Ride over for 200 employees of Apple’s autonomous vehicle program

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Apple's Car
Apple keeps so quiet about its vehicle program that this concept someone dreamed up is the best image we have.
Photo: Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer

Normally, Apple keeps mum about its self-driving car program but it has officially acknowledged a bit of restructuring in the project. This involved a reduction in its headcount.

The employees weren’t fired, and the move is being positioned as a restructuring after a new manager joined the program in August.

An Apple spokesperson told Bloomberg:

“We have an incredibly talented team working on autonomous systems and associated technologies at Apple. 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.”

Unnamed sources told Bloomberg that over 200 employees were reassigned from Project Titan — the name rumor gives to Apple’s efforts to created a self-driving vehicle. Before this change, about 5,000 workers were somehow involved in this program, and about 2,700 of them are working closely on it.

A new broom sweeps clean

Doug Field returned to Apple at the end of the summer after serving for five years at Tesla, first as VP of Vehicle Programs then VP of Engineering. (Previously, he’d been Apple’s VP of Mac Hardware Engineering.)

Field’s current title is VP, Special  Projects Group but specifically he’s working with Bob Mansfield to head Project Titan. Apple is reportedly positioning the recent staff reductions in this area as a normal consequence of bringing in new management.

All this serves as confirmation of an earlier report that Apple was cutting employers from this project, though the reductions are smaller than some had feared.