Apple, bolstering its car-development efforts, hired a former engineer from Tesla who drew controversy this year for remarks about that company’s Autopilot feature.
The iPhone maker tapped Christopher “CJ” Moore for its team working on a self-driving car, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Moore is working on the effort’s software, reporting to Stuart Bowers, another former Tesla executive who joined Apple at the end of last year. Bowers had led Tesla’s Autopilot team before departing in mid-2019.
The move suggests Apple is plowing ahead with attempts to develop self-driving technology, a high-stakes race with automakers such as Tesla. Moore is joining a division known for its secrecy -- Apple has never publicly laid out its car plans -- and frequent turnover. The head of Apple’s car project, codenamed Titan, departed the company earlier this year to lead technology efforts at Ford.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, declined to comment.
At Tesla, Moore implied that Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had overstated the capabilities of the Autopilot software. Earlier this year, California Department of Motor Vehicles officials interviewed Moore as part of investigations into the self-driving software. The department asked Moore about Musk claiming that Teslas would be capable of fully autonomous driving this year.
Moore signaled in response that Musk’s statements didn’t “match 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 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.
Recently, a lawsuit brought by the estate of a Florida man who died in a 2019 crash while using Autopilot is seeking to call Moore as a witness. Legal documents related to the case revealed in October that Moore had left Tesla.
Apple recently replaced the former project head, Doug Field, with Kevin Lynch, who led software engineering for the Apple Watch from the product’s infancy. It has also hired other major names from the automotive world, including Urlich Kranz, the former CEO of autonomous car startup Canoo.
The Apple team has other ex-Tesla executives, including the company’s former drive trains chief Michael Schwekutsch and interiors head Steve MacManus. At the same time, the group has lost several managers. Besides Field, this year’s departures include head of robotics Dave Scott and chief of safety Jaime Waydo. Another former manager for the effort, Dave Rosenthal, recently left Apple after earlier departing the project.