Apple gets serious about self-driving cars

Quietly, Apple is ramping up its automotive team. Over the last few months, the Cupertino-based electronics giant has been making high-profile hires from the automotive industry for a top secret project which is rumored to revolve around developing a self-driving car.

Apple has hired auto industry veteran Doug Betts — another sign that the company is indeed working on building an electric car. According to WSJ, Apple has made another important hire for its “Titan” project: Doug Betts, who led global quality at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV until last year. Mr. Betts’ LinkedIn profile says he joined Apple in July and describes his title as “Operations-Apple Inc.” with a location in the San Francisco Bay Area but no further specifics.

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Apple has also recently recruited one of the leading autonomous-vehicle researchers in Europe and is building a team to work on those systems. One of them is Paul Furgale a well-regarded autonomous vehicle researcher in Switzerland. Apple has also begun recruiting other robotics and machine vision experts to work on a confidential project. Mr. Furgale had been deputy director of the Autonomous Systems Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or ETH. Mr. Furgale previously had led a European Commission project called V-Charge that sought to develop self-parking vehicle technology.

Apple has already recruited Johann Jungwirth away from his position as head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley R&D unit.

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Next on the list to poach employees from is Tesla. Apple has targeted employees at Tesla to fill out its team working on the car, according to WSJ. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said Tesla had recruited five times as many employees from Apple as Apple had poached from Tesla in the previous 12 months.

According to reports, Apple CEO Tim Cook appointed Steve Zadesky to lead the group, a veteran product designer and former Ford engineer. Mr. Zadesky was given permission to create a 1,000-person team and recruit employees from other parts of Apple.