Rumors are circulating that dozens of employees of Apple's secret car project have departed in recent weeks as the company significantly lowered its ambitions. Instead of making an electric car with self-driving capabilities, it seems the project is going in a different direction since Bob Mansfield, an Apple veteran, took over leadership of the car team over the summer.
Today's news suggests Apple is finding it hard to come up with a major blockbuster, an exact reason isn't provided but anonymous sources told FT that Mansfield refocused on the underlying systems that would power a self-driving car rather than building an electric vehicle by itself. This implies the company seeks to enter partnerships with existing car makers, to equip vehicles with a combination of Apple hardware and software.
Some Apple staffers have been reassigned to other internal teams, while others whose backgrounds are more in the traditional car industry have left the company. One highly-regarded electric vehicle engineer has rejoined the car company from which he was poached just last year.
The move could mean Apple must turn to an existing carmaker to fulfill its ambitions to get into the car business, which chief executive Tim Cook has said is set for “massive change” thanks to autonomous and electric vehicles. Partnering with a third party would be an unusual move for Apple, which tends to prefer controlling the hardware, software and services around a new product by itself.
Many believed Apple would enter direct competition with Tesla as the company desperately needs a new major source of revenue. At the moment, the iPhone generates near to two-thirds of Apple's revenue, but its sales are declining and new projects like the Watch failed the live up to the hype.