Apple to lay off 190 employees from autonomous vehicle division

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Apple announced yesterday that it intended to lay off 190 workers who are currently employed in Project Titan, its self-driving car programme.

In a filing with US state regulators, the Cupertino-based company said that eight Santa Clara County facilities near its headquarters would be affected as of 16 April. A spokesperson confirmed that all of the people involved were working for the firm’s autonomous vehicle division.

Although Apple has expressed interest in self-driving vehicles, it has never given any details about whether it was developing a self-driving car, or even working on the computer systems, sensors or software to control one.

The documents publicly filed with regulators reveal some hitherto unknown info. Among those who will lose their jobs are at least 24 software engineers and 40 hardware engineers. This is according to the letter that Apple sent to employment regulators in California.

Some of the now redundant positions hint at physical consumer products: an ergonomics engineer, three product design engineers, and a machine shop supervisor. What remains unknown, however, is the number of machinists who reported to the shop supervisor, and whether the unit makes small parts for sensors and other electronics or for automotive parts.

These appear to be the first layoffs since Doug Field took control of Project Titan last year after spending some time at electric car manufacturer Tesla.

Apple runs the autonomous car division on a “need to know” basis, though 5,000 of its 140,000 full-time workers are employed here. This info comes from a court document in a trade secrets theft criminal case that Apple earlier filed against a former employee. About 1,200 of these employees are “core” workers who are directly involved in project development.

Apple is nevertheless ramping up its autonomous vehicle testing on California roads, logging close to 80,000 miles of testing last year, compared to only 1,000 the previous year.


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