Apple has apparently quit the race towards making self-driving cars, if the dozens of layoffs from “Project Titan” in the last few weeks, along with a sudden change in direction, are any indication.

The project initially focused on actually making their autonomous car but shifted to just working on creating and refining the technology that would make such a car possible. The idea of Apple designing their vehicle is not discarded, but as it stands right now, Apple would have to acquire or partner with a car maker first.

Several reports from the last year have claimed the company was poaching former Tesla employees and hiring automotive experts. Image Credit: Apple

A change of plans

This peculiar decision follows the departure of the previous leader of Project Titan, Steve Zadesky, and the placement of Apple veteran Bob Mansfield in his place back in July of this year, who was quick to change the aim of the project.

Project Titan used to have as many as a thousand of specialists working on it but this change of direction caused many members of the  project to leave the company.

This news removes what would have been Tesla’s strongest competition in the emerging industry of self-driving robot cars, at least when it comes to signature appeal — Apple products have some significant selling points, being regarded as status symbols with very attractive designs and being enjoyable and easy to use.

Following the shift, Apple continues to hire car battery specialists and technicians, keeping their research of advanced battery models — which fits the new focus into the “underlying technology” of self-driving cars.

Only the latest bump in the road to self-driving cars

Although Apple’s efforts have not been officially confirmed, plenty of inside sources not only shed light into the project’s very existence but also the problems it had been facing in its development cycle.

Apple had been hiring hundreds of engineers just little over a year ago, however, a rumor has spread that the once plentiful hirings for Project Titan froze after the departure of Zadesky. It is important to note that other companies who are also working in their robot car projects have also hit difficulties.

Google — one of Apple’s rivals — has been working on their self-driving vehicles for years. Tesla Motors has vehicles with Autopilot systems — and there’s been a fatality involving such system already

A render of what the Apple Concept Car could look like. Image Credit:

Among other companies that also want a piece of the autonomous car cake, Uber unveiled their robot car this May, in Pittsburgh. Car maker giants have also entered the race, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors have also stated the will probably have their own vehicles in the next five years.

And supposedly, Apple had various vehicles ready for testing — what happens to them after this sudden shift in vision, or what do they mean, remain to be seen. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple responded to an interviewer about Project Titan with a curious statement, “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? Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.”

Sources: Recode