Volkswagen has hired away one of Apple’s top experts on autonomous vehicle technologies, signaling the German auto maker’s intent to become a serious player in self-driving cars.
Johann Jungwirth was hired by Volkswagen to lead research into advanced technologies as head of its new Digitalization Strategy Department. He had been at Apple since September 2014, after heading North American R&D for Mercedes Benz.
The impact on Apple is hard to gauge since Apple hasn’t even acknowledged it’s working on an autonomous vehicle.
At Apple, Jungwirth’s job title was director of Mac Systems Engineering, a role explained on his LinkedIn page in the briefest of ways: “focusing on building great Mac products.”
But he had reportedly taken a leading role in the research Apple is doing on autonomous car technology.
While the iPhone maker hasn’t commented, emails obtained earlier this year under a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Apple had been in talks to get access to an autonomous vehicle testing track in the a San Francisco Bay Area.
The emails don’t divulge anything about what Apple is working on, but they went some way to confirming some kind of vehicle automation project. Whether it’s a fully autonomous car or simply add-on gadgets to make driving easier is unknown.
Apple routinely refuses all comment on research and development projects until it announces a product.