Apple Poured $1B A Year Into Car Project Concocted By Steve Jobs For A Decade Before Realizing It 'Needed To Be Put Out Of Its Misery,' Report Reveals

Zinger Key Points
  • Jobs apparently considered buying General Motors in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Internal disagreements about design and autonomy level, coupled with the complexity and costs, ultimately led to cancelation of the project.
  • The project's cancellation is expected to impact the jobs of roughly 2,000 employees.

Apple Inc.‘s AAPL dream of revolutionizing the car industry has come to an abrupt end after a decade of work and billions of dollars invested. The project, known internally as “Titan,” was plagued by leadership indecision, technical hurdles, and shifting ambitions, ultimately leading to its cancellation in February, as per a report by Bloomberg. 

Here are the seven key takeaways from the story:

  • It Was Jobs’ Idea: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs planted the seed for Apple’s car ambitions. In the late 2000s, driven by his vision of dominating every aspect of consumer experience, he envisioned Apple creating “this generation’s Volkswagen Beetle.” He even explored acquiring General Motors during the 2008 financial crisis. While Jobs passed away before the project took off, his initial spark ignited a decade-long journey for Apple in the automotive world.
  • A Decade of Investment, Billions Spent: Apple poured a staggering amount of resources into Project Titan. The Bloomberg report, which cited people familiar with the matter, revealed that the company spent roughly $1 billion annually for the past 10 years, amounting to nearly a fifth of its R&D budget a decade ago. Despite this significant financial commitment, the project never yielded a commercially viable product.
  • Leadership Struggles and Internal Disagreements: Disagreements among Apple’s leadership hampered the project’s progress. Tim Cook, the CEO, initially supported the idea of a fully autonomous car, but his enthusiasm waned as technical and economic challenges became apparent. Doug Field, the project’s leader, championed a Level 5 autonomous vehicle (meaning no human input needed), while others, like Kevin Lynch, advocated for a more realistic Level 2 system (driver assistance, not replacement). This lack of a unified vision and constant pivoting hindered decisive action.
  • See Also: Market makers trigger a Tesla stock anomaly on Thursdays, here’s how to exploit it.
  • Unfulfilled Partnerships & Acquisitions: In a bid to expedite development, Apple pursued partnerships or acquisitions with established players. They contemplated collaborating with TeslaMercedes-Benz, and BMW. They even considered buying McLaren, the high-end British automaker. However, none of these efforts materialized. 
  • A Car of Many Faces, Never Reaching the Road: Apple’s vision for the car went through numerous iterations. They started with ambitious designs, led by the legendary Jony Ive, like the self-driving “Bread Loaf” minivan, inspired by the classic Volkswagen microbus, and the pod-shaped “I-Beam” with gull-wing doors. However, these designs proved impractical and were eventually scrapped. They eventually scaled back to a more traditional design with a steering wheel and pedals, but this iteration never progressed beyond the prototype stage. “They finally smartened up,” sighed one Apple executive.
  • Technical and Economic Hurdles Proved Too High: As the project progressed, Apple encountered significant technical challenges in developing reliable and safe self-driving technology. Additionally, the estimated production cost of $120,000 far exceeded their target price of $85,000, raising concerns about profitability. Ultimately, these challenges, coupled with the lack of a clear path forward, led Apple to call it quits.
  • Job Losses and Asset Sales Mark the Project’s End: The cancellation of Project Titan will reportedly impact the jobs of roughly 2,000 employees. Some will be transferred to other divisions within Apple, while others will be laid off. Additionally, Apple is looking to sell its Arizona car testing track, a physical reminder of the project’s ambitious aspirations.
  • A longtime Apple executive reportedly said the project was widely seen within the company as an ill-conceived product “that needed to be put out of its misery.”

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Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Representative illustration by MiniStocker on Shutterstock

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