Rumors about Apple, Inc. working on building its own electric car have been around for a while, and were given a boost when it brought former executive Bob Mansfield out of retirement to head Project Titan, the code name for the company’s car development initiative. But now, it seems the project’s focus is not to build a car but rather, to build self-driving software, according to a Bloomberg report Thursday.
It is based primarily on the fact that Mansfield recently hired Dan Dodge, a former executive at BlackBerry. Dodge was founder and CEO of QNX, a company whose specialty was embedded operating systems — particularly in vehicles — that was acquired by BlackBerry in 2010. The QNX operating system was also the foundation for the BlackBerry 10 OS. QNX also makes in-car entertainment and navigation software used by various automakers such as Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen.
A source familiar with the goings-on told Bloomberg that the shift did not mean Apple was abandoning its car development plans, and could get back to it later. Mansfield has changed the strategy for Project Titan, focusing initially on developing an autonomous driving system. Such a move may make it easy for the company to partner with an established carmaker instead of making its own car, should it choose to do so at a later stage.
In trying to diversify its product portfolio as growth in sales of iPhones and iPads slows down, Apple has been looking at other product lines. It has been spending larger amounts on R&D every year, and, according to estimates, will spend over $10 billion on R&D in 2016, a 30 percent increase from 2015.
Project Titan is thought to be responsible for much of that increase. The Cupertino, California, company has hundreds of engineers working on it under three teams — software, hardware and sensors. It is expected to produce a marketable product by 2020.