Apple cancels electric car project after decade of investment

As enthusiasm for the tech wanes, markets approve of company’s decision to shift employees to burgeoning AI sector.

An electric car is plugged into a charging point in London
An electric car is plugged into a charging point in London, UK, in this April 7, 2016 photo [Neil Hall/Reuters]

US tech giant Apple has reportedly pulled the plug on its electric car project after a decade of investment into the technology, devoting more resources to artificial intelligence (AI).

The halt on the decade-old project, which was reported on Tuesday and will see employees shifted to the firm’s AI division, was welcomed by markets.

Apple kicked off Project Titan 10 years ago, at a time when the promise of self-driving vehicles was all the rage in Silicon Valley. It originally said it hoped to release a self-driving vehicle as early as 2024.

But the project got stuck in the slow lane, hampered by factors including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Billions were reportedly sunk into research and development but plans to create a radical, autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel were scaled down to focus on a more conventional car with advanced driver-assistance features. The company laid off 190 workers from the group in 2019.

Apple is not alone. Several leading automakers, including electric vehicle (EV) market leader Tesla, have decided to pull back on investments, with some shifting plans to focus on hybrids instead of fully battery-powered cars. Tesla has projected slumping sales this year.

Billionaire Elon Musk, who leads Tesla, greeted the news of Project Titan’s demise with a tweet featuring emojis of a salute and a cigarette.

The sector has struggled to flourish in a sluggish global economy. High interest rates have increased the cost of borrowing, leading to a slowdown in demand for usually pricier electric vehicles, prompting the industry as a whole to cut jobs and reduce production.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies