For all of the secrecy surrounding Apple’s Project Titan, there sure has been an awful lot of personnel news reported on it over the years. The most recent of which, shared by CNBC overnight Thursday, wasn’t so positive. According to people familiar with the program—and later confirmed by an Apple spokesperson—more than 200 employees were cut from Project Titan.
In the statement to CNBC, the Apple spokesperson explained it as less of a mass firing and more of an internal restructuring.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
Back in August, Apple re-hired former Tesla engineering VP Doug Field to lead the Project Titan team alongside Bob Mansfield. It’s believed that the recent “restructuring” is the work of the new leadership team. And, to the spokesperson’s credit, some of those who were removed from the project will land on other teams within Apple’s corporate structure.
But what about Project Titan? What does this mean for the program’s future?
Honestly, those are some really hard questions to answer because, for all of the reporting that’s done on the program, there’s very little that the public or tech press actually knows about what it’s working towards. Initially, it was thought that Project Titan was some sort of self-driving car program that Apple cooked up. But the idea of an Apple Car has been essentially crushed by Tim Cook and Co., and the project has more or less been described as an “autonomous technology” program—which, who the hell knows what that means if you’re not talking about self-driving cars. Robots? Maybe. Perhaps it’s got something to do with a wider-scale automation system. But again, who knows.
Going back to that Apple spokesperson, it doesn’t seem like Apple is quite ready to give up on the project all together. Rather the company still believes that there’s a “huge opportunity” with autonomous systems. “Apple has unique capabilities to contribute,” they said, while calling Project Titan “the most ambitious machine learning project ever.”