Apple may hit the brakes on autonomous vehicle program

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Project Titan
Apple’s test vehicles from its self-driving car project could be headed for the highway exit.
Photo: Idiggapple/Twitter

Apple’s self-driving car development could be headed for a cliff. Maybe. A questionable report from industry analysts says that there are layoffs in this division and the whole project might even be scrapped.

The cause is supposedly the slowdown in iPhone sales caused by the weakening Chinese economy. The reduction in revenue leaves less room for non-core programs.

“A little over a month ago in Dec, we wrote about limited opex [operating expenditure] cuts in some non-core programs such as the autonomous driving program,” analysts KC Rajkumar and Jahanara Nissar with Lynx Equity Strategies wrote in a note to investors. “Our latest checks, solidified after discussions at CES, leads us to believe that perhaps the entire program may be on the chopping block.”

Rajkumar and Nissar aren’t known as analysts with a strong inside track at Apple. And there have been no other reports of Apple’s self-driving car project being cancelled.

No iCar? Really?

For the most part, Apple won’t talk about its efforts to design a self-driving car but the project definitely exists. Last year, a former employee tried to steal proprietary information from Apple’s autonomous vehicle design team and the FBI report on the incident revealed that there are thousands of people working in the program. Just a few months ago, Apple hired a top self-driving car engineer away from Waymo.

It wouldn’t be surprising if there are staff reductions in such a large project. It would be shocking if Apple completely dropped such a high-profile development program after pumping so much time and money into it. Especially one that has the potential to become a billion dollar product.

Via StreetInsider