Apple rehired Doug Field, one of its top engineers, after he left Tesla Inc. last month and assigned him to report to the leader of the Project Titan team.
Field spent five years at Tesla as the company’s top engineer. He left the company this summer under unusual circumstances. His hire also creates a unique circumstance as well — is Project Titan now focusing on creating a full-blown vehicle again instead of just a self-driving car system?
Field is returning to work for Bob Mansfield, who has been overseeing Project Titan for the past several years. Mansfield was the person who, reportedly, moved the Apple’s car project from a full-on vehicle to just a self-driving system.
Prior to his departure, Field was working on the parts of Project Titan that made it an actual car, which is what spurs the question of if the company is looking to build a car again.
(Apple raises profile in race for autonomous vehicles with Waymo exec hire. Click Here for the story.)
Adding to that speculation is that only Volkswagen has formally aligned itself with Apple’s autonomous vehicle program, although others have sniffed around about it. Apple signed a deal with Volkswagen to utilize VW’s new T6 Transporter vans into Apple’s self-driving shuttles for employees.
Apple officials haven’t said about the project in recent months; however, court documents filed last month said that as many as 5,000 people were authorized inside the company to access information about the project. The company has also received permission from the State of California to conduct on-road autonomous testing of 66 vehicles.
The company added one of Waymo’s top engineers, Jamie Waydo, in early June. Waydo, according to the press in Silicon Valley, held a critical role at Waymo where she apparently had the power to decide whether a system was road worthy and could be tested safely under real world conditions.
(Click Here for more about Volkswagen supplying vehicles for Apple’s AV program.)
Apple, which is famed for its hardware, has historically struggled with software, noted Fast Company. Perhaps the recent hires are a sign that things aren’t going as smoothly as Apple higher ups had hoped or it’s a sign they’re moving back to a full vehicle project again.
The problem could be ensuring that when it comes to the Apple car’s system, the software and hardware actually work together. It’s one thing to have poor software design in a phone, but it’s entirely different in a car, where flaws can be fatal, the magazine noted.
During his previous tenure at Apple, Field led hardware development for the redesigned iMac, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. He moved to Tesla in October 2013 to lead the development of new vehicles, which was the initial focus of his career, according to the announcement of his hiring by Tesla.
(Apple’s mysterious autonomous vehicle program is expanding. Click Here for the story.)
Field headed up production for the Model 3 before departing to re-join Apple.