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article imageOp-Ed: 'Incredible failure of leadership': Apple scraps self-driving car

By James Walker     Oct 17, 2016 in Technology
Apple has scrapped its long-rumoured self-driving car project, according to a credible report. The company had planned to launch "Project Titan" in 2019. However, internal in-fighting and catastrophic leadership failures have caused it to be abandoned.
At its peak, Apple had around 1,000 people assigned to Titan. Recently, "hundreds of members" of the team have been reassigned, let go or left of their own volition though, according to Bloomberg. The shakeup has been so severe that Apple has rethought the entire project. The company will no longer build its own car, instead focusing on the software that could make autonomous vehicles a reality.
The original plan was to make an all-electric car that would recognise its driver using Touch ID fingerprint recognition. The car would then autonomously navigate to its destination at the press of a button, integrating with existing Apple services such as Maps and Music for the driver's convenience. The initial concept retained the steering wheel and pedals but these were dropped in later iterations of the idea to achieve a more radical first product.
However, problems with the manufacturing of the car have since led Apple to drop the plan entirely. By focusing on software, it aims to deliver a quality product that could appeal to existing car brands. It will in effect create a framework enabling autonomous vehicles to be built on top of Apple technology.
The new team has been given a deadline of late 2017 to prove to the company's leadership that self-driving systems can become a reality. They will then need to decide on a definitive direction for the project, company insiders told Bloomberg. The aim is to develop software that could power an autonomous car for installation on vehicles built by existing manufacturer. The approach is also flexible enough to enable Apple to restart work on Titan at some later date.
According to Bloomberg, the focus shift and revised deadline have come "after months of strategy disagreements, leadership flux and supply chain challenges." The company has found it difficult to create a supply chain for automotive parts, finding it a challenge to gain the same presence as it has in electronics. Existing investors are also sceptical of the plans. Apple's used to making large profit margins whereas car manufacturers typically take less than 10 percent profit.
The problems led to internal disputes that threw the entire project into disarray. For much of last year, there was no clear direction in the company's work, according to insiders. Managers argued over strategies and whether to emphasise hardware or software. A lack of coordination and a general inability to build a firm plan caused the project to gradually fall apart in "an incredible failure of leadership."
Apple is known for its strong command of markets. It is a major influencer in the consumer electronics space that has almost complete control over its relationships with its partners. Its failure to unite around a single self-driving car concept indicates the challenge technology companies face when considering the automotive market.
The company is not alone in being thwarted by unforeseen issues while building self-driving cars. Google's own project has also suffered from unexpected departures, rethinks and cautious investments, although it is has made it much further along the road than Apple.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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