Apple ramped up its autonomous car project last year. Now, it’s killing it.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is winding down its effort to create an electric car with autonomous capabilities, a significant shift for the company that has poured resources into the highly secretive project for nearly a decade.

Just two weeks ago, the company was testing one of its 67 vehicles outfitted with autonomous capabilities on a Sunnyvale, Calif., highway, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. But on Tuesday, Apple executives told employees that it scrapped the project and is now shifting members of the group to focus on generative artificial intelligence efforts, according to Bloomberg News.

Apple declined to comment.

Despite its increase in testing over the past year, Apple’s car efforts were far behind other leaders in the industry. The company only had permits to test in California with a human behind the wheel who was ready to take over at any moment, DMV records show. That compares with the current leader in the space, Alphabet-owned Waymo, which has been offering fully driverless robotaxi rides to customers in San Francisco and Phoenix for months.

Experts lauded Apple’s increased testing in California as a vote of confidence in the potential of automated driving because the company and its technology have significant influence over consumers’ lives. News that Apple is winding down the project could end years of speculation over what the company planned to do with its autonomous cars — which has shifted several times over the years and faced many delays.

Apple has quietly tripled its testing of autonomous cars, records show

Apple initially planned to create a full self-driving vehicle, but it reportedly watered down those ambitions and was instead working on creating driver-assistance features like those popularized by Tesla.

According to Bloomberg, the nearly 2,000 employees working on the project — internally dubbed “Project Titan” — were shocked at Tuesday’s news that the company was winding down the project. The decision comes after the company tested its cars over 450,000 miles in California between December 2022 and November 2023 — more than tripling from the year before, and the biggest jump among companies with the most testing in the state.

Public records also show the company was actively testing in California this year.

In January, for example, the company was testing a car in autonomous mode in Castro Valley when a nearby semi-truck generated a draft that flung a piece of road debris into its path. Then, earlier this month, Apple was testing a car on a Sunnyvale highway when it ran over a piece of metal on the road.

Both incidents caused minor damage to the test vehicles, records show.

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