More trouble for Apple’s Project Titan? Executive in charge of secret car project at Apple jumps ship, and is hired by Ford Motor Co
Apple has suffered a blow after it emerged that the man in charge of its secretive Apple car project (Project Titan) has jumped ship to a rival.
Ford Motor Company announced on Tuesday that Doug Field, who was vice president of special projects at Apple, has joined Ford as chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer, reporting to President and CEO Jim Farley.
The hiring of Field is being viewed as a hiring coup for Ford’s Farley. Before he joined Apple, Field had also been senior vice president of engineering at Tesla.
According to Ford, Field will partner closely with Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer, to create the next generation of Ford’s connected products and experiences.
Ford, under the leadership of Farley, is seeking to focus on the importance of developing stronger digital services and connections, in an effort to generate continuing revenue from consumer and commercial customers.
Ford said that Field will lead the car maker’s efforts to “develop the next-gen Blue Oval Intelligence tech stack to deliver smart, connected vehicles and services that improve over time through constant updates. He and his team will be responsible for delivering delightful, intuitive and always-on experiences for customers.”
Field was quoted by Reuters on Tuesday as saying he would not talk about his work at Apple.
Apple said in a statement “we’re grateful for the contributions Doug has made to Apple and we wish him all the best in this next chapter.”
“Doug is one of the world’s most respected engineering and product design leaders and has been a driving force behind breakthrough products across auto, tech and mobility, including at Apple, Tesla and Segway,” said Ford CEO Farley.
“His talent and commitment to innovation that improves customers’ lives will be invaluable as we build out our Ford+ plan to deliver awesome products, always-on customer relationships and ever-improving user experiences,” said Farley. “We are thrilled Doug chose to join Ford and help write the next amazing chapter of this great company.”
Field will oversee Ford’s Embedded Software and Hardware organisation, currently consisting of Vehicle Controls, Enterprise Connectivity, Features, Integration & Validation, Architecture & Platform, Driver Assistance Technology and Digital Engineering Tools.
For Field this move is something of a homecoming, as he began his career at Ford as a development engineer from 1987 to 1993.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Ford as it embraces a transition to a new, complex and fascinating period in the auto industry,” Field said.
“It will be a privilege to help Ford deliver a new generation of experiences built on the shift to electrification, software and digital experiences, and autonomy,” said Field. “I’m committed to helping the team make those experiences seamless, delightful and continually advancing over time.”
So what does Field’s departure mean for the troubled Apple Car (aka Project Titan)?
Ever since 2015, Apple had been rumoured to be developing an electric car for release sometime in 2019.
Rumours were strengthened in July 2015 when CEO Tim Cook was in spotted in Germany, amid reports that Apple was close to agreeing a partnership with BMW.
Apple was reportedly going to use the BMW i3 vehicle as the basis for the Apple Car.
That partnership would have solved the manufacturing issue, as Apple doesn’t actually make its own devices. Most of its iPhones for example are made by a third party (Foxconn etc).
Car makers on the other hand have their own purpose-built factories and build their own products, and the BMW tie up would have solved Apple’s lack of experience in building actual vehicles.
But in 2019 (the year when its first car was expected) Apple revealed it had scaled back its ambitions at Project Titan, and was laying off 190 people from the team.
Then in late 2020 it was reported that Apple hoped to produce a passenger vehicle in 2024, with a new battery design to ‘radically’ reduce cost and increase range.
Since then, however, Apple has not disclosed any specific plans.
In February this year, South Korean car maker Hyundai (which includes Kia) said it was not in talks with Apple to develop self-driving cars, despite media speculation.
And for Apple the challenges facing Project Titan only seem to be ramping up, as established car makers and new start-ups are chasing Tesla’s position in key markets such as China, US, and Europe.