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The Apple Car Finally Has a Deadline

Here's something you don't want to hear a former manager say about your ambitious car project: "It was an incredible failure of leadership."

But despite rounds of layoffs and shifting gears on the scope of its Project Titan, Apple seems to have finally zeroed in on what it should be, what it shouldn't, and when it should be ready.

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According to an in-depth report by Bloomberg, Apple execs have given the remaining team a deadline of late 2017 "to prove the feasibility of its self-driving system and to decide on a final direction for the project."

Note that this deadline isn't for a final shipping product. It's for figuring out where Apple is going next. But that direction seems fairly clear at this point. We're likely not talking about a vehicle but the brains for one.

Although more than 120 software engineers have reportedly been cut, those who are still on board are working on testing an underlying platform that other automakers could use. The ingredients for Project Titan include autonomous programs, vision sensors and various simulators.

It's possible that Apple may still decide to move forward with an actual car, but the company seems to be gearing up to take on Tesla's Autopilot by teaming up with other automakers who want to compete in a world that's moving towards self-driving vehicles.

The problem is that several other companies, including GM, Volvo and Audi, have their own self-driving systems. For instance, Uber worked with Volvo to roll out self-driving vehicles for a test in Pittsburgh, PA. Meanwhile, Google already has years of self-driving experience under its belt for its own fleet of cars.

Come this time next year, we should have a much clearer picture of what the Apple Car will be, but the company may have a difficult time holding on to the talent it needs to cross the finish line.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.