Apple Inc.’s Project Titan self-driving car project continues to be troubled, with a new report detailing delays and issues with the company’s efforts.
The Information today detailed a chronology of the car, covering aspects of its development, Apple’s ability to retain talent and issues with the technology it’s trying to use. Although some of the report is not new, other parts have interesting revelations, including the claim that Apple’s technology not only isn’t up to scratch but also isn’t fit for purpose.
According to the report, Apple’s self-driving cars have had problems navigating streets, including frequently hitting curbs and veering out of lanes in the middle of intersections near the company’s headquarters.
In one test drive, an Apple self-driving vehicle nearly hit a runner crossing the street. The technology did not recognize the runner and, instead of stopping to let the runner cross, “only slightly adjusted its path.” The only reason the runner wasn’t hit by the vehicle was that the safety driver in the car hit the brakes to avoid a collision. Internally, Apple reportedly conceded that the vehicle would have struck the runner if not for the intervention.
Project Titan employees are also claimed to have been setting up test drives under ideal conditions to prove that the technology was more advanced than it is. In August, several vehicles were deployed on a test run on a 40-mile stretch of road in Montana to show off the technology. The test drive was a success, with Project Titan employees using images and footage for a promotional video to impress Apple executives. Still, in reality, the same vehicles continue to struggle with basic navigation in built-up areas.
Apple’s efforts to build an autonomous electric vehicle date back to 2014, but the company has had various stumbles across along the way. It was reported in 2016 that the Apple car project was dead in the water after Apple cut hundreds of positions and had switched its focus to pursuing self-driving technology that can be applied to other cars. Apple laid off 190 staff from the self-driving car project in February 2019.
At one point it was reported that Apple ranked last out of 48 companies testing autonomous vehicle technology in California in terms of safety, with Apple’s self-driving car technology requiring human intervention nearly every mile driven.
A report in January 2021 put some perspective on how much Apple was struggling with developing the technology. Although Apple was publicly saying that it plans to deliver a self-driving electric car by 2024, the real delivery date could be as late as 2028.
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