The Apple Car project may have lost another key team member as its head of software engineering departs for Silicon Valley rival Meta (formerly known as Facebook).
As reported in Bloomberg’s Power On newsletter (opens in new tab), Joe Bass, who had been the Lead Engineering Program Manager for Autonomous Systems at Apple since January 2015, recently changed the employment details on his LinkedIn profile (opens in new tab).
According to the update, Bass now works as the Director of Technical Program Management for Mixed Reality Technologies at Meta.
The departure comes as the latest in a long line of engineers who exited Apple’s vehicular arm toward the end of 2021. Apple executive Doug Field, for instance, reportedly left the company (opens in new tab) for Ford back in September last year, while senior project director Michael Schwekutsch departed for electric plane startup (opens in new tab) Archer Aviation in December.
But while it’s easy to draw a cynical conclusion from the high turnover of employees at Apple, this isn’t likely to be a case of rats abandoning a sinking ship. Instead, the movement more plausibly comes as a result of leadership changes surrounding the Apple Car project.
In 2021, the company appointed former Apple Watch chief Kevin Lynch as leader of its burgeoning automotive division, which was previously being overseen by Apple AI boss John Giannandrea, who himself had stepped in for Bob Mansfield after the latter's retirement in 2020.
It follows, then, that regime changes would lead to a higher rate of departures within the company – a normal feature of any organization during periods of transition.
What’s more, Apple has acquired several new, high-profile staff to work on the Apple Car project in recent months. Former Tesla Autopilot software director Christopher Moore, for instance, was recruited in November 2021 (per Bloomberg (opens in new tab)). He now reports to Stuart Bowers, another executive who made the switch from Tesla to Apple in 2020.
The more pressing matter for Apple and its vehicular vision remains its struggle to pin down an automotive manufacturer to partner with on the project.
With big names including Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan already condemned to the 'tried and failed' pile, the company continues to hunt for brands who may be willing to become a bit-part supplier – in the same way Foxconn is to Tesla – on a vehicle that would ultimately bear the Apple name.
Given its lack of success in sourcing a collaborator, though, more recent reports suggest Apple may be prepared to shoulder the entire Apple Car development process on its own – similar to the approach taken by Elon Musk's Tesla.
This shift towards in-house development would corroborate other recent claims regarding Apple's re-tooled focus on creating a truly innovative autonomous technology base, the likes of which the auto industry has never seen before.
Whatever state the Apple Car project is in right now, though, the high turnover of employees surrounding it shouldn’t be cause for concern – if anything, it’s a sign that the wheels are finally moving on the company's long-awaited vehicular debut.