Apple has “dismissed” 200 employees who were working on the tech giant’s secretive Project Titan autonomous-car program, according to CNBC.
In an unusual move that acknowledged Project Titan, an Apple spokesperson responded to the CNBC report saying, “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.”
The layoffs come one day after Google parent company Alphabet’s autonomous-car division, Waymo, announced it will open a facility in Southeast Michigan to install its autonomous systems in vehicles. The facility is expected to open mid-2019 and employ up to 400 engineers, operations experts, and fleet coordinators.
As reported by Bloomberg, more than 5,000 Apple workers were said to have some knowledge of Project Titan, according to a July 2018 FBI report following the arrest of an employee who allegedly stole secrets of the project. The same report stated that 2,700 of those employees had deeper access, including to relevant databases.
Apple is well known for “siloing” employees and/or restricting their access to projects in order to keep secrets, so that engineers and designers working on, say, iPhones don’t mix with staffers working on MacBooks, and none of those people mix with staffers working on autonomous-car technology, for instance. Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly initiated Project Titan, which was to include an entire car designed by the Silicon Valley company, in 2014. The project was said to have been refocused on developing autonomous technology for use in other companies’ vehicles in 2016.