May 27, 2022

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Half the Automotive

Apple adds a former Tesla engineer to its autonomous car project

One of the more intriguing projects that Apple has been working on over the last few years is its autonomous car project. The project has been on and off, but it appears the project is gearing up as Apple has reportedly hired a former Tesla engineer to boost the development of its autonomous car. The engineer in question is Christopher Moore, who was added to the team focusing on Apple’s autonomous car project.

Word of the hire came from people claiming to be familiar with the project, but neither Apple nor Tesla has made any official comment. Unfortunately, the pool of engineering talent with expertise in autonomous automobiles isn’t so large that there are plenty of engineers to go around. Often, automakers lose important engineering personnel to competitors.

Another example is when Apple lost the head of its project, Doug Field, to Ford. Field will be leading Ford’s advanced technology embedded systems project. While at Apple, Field was VP of Special Projects, and he was in that position for a bit more than three years. He also worked in other aspects of Apple’s business, including as a Product Design VP and Mac Hardware Engineering VP. He spent five years with Tesla as Vehicle Programs VP before being senior VP of engineering. While at Tesla, he was in charge of the development for the Model 3.

Apple is moving forward with its autonomous car efforts, with reports indicating it’s targeting 2024 to reveal a passenger vehicle with autonomous technology and its battery tech. However, of all the projects Apple worked on, its car efforts have been the most on and off again. In October, reports surfaced that Apple had run into a problem with its car project, known as Project Titan, that had to do with its batteries.

According to the report, Apple had approached two Chinese battery manufacturers to see if they would build batteries for its vehicle. The Chinese companies were CATL and BYD. Apple wasn’t just seeking a battery manufacturer to ship batteries from overseas. It had a significant caveat to its plan. Apple wanted the battery manufacturers to build a US team and a plant in the US.

Batteries are the bottleneck for most electric vehicles in production today. For instance, tight battery supply has limited production at Ford for its popular Mach-E electric vehicle and Lightning pickup. Sources familiar with Apple’s negotiations with battery suppliers say neither was willing to meet Apple’s requirements. CATL declined to hire a US team or build a factory in the United States, allegedly citing tensions between China and America. BYD was reportedly uncomfortable building a factory in the US solely for Apple. However, with every American automotive manufacturer pushing towards electrification, you would think there would be plenty of demand for batteries.

Reports claim that since Apple’s attempts at securing batteries from Chinese manufacturers didn’t work, it turned to Japanese battery manufacturers. Exactly which battery manufacturers it’s talking to is unknown at this time. In addition to picking up engineering talent from Tesla, Apple has also picked up EV experts from other companies, including BMW.

Previously, Apple hired a former BMW electric vehicle executive for Project Titan. The EV expert is Ulrich Kranz, who also co-founded an EV startup called Canoo and worked at Faraday Future. He acted as senior vice president for the BMW i division, which is responsible for the i3 and i8 sports car.