Tesla Senior VP of Engineering Leaves to Join Apple's 'Project Titan'
【Summary】Doug Field, who stepped down as the senior vice president of engineering at Tesla last month, is returning to Apple, the company said on Thursday. Most recently, Field oversaw Model 3 engineering at Tesla.
Doug Field, who stepped down as the senior vice president of engineering at Tesla last month, is returning to Apple, the company said on Thursday. Most recently, Field oversaw Model 3 engineering at Tesla.
Field presumably will be working with Apple executive Bob Mansfield, who has been leading Apple's self-driving car program, known internally as Project Titan. Field and Mansfield previously worked together on engineering Apple's line of Mac computers, including the Macbook Air and iPad.
Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr confirmed Field has returned to Apple, but didn't say what he is working on. The hiring of Field was earlier reported by website Daring Fireball.
Field has spent the past five years at Tesla. In April, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a tweet that he had asked Field to manage the company's engineering and production while Musk remained focused on the Model 3 sedan.
In May, reports emerged that Field was leaving Tesla at a critical time, when the company was racing to meet production targets for the Model 3. At the time, Tesla said Field was "just taking some time off to recharge and spend time with his family. He has not left Tesla."
Two months later in July, Tesla confirmed that Field had in fact departed the electric automaker.
Apple has been secretive about its autonomous driving development. Since 2015, the company was rumored to be working on developing a vehicle. Apple hired thousands of engineers and opened up new offices and machine shops to jumpstart the project. However, under the direction of Mansfield, Apple shifted away from building a car to focus instead on the underlying self-driving technology that can be added to an existing vehicle platform.
A rendering of a Apple concept car
Field made headlines in March with an email to Tesla workers that urged them to "prove a bunch of haters wrong" by boosting Model 3 output. But by April, Musk had taken direct control of manufacturing. A month later, Tesla said Field was on extended leave to spend time with his family and "recharge."
Upon hiring him from Apple, Musk praised Field, who had said he'd never "seriously considered leaving Apple" until he was offered the top Tesla engineering role.
Apple's self-driving technology is now at the center of a lawsuit involving a former engineer Xiaolang Zhang, who allegedly stole self-driving technology materials and brought them to a Chinese car company Xiaopeng Motors or Xpeng Motors, which is making electric cars. Court documents filed last month by Apple said that as many as 5,000 employees working inside the company were authorized to access information about the project.
In 2016, Bob Mansfield, Apple's former chief engineer who had attempted to retire from the company multiple times, returned to lead the Titan project. He immediately shuttered the teams working on the physical car hardware. He determined it would be best to work on advancing the underlying technology and decide later if the company would return to building a vehicle or partner with an existing carmaker.
Although few details about Project Titan have ever been made public, Apple appears to be expanding its autonomous driving team along with the hiring of Field. In June, Apple poached Jaime Waydo, a senior self-driving car engineer from Waymo. Apple confirmed the hiring of Waydo The Information. Before joining Waymo, Waydo spent 13 years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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