Apple isn't the kind of company that continually has news about layoffs or intense staff changes. That's why the latest news about 200 employees being laid off from Apple's autonomous vehicle unit is surprising. After Apple confirmed the layoffs their statement about them made it a little clearer that the technology company made the move to focus in on artificial intelligence and machine learning to help compete with major tech rivals like Amazon and Google.
“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,” a company spokesperson commented in a statement to CNBC.
Self-driving car technology may still be an important initiative at Apple. But reading between the lines, it looks like it’s taking a back seat a Apple beefs up its general AI staff.
“I think they’re making the decision that, at least in the near term, it’s better to have these people doing AI in other projects,” said Gene Munster, a venture capitalist and analyst at Loup Ventures.
Apple’s self-driving car project, called Titan internally, started out with the desire to create an Apple-branded electric car, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015. But over the last few years, Apple has scaled back its ambition and lost leaders and other employees in the process. Today, the unit mostly explores the underlying technology that makes self-driving cars possible. CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly called self-driving “the mother of all AI projects.”
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