Apple hiring auto experts for secret research project: FT

Fri Feb 13, 2015 4:27pm EST
 
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By Abhirup Roy and Alexei Oreskovic

(Reuters) - Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) is hiring automotive technology and design experts to staff up a top-secret research lab, with the possible intention of building a car, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing several people familiar with the iPhone maker.

It's unclear whether the world's largest smartphone maker is simply looking for talent to shore up CarPlay, the in-car entertainment and software service it unveiled last year that CEO Tim Cook has identified as pivotal to the company's longer-term future.

But the background and seniority of the executives it is recruiting suggest that Apple may be trying to build a car, the newspaper said, citing sources. Apple recently hired the head of Mercedes-Benz's Silicon Valley research and development unit, Johann Jungwirth, according to a LinkedIn profile.

While his title on the site is Head of Mac Systems Engineering, the Financial Times reported he had joined the new research team. (on.ft.com/1A4ELi5)

Apple, which like Google Inc (GOOGL.O: Quote) is trying to incorporate its software into cars, has recently tried to recruit from the automotive industry, two sources with knowledge of the approaches told Reuters.

The company has been trying to poach experts in fields such as robotics, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

"Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay," FT quoted a person who has worked closely with Apple for many years as saying. "Today I think it's a car," the person said.

The research lab was set up late last year, soon after Apple revealed its forthcoming smart watch and latest iPhones, the daily said.   Continued...

 
Workers prepare for the opening of an Apple store in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, January 23, 2015.  REUTERS/Chance Chan