Apple Inc has lost several senior executives from its self-driving car team in recent months, a sign of attrition within the division involved in what could become a major future product.
The iPhone maker has hundreds of engineers working on the underlying technology for self-driving cars as well as groups of employees working on an actual vehicle, Bloomberg News reported.
The division’s leadership is Doug Field, a former senior automotive engineer for Tesla Inc, along with a management team of less than a dozen executives.
At least three members of that Apple automotive leadership team have left this year.
In recent days, Dave Scott, who led teams working on car-related robotics, has moved on to become the CEO of Hyperfine, a healthcare company developing next-generation MRI systems.
Prior to Scott’s departure, Jaime Waydo, who led the self-driving car safety and regulatory teams, left to become chief technology officer at Cavnue, a startup focused on self-driving car safety on public roads.
In February, Benjamin Lyon, who helped create Apple’s original automotive team several years ago and played a key role in developing the future project, left to become chief engineer at Astra, a company developing technology to send satellites into space.
Despite recent departures, Apple has added notable names to the automotive team in recent years, including former senior Tesla executives in charge of drive systems and manufacturing engineering, interiors and exteriors of the cars. cars and autonomous driving software.
The team also includes other veterans and leaders of the automotive industry who have developed key Apple products.
Apple has become the world’s most valued company, with a market capitalization of over $ 2 billion, selling smartphones, tablets, personal computers and services.
But investors and customers alike are clamoring for new categories of devices, with speculation growing about an Apple car in the tech and auto industries.
In addition to autonomous vehicle technology, Apple is working on augmented and virtual reality headsets, and the first product in this category should be released as early as next year.
John Giannandrea, senior vice president of machine learning and artificial intelligence at Apple, has been overseeing the car project since late last year, Bloomberg News reported.
Since the start of the project around 2014, Apple’s work on a car has been restarted several times and has seen many management changes.
The Cupertino, Calif.-Based company originally planned to build a complete car to compete with Tesla, but scaled back its ambitions around 2016 to focus on the underlying autonomous car system.
Several months ago he started building a car again, putting some of the division’s engineers on that effort.
If Apple does eventually release a car, it’s unlikely to launch until the end of this decade at the earliest.
All of this year’s departures could add additional complexity to the company’s ability to make the project a reality.
Still, the iPhone maker is actively recruiting experts from the automotive industry to complement the division’s leadership team.