Apple has given up its ambitions to build an electric car, putting an end to a project which has experienced multiple twists and turns over ten years, according to several articles in the American press on Tuesday February 27. Nearly 2,000 employees of the iPhone maker worked on the secret project, according to Bloomberg, which first revealed the information. A good part of them will be reassigned to the design and deployment of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools, the subject which has largely dominated Silicon Valley for the past year.

This decision constitutes a “real bomb for the company”, comments Bloomberg, because the project represented “several billion dollars” and “would have propelled it” into a whole new sector of activity. Apple began working on a car in 2014, hoping to design a fully autonomous electric vehicle with a voice-activated navigation system. “This represents a “small disappointment, because in Cupertino (Apple headquarters, editor’s note), we thought that with around 2,000 employees, an Apple Car was still on the horizon in the medium term,” reacted Dan Ives, analyst. of Wedbush, in a note.

But it also means that the Apple brand “is focused on accelerating and executing a broad generative AI strategy within the Apple ecosystem, (…) which is clearly the right decision for society in the future,” he added. Generative artificial intelligence, popularized by the success of ChatGPT (launched by the start-up OpenAI, largely financed by Microsoft), makes it possible to produce texts, images, sounds, etc., upon simple request in everyday language. Tech giants are engaged in a frantic race to deploy AI agents and creation tools, with Google and Microsoft in the lead, followed by Meta (Facebook, Instagram) for social networks or Amazon in the cloud ( remote computing).

Samsung, for its part, presented new smartphones designed around AI. But Apple has so far said very little about it beyond photo editing tools. Apple, which did not respond to requests from AFP, has never publicly admitted to working on the development of an autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel, despite various leaks in the press for years. In 2022, the specialized site The Information published an investigation detailing the numerous problems encountered by the “Titan” project, from its excessive ambitions to the multiple departures of experienced executives, in particular because of the lack of support from managers.

Several US automakers have eased off on electric vehicles in recent months as demand is not growing as quickly as expected, while self-driving car leaders – Waymo (Google) and Cruise – are having difficulty expanding their services to San Francisco.