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    What Happened to the Apple Car?

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    Varun Bhatia
    Varun Bhatia Oct 10, 2016

    Project Titan, the not-so-secret name of the not-so-secret initiative Apple has undertaken to build a car, is bleeding staff and shifting its focus. Bloomberg reports that Apple’s Project Titan is no longer building its own car. Instead, the team is now focused on developing an autonomous driving system – one that either Apple will use itself or in partnership with existing automakers.

    Self-driving technology is no longer science fiction since Google, General Motors, and other companies have already tested this feature. Although it may not be perfect, it’s way better than what most people would have expected. So the speculated features of the Apple Car have always been non-gasoline engines, a computer dashboard and self-driving technology. One or more of these rumored features are quite likely to be adopted. The real question is when will the Apple Car arrive?

    With the recent layoff of Project Titan’s workers, the dream of seeing an Apple Car running on the roads seems more far-fetched now than ever. Apple is most likely working on various car-related technologies to see which ones are the most promising and feasible. Like several other research projects, you can expect a large chunk of the research to never see the light of the day as a consumer product.

    Apple isn’t going to build a gasoline-powered car to compete against General Motors, Honda, Ford and Toyota. There’s no point in coming out with another me-too product, unless it offers an essential new feature. Tesla already offers electric cars with self-driving features, so it wouldn’t make sense for Apple to compete with Tesla, especially seeing how Tesla is coping with the competition against the traditional car makers.

    Manufacturing cars is a huge project and very different from manufacturing consumer electronic devices. It’s a different ball game altogether. Will Apple build factories to make cars or hire someone else to make them? This seems quite imposing, which is something even Tesla is struggling to do – meet the demands of their vehicles. A far safer game for Apple might be to develop the underlying technology behind tomorrow’s cars and then let other companies license it.

    So the Apple Car project likely is shifting its focus based on what Apple’s finding feasible for the short-term future. The latest layoffs from Project Titan doesn’t mean Apple is abandoning Project Titan, but it only goes to show that even Apple couldn’t predict what would work and what would be useful.

    According to Bloomberg, Apple has given Project Titan team a late 2017 deadline to “prove the feasibility” of its self-driving car system, and then decide on the final direction for the platform.

    Don’t expect an Apple Car any time soon. But you can look forward to minor breakthroughs to pop up every now and then. It’s going to work very much like how iOS evolved from an iPhone operating system to an iPad tablet operating system, to Apple Pay, HealthKit, HomeKit and a host of other initiatives. The future of the Apple Car isn’t a product as much as it is the underlying technology to radically transform the transportation business in general.

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