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Apple will build its brain instead of cars

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【Summary】Tech giant Apple is scaling back its car project team to rebuild the focus from building the entire car, to build just the core part of it: the self-driving system.

Original Claire    Oct 31, 2016 1:10 AM PT
Apple will build its brain instead of cars

Bloomberg recently reported that tech giant Apple is scaling back its car project team. Instead of building an entire car, Apple now seeks to build the self-driving system. 

The secretive Project Titan has been Apple's special car project. While companies such as Google and Uber are publicly testing self-driving cars on the roadways, Apple has been keeping quiet on this project's developmental process. 

Insiders recentlly revealed the company has drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts.

Indeed, the new move caused hundreds of members of the car team to be reassigned, let go, or left of their own volition in recent months. This total might reach up to 1,000 workers. According to Bloomberg, insiders asked not to be identified because the moves aren't yet public. 

The refocus would include developing a fully-autonomous driving system. In the future, Apple might simply partner with carmakers. It seems like the company would prefer flexible options instead of creating its own car behind closed doors. Moreover, Apple executives have given the project a deadline, that if it couldn't prove feasible by the late 2017, then the project will be canceled. Regarding this issue, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr declined to comment.

The reasons behind the cuts and reorganization are multiple. Months of disagreement on strategy-making, leadership instability and supply chain challenges are what caused the current situation.

"It was an incredible failure of leadership," one of the insiders said.  

In early 2016, project head Steve Zadesky, a former Ford Motor Co. engineer and early iPod designer, left Titan. Currently, the project is led by long-time Apple executive Bob Mansfield. He took the position in June this year. And Bloomberg says he is one of the reasons that Apple shifted its strategy and employees left this past August and September. 

Initially, Apple planed to build its own car, which means designing both hardware and software components by itself. They wanted to produce an electric car with self-driving technology by 2020. It started the project in 2014, with the great ambition to change the world with another iconic Apple product. 

However, as a tech powerhouse in electronic devices instead of experience as a traditional carmaker, Apple might have expected to encounter many problems in the car-making process. Problems which other automobile giants might have already solved with years of industrial experience. Building its car from scratch, investing sufficient capital and human resources into the project that might we years down the road is risky business. And maybe that's why Apple decided to change course. 

As more and more tech companies and automobile manufacturers are delving into developing their own self-driving technology and building EVs, only time can tell whether Apple's retreat is the right decision. 

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