Apple has hired automotive veteran Doug Betts to help create its Project Titan autonomous electric car.
Betts has worked in the automotive industry for the past 28 years, holding positions at Michelin, Toyota, Nissan and Chrysler Group, where he was senior vice president of product and service quality for seven years.
Starting at Apple in July 2015, Betts has updated his LinkedIn profile to reflect the move, but gives no details about his role at the iPhone maker. The LinkedIn update simply states his position as "Operations – Apple Inc." and that he is based in the San Francisco Bay Area – where the tech company's global headquarters are located.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Betts is one of several high-profile automotive hirings made by Apple in recent months, including "one of the leading autonomous-vehicle researchers in Europe". The company is said to be "building a team to work on those systems".
Apple is believed to have hired hundreds of new employees to work an on electric-car project known internally as Project Titan.
Staff have been poached from Tesla and other automotive companies since CEO Tim Cook gave Titan the green light last year, the WSJ and others have previously reported.
Project Titan is led by Steve Zadesky, a veteran product designer and former Ford engineer. He has permission to create a team of up to 1,000 people to work on the vehicle project, it has been claimed by people familiar with the matter.
Zadesky worked as an engineer at Ford between 1996 and 1999 before joining Apple, where he helped create the iPod and iPhone. In 2014, Apple hired Marc Newson, an industrial designer, close friend of Apple's head of design Jony Ive, and the creator of a 1999 Ford concept car, the 021C.
Apple's board of directors contains several car enthusiasts, including Bentley and Aston Martin owner Ive, Newson and Eddy Cue, who is head of internet software and services, and serves on the board of Ferrari.
A crowded market
Apple is joining an already crowded market. Almost all major car manufacturers have set up autonomous research and development facilities, most of which are in the Silicon Valley area. Google is making impressive progress with its own self-driving cars, while ride-sharing company Uber is also believed to be investing heavily in autonomous driving.
Bryan Chaffin, co-founder of Apple news site The Mac Observer, said he learned in early 2015 that "a lot of people at the top in Silicon Valley consider it a given that Apple is working on a car".
Chaffin adds that, when asking one source for a percentage chance that Apple is "working on an actual car, rather than some kind of car-related technology", he was told "80%".
Project Titan has already caused a number of Tesla employees to "jump ship" to work at Apple, according to an email claiming to be from an Apple employee. Sent to Business Insider, the email said: "Apple's latest project is too exciting to pass up. I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money."