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Apple auto layoffs give clues to division direction

(Reuters) – Apple Inc. announced on Wednesday that it was considering firing 190 employees as part of its self-driving car project, the Titan Project, which offers a rare window on automotive technologies pursued by the company.

The technology company said in a document filed with state control authorities that it was planning to fire people from eight different Santa Clara County facilities near its headquarters in Cupertino, California, from April 16th. A spokesman for the company confirmed car program.

Although the iPhone maker has recognized his interest in self-driving cars in general terms, he has never accurately pinpointed the technologies on which he works and that he is looking to build a complete vehicle or the sensors, the computer system and the software necessary for its control.

Public documents filed with regulators provide hitherto unknown clues.

At least two dozen software engineers, including a machine – learning engineer, and 40 hardware engineers, have been fired, according to a letter from Apple to California 's employment authorities this month.

Some positions suggest physical products for consumers: three product design engineers and one ergonomics engineer face layoffs. A workshop supervisor was part of the reductions, although the number of machinists reported to the supervisor and the fact that the workshop manufactures parts for the automobile or smaller parts for electronics and sensors are unclear.

The layoffs appear to be the first major upheaval of the Titan project led by Doug Field, who returned to Apple last year as vice president of special projects after a stint at electric car manufacturer Tesla Inc.

According to court documents, Apple is managing the car project on the basis of "need to know", with only about 5,000 of the 140,000 full-time Apple workers, according to a court case relating to the theft of trade secrets filed this year against a former Apple employee. .

About 1,200 of them are "essential" employees who "work directly on project development," according to the complaint, which had been unsealed in January.

FILE PHOTO: The Apple Inc. store is visible the day of the launch of the new iPhone 7 smartphone in Los Angeles, California, USA, September 16, 2016. REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson / File Photo

Despite changes in the workforce, the company seems to have stepped up its trials on California's roads. In a report filed with regulators earlier this month, Apple has announced it has completed nearly 80,000 km of testing in its home country in 2018, far exceeding the less than 1,000 km registered l & # 39; 39, previous year.

It was, however, much less than the Waymo unit of Alphabet Inc, which had traveled 1.2 million miles in California last year.

(The story corrects the second paragraph to reflect the fact that there were eight, not seven, affected facilities in Santa Clara County, and not in the city)

Stephen Nellis report,; Edited by Dan Grebler and Rosalba O & # 39; Brien

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