Apple just killed its electric car project, shifting focus to generative AI

Were you hoping to get your hands on an Apple car in the next few years? Would you settle for a smarter Siri?
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Apple is canceling one of its open secret projects -- building an autonomous electric car, and shifting most of the 2,000 employees working on it to focus on generative AI efforts instead. 

The internal announcement was made by Apple COO Jeff Williams and an Apple vice president leading the electric car project, Kevin Lynch, according to a report by Bloomberg

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Apple's AI team is led by John Giannandrea, an Apple executive who's been reportedly focused on generative AI endeavors for the past couple of years, including the development of large language model applications (LLMs) like AI chatbots (think, ChatGPT). 

Not all employees will be so lucky, as Bloomberg says there will be layoffs. TechCrunch reports some have already been let go, but it's unclear how many people will be laid off. Aside from software engineers and employees working closely with AI, the "Special Projects Group" or SPG, as Apple called its electric car team, also included hardware and automotive engineers, who may or may not be able to apply for other jobs within the company. 

Apple's electric car endeavors began in 2014, and the company has reportedly invested several billions of dollars into both fully autonomous vehicles and electric cars to compete with Tesla and others. 

Its most recent launch, the Apple Vision Pro, is a mixed-reality headset and its first new product category since the release of Apple Watch in 2015. Vision Pro has gotten the company a lot of attention for its futuristic and innovative nature. 

Also: Apple Vision Pro review: Fascinating, flawed, and needs to fix 5 things

Apple has been notably absent in the generative AI boom over over the past year since the launch of ChatGPT. The company hasn't released remarkable generative AI technology during the rise in popularity of genAI, not even while its biggest competitors, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung, all have rivaled OpenAI's ChatGPT with different generative AI technology advancements. 

Some reports in July indicated Apple is working on an AI chatbot of its own, used internally and known as Apple GPT, which runs on a proprietary foundational model. While Apple has been largely quiet about incorporating generative AI into its devices, we're likely to see at least some new genAI features showcased at this year's WWDC in June.

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