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Former Tesla Lead Engineer Doug Field Returns to Apple to Work on Project Titan
Daring Fireball writer John Gruber broke the news on Thursday after speaking to an Apple spokesperson who confirmed only that Field had returned to the company that he left in 2013.
However Gruber's contacts within Apple informed him that Field will link up with former colleague Bob Mansfield to work on Apple's self-driving car program, Project Titan.
Field began his career at Ford as a development engineer, before moving on to Segway and then to Apple, and his return is already fueling speculation that Apple's self-driving ambitions have been rejuvenated under the leadership of Mansfield.
Rather than solely developing autonomous systems for existing car manufacturers, Apple's rehiring of Field could indicate that the company still retains an interest in building its own vehicles.
When Apple began working on Project Titan in 2014, upwards of 1,000 employees were said to have been working on developing an electric vehicle at a secret location near its Cupertino headquarters.
However, internal strife and leadership issues reportedly caused Apple to transition its focus to an autonomous driving system and pursue partnerships with existing carmakers instead of building a full car. Hundreds of employees were said to have been laid off as a result.
Little is known about the inner workings of Apple's Project Titan group, but court documents filed in July indicate that as many as 5,000 people are authorized at Apple to access information about the project.
Apple has also been significantly ramping up its fleet of vehicles running self-driving sensor equipment. As of May 2018, the company has 62 vehicles out on the road using its autonomous driving software.
Apple is also working on a self-driving shuttle service called "PAIL" (an acronym for "Palo Alto to Infinite Loop"). The shuttle program will transport employees between Apple's office in Silicon Valley.