hired Ulrich Kranz, a former BMW executive who helped run the i3 program, away from EV startup Canoo. Apple once even held talks with Canoo as it searched the market for contract manufacturing partners, intellectual property, and talent. That search also included talks with Hyundai and Kia.”


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