- Apple will lay off 190 employees from its self-driving car division, according to multiple reports citing a letter sent to California’s employment regulatory office last month.
- The layoffs — set to take effect April 16 — largely affect engineers, including 38 engineering program managers, 33 hardware engineers, 31 product design engineers and 22 software engineers. The letter also mentions the loss of a machine shop supervisor.
- The layoffs come after a disappointing quarterly report that saw revenue drop 15% because of falling iPhone sales, and had analysts predicting that divisions like the self-driving car unit could see cuts.
As Reuters notes, the layoff notice actually offers new insight into what was going on at the secretive self-driving car division, which has operated largely on a need-to-know basis even within Apple. Previous layoffs in 2016 signaled a focus on software, rather than building an actual car, but several of the positions identified in the latest layoff round, like the product design and machine shop positions, indicate work on physical products. The layoffs also come as one of the first moves by Doug Field, who re-joined Apple as Vice President of Special Projects after working at Tesla Motors.
The New York Times reported last year that Apple had been rejected by BMW and Mercedes-Benz for proposed partnerships on an all-electric self-driving car, and instead had struck a deal with Volkswagen to put autonomous technology in vans. That was reportedly a significant step down from Apple’s original plans to market a luxury autonomous car.
Apple has still not disclosed exactly what it is working on or how it will reach consumers, but the company has been ramping up its live tests. According to reports filed with the State of California, Apple self-driving cars notched nearly 80,000 miles of testing last year, the third most of any company permitted in the state. Still, the company’s rate of disengagements — a measure of how reliable self-driving technology is — lagged far behind its competitors, indicating that it still has plenty of work before any product reaches consumers.