VW nabs Apple exec for self-driving car development

January 11, 2019

Volkswagen has hired former Apple executive Alexander Hitzinger to lead technical development at its commercial vehicles division, which includes responsibility for the development of self-driving cars and the automaker's mobility services.

Reuters reported on the hiring on Wednesday and said Hitzinger was formerly part of Apple's Project Titan electric car project. It's understood Apple previously had a vehicle project in the works, but the initiative eventually disbanded after lack of clarity over a final goal. 

However, various patents and Apple's own hirings have led some to speculate the company may still have eyes on a physical car. 

DON'T MISS: VW reportedly tried buying Aurora to catch up in self-driving car race

VW and Apple aren't strangers when it comes to self-driving car development. Last year, the two teamed up for a test said to pair Apple's self-driving car software with purpose-built VW vans.  

Even Hitzinger is familiar with VW. Before joined Apple, he worked at VW's Porsche subsidiary.

VW has tried to play catch up in a segment full of newcomers and established names including Google's Waymo and General Motors' Cruise Automation. VW reportedly tried to purchase Aurora to make up for lost ground in the space, but the startup declined the automaker's offer. The two currently have a partnership to develop self-driving technology, though it's not exclusive. Aurora also works with numerous other automakers.

CHECK OUT: VW Group's fully self-driving Sedric to hit public roads in 2021

Despite falling behind, VW has insisted it will have a commercial self-driving vehicle ready to hit the road in 2021. Volkswagen previewed such a vehicle with its Sedric concept from the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. The concept sported in-house technology from VW to give Sedric Level 5 self-driving capability, which requires no human input at any time. The concept vehicle also lacked a steering wheel and pedals.

Hitzinger's appointment is effective immediately and we'll surely hear more from him as we approach VW's timeframe for an autonomous vehicle.

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