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Amidst all of the recent news of Apple’s push into film, television, news, and credit card services, it’s been easy to forget that the company is still quietly pushing forward with its now-legendary “Project Titan” — the company’s attempts to redefine the automotive industry.
While Apple’s ambitions have travelled down a winding road since they first came to light several years ago, recent rumours have suggested that Apple is now focused on creating an actual vehicle, and not merely building an autonomous driving system as was once thought.
In case there was still any doubt, however, Apple’s latest hire should certainly make it clear that there’s going to be far more to the new Apple Car than silicon and software; Apple has managed to poach Dr. Michael Schwekutsch, Tesla’s former VP of engineering, and the force behind the rival car electric car maker’s electric powertrains.
According to Electrek, who first reported on the move, Schwekutsch’s departure was a big loss for Tesla, since he is known for being one of the most experienced electric powertrain designers in the industry, having joined Tesla in 2015 after two decades of working for “legendary powertrain engineering firms” and designing electric and hybrid powertrains for everything from the BMW i8 to the Porsche 918 Spyder.
Dr. Schwekutsch’s LinkedIn profile now lists him as a “Senior Director of Engineering” for the Special Projects Group at Apple, and although little other information is provided, Schwekutsch’s engineering background leaves little doubt that the “special project” he is working on is Project Titan.
While Schwekutsch is only the latest in a stream of Tesla engineers to make the move to Apple, his hiring provides the clearest indication that Apple is in fact working to bring a complete electric vehicle to market. Schwekutsch has exclusively worked on electric powertrains over the last decade, making this the only reason that Apple would choose to bring him on board.
Apple’s automotive efforts seem to have gained steam in the past few months, with a restructuring of its Project Titan team that’s currently estimated to include around 5,000 employees, along with Apple starting to get less secretive about the project — the company went so far recently as to release a white paper outlining its safety standards for a self-driving car, and while the paper didn’t give away a lot of details, it was one of the first times Apple has publicly acknowledged what has essentially become an open secret over the past few years.
Of course, designing and releasing a car from the ground up is no small feat, so the actual product reveal is likely still several years away. Most analysts have pegged between 2023 and 2025 as the release timeframe, however the amount of effort and regulatory approval required to actually get a car on the road means that Apple is going to have to continue slowly lifting its customary veil of secrecy that’s surrounded the project.
One thing that’s increasingly certain, however, is that the Apple Car is coming, and while some have questioned whether the iPhone maker has any business building an actual car with its lack of background and experience, the company has already proven that it has the ability to attract top-tier talent, along with very deep pockets and legendary designers; in fact it may be Apple’s very lack of entrenchment in the automotive industry that will allow it to seriously disrupt the space and with something entirely new and different that will could do for cars what it did for mobile phones.