Project Titan search results
In an interview with Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed Project Titan, Apple’s car project. Cook referred to this as “the mother of all AI projects.” While the project hasn’t been a well-kept secret, Apple’s public confirmation is noteworthy. Cook referred to the three specific areas: self-driving technology, the electrification of vehicles, and ride-hailing as “three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame.”
“We’re focusing on autonomous systems…It’s a core technology that we view as very important…We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects…It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.” – Tim Cook
Apple is in talks to acqui-hire the team of a well-known self-driving vehicle startup, Drive.ai, according to The Information. The company has raised $77M and was last valued around $200M. In our view, Apple is not after brand or even purely strategic value, but rather talent and intellectual property — Apple’s primary acquisition playbook.
An acquisition of Drive.ai would certainly renew the conversation around Apple’s efforts in autonomy, about which, little tangible information is known. Our most recent insight into Apple’s Project Titan was a confirmation that 200 employees working on the project had been let go or re-assigned in January of this year. Project Titan has gone through several shake-ups and changes in direction but is still an active area of focus for Apple.
Who is Drive.ai?
Drive.ai spun out of Stanford’s AI Research Lab in 2015 and has since become one of the better-known startups working toward deploying autonomous vehicles, employing more than 100 engineers. In July of 2018, the company launched a pilot program to test fixed-route autonomous shuttles in Frisco, TX.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a report detailing changes to Apple’s senior management over the last year. We view these changes as positive because they position Apple for a new type of growth around Services and frontier technology.
Since the beginning of 2018, we have seen at least eight high-level changes.
- John Giannandrea was hired from Google and quickly promoted to SVP of Machine Learning and AI Strategy.
- Sam Jadallah, former head of a smart lock company and Microsoft VP, was recently hired to lead smart home efforts.
- Bill Stasior, in charge of Siri since 2012, left that role but remains at Apple.
- Angela Ahrendts will leave the SVP of Retail role.
- Dierdre O’Brien was promoted to SVP of Retail + People.
- Frank Casanova was chosen to head augmented reality marketing.
- Doug Field was (re)hired from Tesla to work with Bob Mansfield on Project Titan (autonomy).
- Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, former Sony Pictures executives, were hired to head up Apple’s original content efforts.
- Optionality around new product and service categories is the 4th and final pillar to our Apple as a Service thesis.
- We expect a stable iPhone business (part 1), a growing Services segment (part 2), and capital returns (part 3) to move shares higher.
- In part 4, we outline potential new product and service categories, including AR wearables, personal health, original video content, and autonomous vehicles, which represent additional growth drivers not yet reflected in investor thinking.
- New hardware products generate new Services opportunities and the company will continue to develop both in tandem as it looks to expand its ecosystem.