Apple just dismissed more than 200 employees from its autonomous vehicle project

CEO Tim Cook has previously noted that Apple’s "greatest contribution to mankind” would be about health.
Image: Apple CEO Tim Cook Kicks Off Worldwide Developers Conference
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the 2018 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference at the San Jose Convention Center on June 4, 2018 in San Jose, California.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

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/ Source: CNBC.com
By Lora Kolodny, CNBC and Christina Farr, CNBC

Apple dismissed just over 200 employees this week from Project Titan, its stealthy autonomous vehicle group, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

An Apple spokesperson acknowledged the lay-offs and said the company still sees opportunity in the space, saying, “We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever."

In August 2018, Apple enlisted a Tesla engineering vice president and Apple veteran, Doug Field, to lead the Titan team alongside Bob Mansfield. This week’s dismissals from the group were seen, internally, as anticipated restructuring under the relatively new leadership.

Other employees who were impacted by the restructuring of Project Titan are staying at Apple, but moving to different parts of the company.

Of late, Apple CEO Tim Cook has touted his company’s initiatives in health as the key to its future growth. “I believe, if you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, “What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?” it will be about health,” Cook told CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

Meanwhile, Apple executives have remained mum in recent months on the company’s car prospects, which appear to have been scaled back from the initial rumored vehicle to a focus on software. In 2016, Apple laid off employees from the same group, shifting its strategy. Fully self-driving cars remain experimental, even for major players in the field such as Waymo, Cruise and Tesla.