Apple, bolstering its auto development efforts, hired a former engineer from Tesla which sparked controversy this year for comments on that company’s autopilot feature.
The iPhone maker contacted Christopher “CJ” Moore for his team working on a self-driving car, according to those who are aware of the subject. Moore is working on the software of 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 that Apple is moving forward with attempts to develop autonomous driving technology, a high-risk race with automakers like Tesla. Moore joins a division known for its secrecy – Apple has never publicly presented its car plans – and frequent turnover. The head of Apple’s automotive project, codenamed titanium, he left the company earlier this year to lead the technology efforts to ford.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, declined to comment.
In Tesla, Moore implied that the CEO Elon Musk he had overestimated the capabilities of the autopilot software. Earlier this year, California Department of Motor Vehicle officials interviewed Moore as part of the self-driving software investigation. The department asked Moore about Musk stating that the Teslas would be able to drive fully autonomously this year.
Moore reported in response that Musk’s statements did not “correspond to engineering reality,” according to a DMV memo summarizing the conversation. For many years, Musk has said he believes Tesla is close to releasing so-called Level 5 range features, which would mean cars can run without human intervention. The current system, known as the level 2, requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.
Recently, an inheritance lawsuit filed by a Florida man who died in a 2019 crash while using autopilot is trying to call Moore as a witness. Legal documents relating to the case revealed in October that Moore had left Tesla.
Apple recently replaced former project leader Doug Field with Kevin Lynch, who has been leading software engineering for the Apple Watch since the product’s infancy. He has also hired other big names in the automotive world, including Urlich Kranz, the former CEO of autonomous car Canoo boot.
The Apple team has other former Tesla executives, including the company’s former broadcasting chief Michael Schwekutsch and interior chief Steve MacManus. At the same time, the group lost several managers. In addition to Field, this year’s departures include the head of robotics Dave Scott and Chief of Security Jaime Waydo. Another former manager of the effort, Dave Rosenthal, recently left Apple after leaving the project.