Over the last few months, a significant number of Apple engineers were poached by Tesla, which has raised concerns over the company’s position in the automotive market. Apple, much like its success with its computers and phones, was tipped for glory in the automotive world, with Project Titan set to lock horns with the Google Car at the top of the pile. However, the company took another blow on January 10, when Tesla announced that Chris Lattner, formerly Apple’s Senior Director of Developer Tools, had joined the company as its new Vice President of Autopilot Software. Lattner served as Apple’s Senior Director of Developer Tools for over 11 years, responsible for a range of software development such as Xcode, which is used to build applications for Apple platforms. Has Apple fallen back in the autonomous race? With such a big loss like this, it certainly seems so.
Lattner’s exit follows a number of high-profile executives from Apple favouring a career within Tesla: Matt Casebolt (Director of Product Design), David Erhart (Director of Reliability Engineering), Chester Chipperfield (Special Projects) and Charles Kuehmann (Director of Product Design) are just a few names. Yes, Apple will fill these positions quickly but losing so many employees who were working on automotive software to its Californian rivals will make the company very anxious. These departures must have been sparked after the news broke that Apple would be moving away from its autonomous vehicle ‘Project Titan’ to focus on software for other automakers. I believe that this feels like an anti-climax for employees who have spent so much time working towards a complete product and, just like Apple has self-proclaimed, want to change the world through bigger and more exciting projects.
I dislike drawing comparisons from software specialists and automakers, although I cannot deny the similarities between the two business structures and design philosophies of Apple and Tesla. The EV manufacturer seems like the perfect move for any software executive who wants to break into a new, exciting market with incredible career opportunities; after all, Tesla is considered by many as the Apple of the industry. The automotive world is changing, meaning people now have an extended freedom of movement across a range of industries, mostly in credit to the rise in technology dependency in many, if not all, global markets. New players may have the upper-hand with advanced software and fresh innovations, however automakers will always be far superior in vehicle production. Maybe Apple has realised this, thus focusing on collaboration, although from the many departures it seems as if its employees think differently.