Apple self-driving engineers head to startup Zoox

A group of automotive engineers at Apple has reportedly left the company to join self-driving car startup Zoox over a span of several months.

Seventeen engineers left the Cupertino tech giant as Apple reportedly scaled back its ambition of building a self-driving car and settled to build only autonomous driving systems, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. The engineers originally joined Apple from Detroit-based car manufacturers and suppliers and specialized in fields unrelated to autonomous driving systems, like braking and suspensions.

The news of engineers leaving Zoox is the latest in a series of layoffs and departures from Apple’s self-driving car project, code-named Titan. Project Titan started in 2014 with high ambitions but has been significantly scaled back two years later.

Hundreds of employees for Project Titan have been reassigned, let go, or voluntarily left in recent months, according to a 2016 report from Bloomberg.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been on record saying Apple is looking to build autonomous driving systems to be used in a car built by a partner manufacturer.

“It’s a core technology that we view as very important,” said Cook.

Zoox, meanwhile, has been stealthily gaining momentum in the race for self-driving cars over the past year. In March 2016, Zoox was permitted to test its self-driving car in California roads. Eight months later, the tight-lipped Menlo Park-based startup was valued at $1.5 billion after raising $300 million.

In April, Zoox hired Mark Rosekind, who was chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration until the end of the Obama administration, as its chief safety innovation officer.

“Zoox has an integrated, full-system approach to transforming mobility that is unique across the autonomous vehicle landscape,” Rosekind said after his hiring. “Joining Zoox represents an opportunity to deliver on my deeply held belief that safety innovation will be critical in the transition to autonomous mobility.”

Zoox’s recent hiring of the 17 engineers is not the first time the startup has tapped into Apple’s talent pool. It also hired former Apple supply chain specialists in the past two years, according to Bloomberg.

Photo: The Apple logo is seen in this Sept. 11, 2012 file photo at the Yerba Buena Center for Arts in San Francisco. (AFP/Getty Images)

 

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