Apple is secretly testing fully self-driving cars - here's everything we think we know about 'Project Titan'

Mitsubishi Apple Car

A Mitsubishi concept car using Apple CarPlay software.

Apple's clandestine self-driving electric car project, called Project Titan, has come to a crossroads, according to reports from the New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and BuzzFeed.

Apple has laid off "dozens of employees" in Project Titan, although the headcount remains "essentially the same," according to the reports.

Some employees were reassigned to other divisions, but some, especially automotive industry veterans, have left Apple. 
The cuts are a reflection of the project's shifting focus. Longtime Apple executive Bob Mansfield returned to the company to take over Project Titan in July, and he has focused the project on building software for a self-driving car, instead of a full electric vehicle. 

But that is a curious choice, considering that Apple's core strengths lie in manufacturing processes and battery technology, instead of the data-driven artificial intelligence technologies that are required for self-driving cars. Apple previously hired several key employees from the car battery division of A123, a battery firm. 

Plus, Apple never likes to cede hardware control to partners, as it would have to do if it were to sell self-driving software without its own car. In the past 12 months, Apple CEO Tim Cook has held talks with "Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz," reports Autocar. Still, Apple has "a number of fully autonomous vehicles in the middle of testing" on a closed "limited" track, according to The New York Times.

The project seems to be having a crisis of purpose: Apple employees reportedly could not explain what Apple brings to a self-driving car that other companies don't.

Apple's car project has been in the works for nearly two years at this point. Here's everything we think we know: