Stepping up its auto-development efforts, Apple hired a former Tesla engineer who sparked controversy this year over comments about that company’s Autopilot feature.
The iPhone maker brought in Christopher “CJ” Moore for his team working on a self-driving car, according to experts. Moore is working on the software for the effort, reporting to Stuart Bowers, another former Tesla executive who joined Apple late last year. Bowers had led Tesla’s Autopilot team before leaving in mid-2019.
The move suggests Apple continues efforts to develop self-driving technology, a high-stakes race with automakers like Tesla. Moore joins a division known for its secrecy — Apple has never disclosed its car plans publicly — and frequent sales. The head of Apple’s auto project, codenamed Titan, left the company earlier this year to lead technology efforts at Ford.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, declined to comment.
At Tesla, Moore suggested that Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had overestimated the capabilities of the Autopilot software. Earlier this year, officials at the California Department of Motor Vehicles interviewed Moore as part of research into the self-driving software. The department asked Moore about Musk claiming that Teslas could drive fully autonomously this year.
Moore responded that Musk’s statements “didn’t match technical reality,” according to a DMV memo summarizing the conversation. Musk has said for years that he believes Tesla is close to releasing so-called Level 5 autonomy features, which would mean the cars can operate without human intervention. The current system, known as Level 2, requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.
A lawsuit was recently filed by the estate of a Florida man who died in a crash in 2019 while using Autopilot to call Moore as a witness. Legal documents related to the case revealed in October that Moore had left Tesla.
Apple recently replaced former project head, Doug Field, with Kevin Lynch, who led software engineering for the Apple Watch from infancy. It has also hired other big names in the automotive world, including Urlich Kranz, the former CEO of Canoo, an autonomous car startup.
The Apple team has other ex-Tesla executives, including Michael Schwekutsch, former head of the company’s powertrains, and interiors chief Steve MacManus. At the same time, the group has lost several managers. In addition to Field, this year will include chief of robotics Dave Scott and chief of safety Jaime Waydo. Another former manager for the effort, Dave Rosenthal, recently left Apple having previously left the project.