(TNS) — For the past few years, Apple has scaled back Project Titan, the codename for its secretive self-driving car research unit, with personnel shuffles and a new narrower focus on autonomous-driving software.
But does Apple’s newest high-profile hire suggest otherwise?
Apple this week re-hired Doug Field, Tesla’s senior vice president of engineering, back to Project Titan, originally reported by longtime Apple watcher and blogger John Gruber on Thursday. Before leaving for Tesla in 2013, Field was Apple’s vice president of Mac hardware engineering.
Field worked in Tesla as head of Model 3 production until this March, when CEO Elon Musk took over the production and reassigned Field to the vehicle design team. Two months later in May, Field went on a leave of absence. In July, Field officially left the company.
At Apple, Field will re-join with Bob Mansfield, Apple’s former senior vice president of technologies, who was tapped in 2016 to run Project Titan. Under Mansfield, Project Titan saw a major downsizing of personnel and a new focus on software and partnering with existing car manufacturers such as Lexus rather than developing a whole new self-driving car.
However, Field’s return to the Cupertino tech giant may signal Apple have not fully given up on creating a self-driving car of its own, according to longtime Apple watcher and blogger John Gruber.
“I think it’s an interesting hire, primarily because it suggests to me that Apple still has an interest in making actual vehicles, despite reports that the company has scaled back the project to merely make autonomous systems for inclusion in vehicles made by other companies,” wrote Gruber in a blog post on his website, Daring Fireball. “That rumor never really made sense to me anyway — Apple’s modus operandi has always been to make the whole widget. Apple makes products, not components.”
In the past year, Apple seems to have revamped Project Titan. By July, Apple acquired 66 self-driving car permits in California, more than Tesla, according to Apple-focused blog MacRumors. In contrast, in last April, Apple only had three permits.
Project Titan made news last month after former Apple engineer Xiaolang Zhang was arrested by the FBI in San Jose Airport and was accused of stealing the company’s trade secrets related to its self-driving cars.
©2018 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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