Apple has hired deep learning and artificial intelligence expert Jonathan Cohen from Nvidia. Now working in the iPhone maker's software division, he is believed to be helping with the development of Apple's autonomous electric car.
Director of deep learning at Nvidia, Cohen is just one in a long and growing line of significant hirings Apple has made for its secretive car division, known internally as Project Titan. It was first believed the car would be entirely autonomous, like those being developed by Google, but now it is understood Apple is producing a regular electric car with some self-driving features, similar to Tesla.
Although primarily a computer processor and gaming company, Nvidia extended its reach into the autonomous car sector in 2015.
The company earned revenue of $183m (£119m) from this division in the last fiscal year, as its processors are increasingly used in the brains of ever more intelligent cars. Specifically, they are used to power the cameras and radars that help cars drive autonomously.
Having run the deep learning division at Nvidia from early 2008 to October 2015, Cohen's LinkedIn profile says he now works for Apple. His summary section simply says: "I build software." Apple already uses deep learning to improve its mapping applications and Siri voice recognition.
A big hire for Apple
Speaking to Recode, Chris Nicholson, co-founder of deep learning company Skymind, said: "This is a big hire for Apple. Nvidia's GPUs [graphical processing units] are being used to power autopilot systems in cars, so the implications are pretty clear."
Apple is yet to confirm or deny that it is working on a car. Company CEO Tim Cook added fuel to the flames when he said earlier in October that the car industry was ready for "massive change", which will be far more than the evolution which has gone before. Speaking on stage to Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker, he said: "We'll see what we do in the future. But I do think that industry is at an inflection point for massive change. Not just an evolutionary charge."
Apple is understood to have a target launch year of 2019 for its autonomous car. Cook is believed to have approached BMW and shown interest in using the electric i3 car as a starting point for its own vehicle. Apple is also understood to have contacted a private test facility in California where autonomous cars are developed by a range of other manufacturers and component suppliers. A number of high-profile hirings from the motoring industry increases the likelihood of the rumours being true.