Technology giant Apple is taking a step back from its autonomous vehicle venture, Project Titan. Originally reported by CNBC, the layoffs have dismissed more than 200 staffers associated with the not-so-secret project.
The Drive reached out to Apple regarding the layoffs. Thought the exact number of employees was unable to be confirmed, Apple did acknowledge that some employees were departing Project Titan.
"We have an incredibly talented team working on autonomous systems and associated technologies at Apple," an Apple spokesperson told The Drive. "As the team focuses their work on several key areas for 2019, some groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple. We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever."
Last year, Apple re-hired Doug Field, a former hardware engineer who was pinched by Tesla in 2013. At that time, it was believed that at least 2,700 individuals (dozens stemming from Tesla) were "core employees" on the project, meaning that today's layoff may have trimmed around 7.5 percent of the core staff. Previously, Apple reportedly dismissed a large amount of core Project Titan staff in 2016.
In additional to those dismissed from the company, Apple says that it has moved some employees to different project groups to support other company-branded products. CNBC says that the referred to the shift as "anticipated restructuring" under the five-month-old leadership.
Rumors have swirled that Apple's focus on the project has shifted away from producing a standalone vehicle. Instead, the project is believed to be re-targeted towards behind-the-scenes Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), or semi-autonomous, software.
Last May, Apple's 55 Lexus RX450h SUVs (along with their 83 drivers) became the second largest company-owned ADAS testing fleet in California, being topped only by General Motor's 104-vehicle fleet of cars participating in its Cruise program.