The hotly anticipated Apple Car may never make it to production, a new report out of the US suggests.
According to an article with the New York Times, the technology giant has laid off numerous employees that were working on the project.
Over the past year it has appeared as if Apple’s project ‘Titan’ was gaining momentum, after reports indicated the company was running a Berlin-based car lab and more recently appointed Bob Mansfield, iPad hardware chief, to oversee the car’s development.
Above: A Chrysler Grand Voyager equipped with various sensors believed to be an early Apple Car prototype
While the company has never acknowledged it was working on a four-wheeled gadget, the project is understood to have been in the works for at least the last two years.
However, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, did hint at an automotive project at a Wall Street Journal Live event last year, saying the automotive industry is ready for a “massive change, not just an evolutionary change”.
“Software becomes an increasingly important component of the car of the future. Autonomous driving becomes much more important.”
“As we look at it, what we really want in the – hopefully the short term – is, we’d like people as they enter their car to have an iPhone experience in their car,” he added.
Earlier this year at the annual Apple shareholders meeting, Cook again made reference to a big project – though didn’t specify what it was – that would still be in development for some time.
“Do you remember when you were a kid, and Christmas Eve, it was so exciting, you weren’t sure what was going to be downstairs?” he said.
“Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while,” further hinting that Apple was working on something big at the time.
Above: A Google autonomous vehicle prototype based on the Lexus RX
Arch-rival Google has been less discreet about its plans to release its autonomous vehicle in the near-future, while Uber has revealed its plans to use a self-driving fleet for its ride-sharing service.
Tesla’s Autopilot has been one of the first forms of semi-autonomous driving technology to be adopted and accepted by customers, though the fatal accident earlier this year involving a Tesla Model S using Autopilot cast doubt over the technology in recent months.
A recent report by Time suggested the Apple Car would arrive in the market around 2021 – despite earlier reports suggesting the product would be released in 2019.
The article cited numerous delays in the vehicle’s progress as reasons for the two-year push back, which could hint at why the company may have stalled the project.
According to New York Times’s report, Apple already has a number of fully-autonomous prototypes testing in closed environments, however, citing “people briefed on the company’s plans”, the report says this self-driving technology is still a number of years away from becoming mainstream.