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Apple has just quietly shifted another of its top executives over to one of its secretive special projects, with reports that Apple VP Kevin Lynch, of Apple Watch fame, is joining the Project Titan team.
Project Titan, of course, is the name for Apple’s not-so-secret automotive project — an initiative that we’ve been hearing about for half a decade now, and has been described as everything from an autonomous driving system to an actual electric car.
To be fair, we’re not certain that even Apple has had the same objective in view at all stages of the project, as we’ve heard numerous reports of changes in direction and staffing over the years, so it’s clearly been a winding road. After all, building a car is hard enough — building a self-driving car is a whole other ballgame — as Elon Musk has learned the hard way.
In typical Apple fashion, however, the iPhone maker is taking a much more cautious, “slow and steady” approach to the problem. It’s impossible to keep a project of this magnitude totally a secret, so it’s pretty common knowledge now that Apple is working on something car-related, but it’s clearly not going to tell us what that is until it’s good and ready with a finished and working product to show off.
In recent years, however, it’s become more apparent that Apple’s goal is to release an actual fully autonomous battery electric vehicle by the end of this decade.
This is obvious from the high-profile hires that Apple has made over the past couple of years — a series of industry-leading experts from BMW, Porsche, Tesla, Aston Martin, Bentley, and Jaguar & Land Rover who specialize in areas like industrial design and hybrid powertrains. This isn’t the kind of talent that a company calls upon to build software systems.
However, this also doesn’t mean that Apple isn’t going to make the best use it can of the executives it already has, and it’s these folks who remain in the driver’s seat for the project.
Even Doug Field, who heads up the day-to-day operations of Project Titan, is still first and foremost on “team Apple,” having returned to the company after a brief stint at Tesla. However, Field ultimately came in under the leadership of Apple’s legendary hardware chief, Bob Mansfield, before the project shifted into Apple’s AI division late last year.
In fact, Mansfield himself became something of an enigma within Apple, recalled at least twice by CEO Tim Cook to head up “special projects,” at least one of which turned out to be Project Titan. Now it looks like Apple is doing the same with some of its other high-profile executives.
Back in January, Mansfield’s protégé, Dan Riccio, found himself shifted over to a secret project that was only referred to as “something big and new.”
It was unclear where Riccio had gone specifically — it could have been Project Titan or Apple’s other big project — the AR/VR headset it’s working on — but now it looks like Apple VP of Technology Kevin Lynch is also being reassigned, and according to Insider, this one is definitely to the Apple Car.
Kevin Lynch is probably one of the more recognizable Apple executives, having been the face of the Apple Watch and watchOS over the past few years. Lynch has been a part of Apple’s health team, under Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, but Insider says he’s “stepping back” from that team to focus on the Apple Car.
Technically speaking, Lynch is just “VP of Technology,” so his title won’t change as part of this transition — merely his area of responsibility. Insider also isn’t clear on how this will change his role on the Apple Watch and Apple Health teams, although Evan Doll, a director of health software engineering, is expected to step up and fill in for Lynch’s absence — even though he’s still going to be reporting to Lynch.
It’s this core team that’s responsible for Apple’s overall health strategy. It’s led by COO Jeff Williams, and also includes health VPs Dr. Sumbul Desai, head of care delivery and regulatory, Myra Haggerty, who leads algorithms, and head of watch hardware Eugene Kim, among others. Doll replacing Lynch in this role suggests that Lynch will be “less tangibly involved in health strategy,” according to sources who spoke with Insider.
It’s hard to say what Apple expects Lynch to bring to the Apple Car team, as he has a fairly diverse background. Before joining Apple’s Health team in 2013, Lynch served as Adobe’s Chief Technology Officer, where he rather ironically got into a high-profile disagreement with Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs over his refusal to embrace Adobe’s Flash technology on the iPhone and iPad.
At this point, the Apple Car seems to have moved beyond the concept stages to the point that Apple has been on a quest to find manufacturing partners to actually build the vehicle. While some reports have suggested that Apple wants to have the first models ready to roll off the production line by late 2024, several reliable sources suggest that’s an optimistic estimate, and it may not launch until 2027.