An Apple car has been a popular rumor for quite some time, but it sounds like the project is close to being shelved. The iPhone maker has apparently scaled back its vehicle development operations and is said to be trying to decide whether to even continue the project.

Apple car
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Apple car project scaled back

Citing sources familiar with the situation, Bloomberg reports that the Apple car development has been dramatically scaled back, resulting in hundreds of jobs being cut. The media outlet also reports that the company is heading in a new direction instead that no longer means that we will see an Apple car released to the public.

Bloomberg states that about 1,000 people had been assigned to work on the rumored Apple car, but hundreds of them have either been reassigned or laid off. Others have left of their own will within the last few months, the media outlet’s sources said.

Apple car initiative now about autonomous driving

Those in charge of the Apple car development, which has long been said to be called Project Titan within the company, have reportedly changed the initiative’s direction. Instead of building a car specifically for Apple, the initiative is now said to be focused on creating an autonomous driving system. The new plan is to make something that will enable the company to have more flexibility in the area of cars, possibly partnering with current automaker or even going back to making an Apple car at some point in the future.

Bloomberg’s sources added that the company has kept the number of people in its Project Titan team about the same by replacing workers whose jobs were tied to the previous focus of building a car with those who are working on autonomous driving technology.

Apple car’s fate to be decided next year

The media outlet said Apple management told the vehicle team that they have until late 2017 to prove that the autonomous driving system they are developing is feasible. At that point, management will decide on what the project’s final fate will be. Apparently the Apple car project has been rocked by a string of disagreements over the strategy that should be followed. Also the project’s leaders have been changing, and challenges within the company’s supply chain for its unmarked car labs have been causing problems.

It comes as no real surprise that the rumored Apple car probably will never come to be. It just never made sense for the iPhone maker to build a car, mostly because the company likes products it can slap hefty margins on, and this is unlikely with a car. Selling cars is also very different than selling phones or tablets, so perhaps the company has just come to its senses.

Profits to be had in autonomous driving

An analyst said last month that the Apple car project was probably about making other companies’ vehicles smart rather than building a vehicle. Reports about hefty layoffs at the company backed up this view, and numerous others have been arguing against a car from Apple ever actually making it to the market.

It makes far more sense for the company to develop CarPlay, and autonomous driving itself presents an opportunity. Tesla’s recent problems have highlighted how big the opportunity is here. The company recently broke up with Mobileye, and there were rumors about it creating its own autonomous driving system. However, Tesla management was quick to discount that rumor, and the automaker will be using NVIDIA’s chips for its Tesla Vision system. Perhaps they would rather work with a company such as Apple, which could build a system tying the various components from various suppliers together to streamline the process for existing automakers.

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