Apple, Inc. may not have given up on its iCar dreams just yet.
Steve Kenner, Apple's director of Product Integrity, officially commented on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) proposed Federal Automated Vehicle Policy, Tech Times reported on Dec. 3. Now, news has surfaced that Apple may just be the reason why veteran Porsche engineer Alexander Hitzinger left the automotive company in March.
The Man Behind The Machine: Alexander Hitzinger
Hitzinger's leadership allowed Porsche to claim its many Le Mans victories for the 919 hybrid sports car made from lightweight materials. The vehicle earned for the car manufacturer the 2015 and 2016 Le Mans and Endurance World Championship.
The engineer also helped Porsche build the team that successfully developed the 919, finding the right people to expand the original 10-man team to a staff of 150 members.
While Porsche has already confirmed that Hitzinger left the company in spring, Apple has yet to give official confirmation that the engineer has been working with its team, Reuters reports.
The veteran engineer may not have personally confirmed his involvement with Apple, but an interview published in the German publication Manager Magazin reveals that he has been working with a technology company in the San Francisco Bay Area since April this year. He also said that he wanted to do something "which has a significant and direct impact on society."
While there are several technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and quite a few of them have expressed interest in dabbling in the automated vehicle industry, it is safe to say that Apple is the one most in need of the kind of leadership Hitzinger can give, considering its sudden change in focus for the project.
'Project Titan' Losing Direction?
Rumors have been going around about Apple's supposed foray into the automotive industry, especially after "Project Titan" came about in 2014 and the company quickly hired thousands of employees under the direction of Steve Zadesky.
Unfortunately, Zadesky left the company for undisclosed personal reasons early this year, the Wall Street Journal reported, and now "Project Titan" seems to be losing direction.
Bob Mansfield, another Apple veteran, took over "Project Titan" after Zadesky left and, in July, the company also hired Dan Dodge, once the head of Blackberry's automotive software division.
The project's goal reportedly changed in September when, instead of simply developing a vehicle from scratch, the company decided to focus its efforts on improving the underlying technologies for autonomous vehicles.
That is not to say that Apple has compeletely given up on building its own vehicle due to the setbacks the company encountered.
In the response to NHTSA, Kenner wrote: "To maximize the safety beneﬁts of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally."
From the looks of it, Apple may just be delaying plans. But now that it most likely has an expert in vehicle development on board, it definitely seems as if it won't be too long before Cupertino joins in the race.