Despite all of the optimism and excitement that surrounded Apple’s rumored foray into the automotive business, I was never convinced that Apple would ever release its own branded car. Even though Apple successfully managed to enter and eventually dominate completely new product categories — first with the iPod and later with the iPhone — making a legitimate splash in the auto industry presented Apple with a long list of arguably insurmountable challenges. About a year ago, the New York Times reported that Apple was changing the focus of its car research team and that dozens of employees were either being let go or assigned to other divisions within Apple.
Since then, Apple CEO Tim Cook has indicated that Apple’s foray into the automotive space now focuses on developing self-driving car technology, an initiative which Cook categorized as the “mother of all AI projects.” Even so, some more optimistic Apple observers maintained that an Apple branded car might still be something Apple could explore later on down the line. Alas, a recent exodus of automotive talent from Apple suggests quite the opposite.
According to report from Bloomberg, upwards of 17 Apple engineers with experience across all areas of the automotive design and manufacturing process have left to join Zoox, a good number of which reportedly came to Apple via established automakers in Detroit.
The latest exodus to Zoox suggests Apple is less likely to revive ambitions to make a car itself. The engineers found themselves increasingly sidelined and surplus to requirements at Apple, and were hired by the startup in piecemeal fashion in recent months, the people said.
Apple is still actively interested in the car space as it pertains to developing an AI driving system, but the notion of an Apple branded car ever rolling off a production line remains nothing more than a pipe-dream at this point.