Originally published on Gas2.
Chris DeMorro and I had a lot of fun talking about the possibility of an Apple electric car back in February right after the big rumors broke about hundreds of employees working on such a product and Apple poaching Tesla employees, and plenty of info has come out since then to imply that Apple is indeed working on such a car, such as SixtyEight, LLC. and these court documents.
The latest news on this front is that Apple has hired former head of global quality at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Doug Betts. Betts declined to comment on the position to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Hmm… something to hide? LinkedIn, which shows him joining Apple this month, has him as “Operations-Apple Inc.” Very vague.
So, yeah, he’s working on the Apple iCar or Apple Car or Project Titan or whatever it’s called.
Of course, Google is also dabbling in the car business, with its self-driving electric car in the works. It seems likely that Apple is aiming for the self-driving car market as well. “Earlier this year, Apple hired Paul Furgale a well-regarded autonomous vehicle researcher in Switzerland, and has begun recruiting other robotics and machine vision experts to work on a confidential project,” the WSJ writes. “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 also hired Steve Zadesky, who was previously a product designer and engineer at Ford. He apparently received the go-ahead to hire 1,000 employees. That ain’t no small pickin’s. Aside from Fiat Chrysler, Betts has worked at a high level at Toyota and as vice president at Nissan Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. That said, confidence in his product quality work seems like it would need to be earned back. “Mr. Betts abruptly left Fiat Chrysler last year to pursue other interests. The move came less than a day after the car maker’s brands ranked poorly in an influential reliability study,” something the guys and gals over at the GM-Volt.com forum were certainly joking about.
Other than an actual car, there’s also speculation that Apple is just working on software for self-driving cars, but few seem to believe a physical car isn’t in the works as well.
We’ll see… in due time. But with one clue after another popping out, it seems Apple should just get on with it and let us know what’s going on.