Apple Hires Top Tesla Autonomous Driving Engineer

Apple Car concept

Is Apple building a car? You bet your sweet bippy it is… maybe. It already has an impressive list of engineers working on its super secret Project Titan, but now it has gone ahead and poached Tesla’s top autonomous driving engineer, according to the Daily Mail.

His name is Jamie Carlson and his LinkedIn profile shows that he joined Apple this month. He is working at an unnamed position in a special projects group. Can you say, “Project Titan,” boys and girls? Until recently, Carlson was an engineer on Tesla’s Autopilot self-driving car program. Before that, he worked on automotive vision systems for Michigan-based supplier Gentex Corp.

In January, Apple hired Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen engineer with expertise in automated driving, and Vinay Palakkode, a graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, which has a highly regarded automated driving research center.

Also in August, Apple hired Xianqiao Tong, an engineer who developed computer vision software for driver assistance systems at microchip maker Nvidia Corp. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Apple hired Paul Furgale, former deputy director of the Autonomous Systems Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, earlier this year.

Among those hired last fall were Sanjai Massey, an engineer with experience in developing connected and automated vehicles at Ford and several suppliers; Stefan Weber, a former Bosch engineer with experience in video-based driver assistance systems; and Lech Szumilas, a former Delphi research scientist with expertise in computer vision and object detection.

What is Apple up to? Careful readers will note that none of the people named so far have any known experience at actually building a car. They are all whizzes at computer stuff, but the nuts and bolts of designing an automobile for production, setting up a production facility, and creating a distribution system? Not so much.

There is speculation that Apple is hard at work creating an autonomous driving platform that it can then market to established automakers, much the way Panasonic and LG Chem market their batteries to electric and plug-in hybrid manufacturers. Apple’s expertise could save a lot of car companies a ton of money if they don’t have to design their own self-driving systems. Of course, the Apple system would also be able to push content from the Apple Store directly to drivers’ dashboards.

Thinking about an Apple Car has excited the brain cells of lots of graphic designers. You can see their varied and highly stylized creations above and in the gallery below. Apple has always placed a high priority on exquisite designs. If there is an Apple Car in our future, it should look amazing.


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Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.