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Monday, September 27, 2021

Ford poaches head of Apple’s car project

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It’s hard to tell where Apple’s car plans lie right now. Days after reported production links with Toyota, the tech behemoth has lost its car tsar to Ford.

Overnight Ford announced it had hired Doug Field from Apple, where he was vice president of the Special Projects Group and reportedly in charge of the iPhone-maker’s ever-evolving autonomous electric project.

At Ford, Field will be chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer, and his responsibilities include overseeing the development and implementation of all seen and unseen technology going into future Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

Reporting directly to CEO Jim Farley, Field will reportedly work closely with Hau Thai-Tang, the automaker’s chief product platform and operations officer, “to create the next generation of Ford’s connected products and experiences”.

Unlike many executive-grade engineers at major automakers, Field’s experience stretches well beyond the automotive sphere.

Armed with a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue, Field started his career at Ford in 1987 as a development engineer.

After adding an MBA from MIT to his CV, Field had stints at Johnson & Johnson and Deka before becoming the head of engineering and technology at Segway.

In 2008 he joined Apple, first as the head of product design and later head of Mac hardware development.

Tesla came calling in 2013, and he was put in charge of vehicle programs, and then became senior vice president for engineering.

It’s said he played a big part in the development of the Model 3, which went into production in 2017.

He moved to Apple in 2018 to become the head of its Special Projects Group, which includes the “Project Titan” autonomous vehicle development team.

Official details about Project Titan are scarce, but reports indicate it was initially envisaged as a ground-breaking autonomous electric vehicle.

When that proved too big an ask, the scope and headcount were reportedly scaled back to focus on developing the hardware and software required for self-driving cars.

It seems Apple’s ambitions may have grown again. In January, Hyundai was rumoured to be talking to Apple about producing the “iCar” at one of its plants.

By February, Hyundai went on the record to emphatically state it wouldn’t produce Apple’s car under contract.

This month, Apple is thought to be talking to Toyota about producing its car, which could be unveiled as early as 2024.

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