U.S. device giant Apple has decided to scale back its automotive ambitions and shelve plans to build a driverless car, according to reports. Instead, sources say, it will focus on software for self-driving vehicles built by other companies. The company’s efforts to build an Apple-branded electric vehicle was part of a secret project codenamed “Titan” and first revealed in February 2015, for which Apple eventually created a dedicated team of 1,000. However, sources say that the company has temporarily abandoned the plan, cutting hundreds of jobs and reassigning employees to other parts of its business. The reduced car team has now been given a deadline of late 2017 to ascertain whether the self-driving software is viable and to decide on the project’s final direction. The report adds that the company is now working on autonomous programs, vision sensors and simulators for testing the self-driving platform in real-world environments. Apple is hoping to deploy the software in partnership with existing carmakers, according to the report.
Apple appears to have realized that the design and construction of motor vehicles is better left to the companies that have longstanding experience in the field, as well as the required tooling and infrastructure. This seems to us like a wise decision, especially given that the software aspect of self-driving technology can be created independently of the manufacture of the cars themselves, and this area is one in which Apple is far more competitive. Whether the Apple will eventually decide to make its own cars is, for the time being, unknown, but in our view it seems unnecessary to do so, since Apple could become a major player in the connected-car market without doing so, by engaging aggressively in relevant partnerships. In this, we also see a lesson for mobile operators—to cultivate technology partners in order to expand into new applications of mobile networks, rather than trying to do everything, at considerable risk to themselves.