Apple has poached a former Waymo and NASA engineer to work on its self-driving car project, according to a new report.
The company has hired Jaime Waydo, a former senior engineer at Google’s Waymo self-driving car unit, according to The Information. Apple staff has since confirmed the hiring but declined to elaborate on Waydo’s projects at the Cupertino firm.
Waydo is a high-profile hire. She served as Waymo’s head of systems engineering, and a former colleague told The Information that she was “instrumental” in her work at the Google-owned project. Specifically, that included safety verification of prototype vehicles that later hit public roads in Phoenix.
Even beyond Waymo, Waydo’s resume is impressive. Before working on self-driving vehicles at Google, she served as a senior engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. During her time there, she helped develop a rover vehicle that has already driven on Mars.
Apple’s Project Titan has long been a poorly kept secret in the tech community. Originally, the project was rumored to be developing an actual self-driving vehicle. But after a series of road bumps, the group has since switched gears to focus on developing the underlying autonomous systems for self-driving cars.
The company has been testing customized Lexus SUVs equipped with its self-driving tech in California since April 2017. Since then, Apple’s stable of vehicles has grown to become one of the largest fleets of autonomous cars in the country.
But Waydo’s hire seems to indicate that Project Titan is far from stagnant — and that Apple’s ambitions in the self-driving car sphere are much larger than the autonomous employee shuttles reported on earlier this year.
The Information theorizes that Waydo’s hiring could hint that Apple is making substantial progress on an actual prototype vehicle. On the other hand, Project Titan’s path is still bumpy.
The Information reports the team continues to suffer from a “lack of communication” among key members. In a separate report, the entire project has been called “behind schedule” and lacking a clear vision beyond those self-driving employee shuttles.