‘Apple Car’ Project Lead Steve Zadesky to Leave Apple

Apple VP of Product Design Steve Zadesky, who was believed to be leading Apple’s electric vehicle development efforts since 2014, has informed colleagues that he will be leaving the company, according to The Wall Street Journal. He remains at Apple for now.

Zadesky, a former Ford engineer, joined Apple in 1999 and worked on the iPod and iPhone during his 16-year career in Cupertino. He is also named on several U.S. patents and documents related to Liquidmetal, a malleable alloy which Apple owns the exclusive rights to.

His impending departure from Apple is said to be for personal reasons, rather than an indication of his performance at the company, and marks a setback for Apple’s electric vehicle plans:

Still, the pending departure marks a setback for one of the most talked-about projects in the technology field. Apple has become the most valuable company in the world making consumer electronics products, but moving into the automotive sector poses big new challenges.

Apple has aggressively recruited engineers and other talent from Tesla, Ford, GM, Samsung, A123 Systems, Nvidia and elsewhere to work on the rumored „Apple Car“ project, which has allegedly been called „Project Titan“ internally. Just days ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk even called the „Apple Car“ an „open secret.“

Last year, Apple also had discussions with a secure Bay Area testing facility for connected and autonomous vehicles, and met with the California DMV to review self-driving vehicle regulations. Further speculation arose when Apple registered a trio of auto-related domain names, including apple.car, apple.cars and apple.auto, earlier this month.

Apple’s electric vehicle could be approved for production by 2020, but some employees reportedly believe it „might take several more years“ for the iPhone maker to develop a truly differentiated electric vehicle. The project has encountered some challenges internally due to a lack of clear goals, according to the report.

Related Roundup: Apple Car
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Elon Musk Says Apple’s Electric Car Project is an ‘Open Secret’

In an interview with the BBC, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it is an „open secret“ that Apple is developing an electric car. Musk made the statement when asked if he had heard anything about Apple’s car development plans and went on to highlight the huge number of hires Apple has made as evidence.

„Well, it’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it,“ he said, before adding that he believed Apple was serious about the project. „This is an open secret.“

Musk went on to say Tesla welcomes participation by any company that wants to create electric vehicles, but he cautioned that it’s „quite hard to do.“ He brushed off the interviewer’s question of whether an Apple car would be a threat to Tesla, and said that he believes Apple will develop a „compelling“ electric car because „it seems like the obvious thing to do.“

„Tesla will still aspire to make the most compelling electric vehicles, and that would be our goal, while at the same helping other companies to make electric cars as well.“

Musk is aware of Apple’s hiring efforts because Apple has made an effort to hire former Tesla employees for its car project. The two companies have developed something of a rivalry as they compete for talent, leading Musk to take a jab at Apple in an October interview, saying „If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple,“ a statement he later retracted.

The first rumors surrounding Apple’s car project, allegedly codenamed „Project Titan,“ surfaced in early 2015. Since then, Apple has recruited dozens of engineers and researchers from the automotive industry and other car-related fields, poaching employees from companies like Tesla, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Samsung, and more.

Over the past few months, there’s been a growing body of evidence pointing towards work on a car. Apple sought out a secure testing facility for testing electric vehicles in May of 2015, and met with DMV officials to discuss the laws and regulations surrounding self-driving vehicles in California in September. Most recently, Apple registered three auto-related top-level domain names, including apple.car, apple.cars, and apple.auto.

Little is known about Apple’s car project, but the company is rumored to be working on an electric vehicle. Rumors have disagreed on the topic of autonomy, but the most recent information suggests that while Apple is exploring self-driving technology, it is a feature that may come in a later version of the Apple Car.

Related Roundup: Apple Car
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Apple’s Marc Newson Believes Automotive Design is Lacking Progress

The Wall Street Journal has published an in-depth profile of industrial designer Marc Newson, a longtime friend of Apple design chief Jonathan Ive who joined the Cupertino-based company in September 2014. The interview touches upon a number of topics, ranging from Newson’s creative process and design philosophies to his favorite artists and fashion designers.

Apple designers Marc Newson (left) and Jonathan Ive (right) via Vanity Fair
Just months after reports claimed Apple is actively researching and developing an electric and possibly self-driving vehicle, Newson added fuel to those rumors by referring to the automotive industry as one of his design pet-peeves. The designer said that while cars used to encapsulate „everything that was good about progress,“ the industry is now „at the bottom of a trough.“

My design pet-peeve is: the automotive industry. There were moments when cars somehow encapsulated everything that was good about progress. But right now we’re at the bottom of a trough.

Newson’s comments certainly do not imply that Apple is working on a vehicle, but it is clear that multiple executives at the Cupertino-based company are car enthusiasts. Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue joined Ferrari’s Board of Directors in November 2012, while Ive has owned several luxury vehicles ranging from Aston Martins and Fiats to Bentleys and Land Rovers.

Jonathan Ive’s previous Aston Martin DB9 supercar
The New Yorker also reflected on how Newson and Ive are „car guys“ in February:

He and Newson are car guys, and they feel disappointed with most modern cars; each summer, they attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where vintage sports cars are exhibited and raced in the South of England. “There are some shocking cars on the road,” Ive said. “One person’s car is another person’s scenery.” To his right was a silver sedan with a jutting lower lip. Ive said, quietly, “For example.” As the disgraced car fell behind, I asked Ive to critique its design: “It is baffling, isn’t it? It’s just nothing, isn’t it? It’s just insipid.” He declined to name the model, muttering, “I don’t know, I don’t want to offend.” (Toyota Echo.)

It was reported in February that Apple has hundreds of employees, including former Tesla, Ford and GM engineers, working on an electric vehicle at a top-secret research lab possibly located in the Sunnyvale area. The much-rumored initiative, known internally as „Project Titan,“ likely remains in the early stages of research and development, with Bloomberg reporting that Apple hopes to begin production in 2020.



New Report Says Apple Was in Talks to Use BMW i3 as Basis for Electric Car Project

Apple and BMW were in negotiations to use the German car manufacturer’s car platform for its electric i3 for Apple’s rumored car project, code-named „Project Titan“, according to a new report from German business magazine Manager Magazin [Google Translate].

The Cupertino company was interested in the body of the i3, which is a small hatchback that has a shell made out of carbon fiber, helping keep the car light. The two companies began talks in autumn 2014, but broke off talks before committing to check in with each other and their plans periodically. The report also states that Tim Cook and Apple senior managers made a trip to BMW’s factory in Leipzig, Germany to take a look at the production of the i3.

This isn’t the first time BMW and Apple have been linked to be working on a car. In March, a report from German automotive magazine Auto Motor und Sport claimed the two were in close negotiations to turn the i3 into an „Apple Car“. However, BMW denied the claim to Reuters hours after the report surfaced.

Earlier this week, Apple hired Doug Betts, former Senior Vice President of the Chrysler Group and the global head of operations leading product service and quality, continuing the company’s hiring of automotive experts. Additionally, Apple hired Paul Furgale, a researcher with a specialization in autonomous vehicles.

While details on Apple’s car project have been scarce, there have been reports of Apple recruiting talent from the automotive industry, including poaching employees from Tesla, Ford and GM, and that the company has hundreds of employees working on its car project. Rumors suggest Apple is aiming to produce a car by 2020, but because Apple often works on projects that never see the light of day, it’s possible the company could delay or shelve the project if it’s not happy with its progress.



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Apple’s Automotive Team Includes Former Tesla, Ford and GM Employees

Apple’s alleged automotive team consisting of hundreds of employees working on an electric vehicle includes several former Tesla, Ford and GM employees, according to 9to5Mac. The report reveals that Apple has also recruited talent from smaller firms in the automotive industry and other fields, including A123 Systems, MIT Motorsports, Ogin, Autoliv, Concept Systems and General Dynamics.

The list of recent hires from Tesla includes David Nelson, a mechanical engineering manager at the car maker until this month, and John Ireland, previously a senior powertrain test engineer at the company. Tesla’s former head recruiter Lauren Ciminera also joined Apple in September and is likely responsible for recruiting additional engineers for the automotive team. The trio of hires surface just weeks after it was reported that Apple and Tesla continue to fight over top employees.

Another notable hire is Mujeeb Ijaz, who most recently served as chief technology officer at A123 Systems. Ijaz led a team responsible for research and development for the company’s leading lithium-ion energy storage technology. Prior to that, he worked at Ford as an electric and fuel cell vehicle engineering manager for nearly sixteen years. The hiring adds fuel to yesterday’s report that Apple faces a lawsuit for poaching key employees from A123 Systems.

The report adds that Apple has also recruited former Ford engineers David Perner and Jim Cuseo, although the latter has been with the company since 2010 as a product design lead and manager for the iMac. General Motors’ Fernando Cunha recently joined Apple as well after working various engineering and product design roles at the auto maker since 2001. Dillon Thomasson of General Dynamics, Robert Gough of Autoliv, Hugh Jay of EMCO Gears and Rui Guan of Ogin are other new hires.

Last week, multiple reports from credible sources claimed that Apple is developing an electric vehicle that is possibly autonomous in a top-secret research lab near its headquarters in Cupertino, California. Some reports say otherwise, claiming that Apple is working on expanding its dashboard presence through CarPlay. These hirings suggest that Apple may be working on a larger project after all, but it remains to be seen if a full-fledged electric vehicle is in the works.