With its most senior supervisor departing for greener pastures, it seems to be just like the Apple Automotive could have simply suffered an enormous setback.

Doug Discipline, the “particular initiatives” VP who has headed up Challenge Titan since 2018, has simply been snatched up by Ford to function “chief superior know-how and embedded programs officer” the place he’ll report on to Ford President and CEO Jim Farley.

The stunning information got here in a press launch by Ford yesterday, the place the carmaker famous that Discipline will head up Ford’s efforts to develop its next-generation “Blue Oval Intelligence” know-how to construct “the following era of Ford’s related merchandise and experiences.”

Discipline initially labored with Apple as VP of Mac {hardware} engineering till 2013, when he left for a stint at Tesla. Nevertheless, he was lured again to Apple in 2018 the place insiders reported that he had been positioned in control of Challenge Titan — the considerably nascent Apple Automotive venture — beneath the management of the legendary Bob Mansfield, who he had actually labored with in his earlier function.

The truth is, as Apple’s Senior VP of {Hardware} Engineering, Mansfield would have been Doug Discipline’s boss till he formally retired in 2012. Nevertheless, Mansfield was pulled again in a few years later to serve in a direct advisory function to CEO Tim Prepare dinner and head up a number of secretive initiatives. By 2016, nevertheless, it turned clear that Mansfield had been tagged to supervise Challenge Titan. Two years later, Doug Discipline got here again on the scene to deal with the day-to-day operations.

Nevertheless, Challenge Titan made an enormous shift late final 12 months, when Bob Mansfield lastly introduced that he was retiring — for good this time — and the Apple Automotive venture moved into Apple’s new Synthetic Intelligence division. This transformation put it beneath the management of John Giannandrea, Apple’s Senior VP of Machine Studying and AI Technique, who was previously Google’s head of AI.

It’s laborious to say whether or not Mansfield’s departure had any bearing on Doug Discipline’s determination to maneuver on, nevertheless it’s additionally truthful to say that with a resume like Discipline’s, the engineering government was doubtless already being courted by a number of automotive corporations, and there’s little doubt that his transfer to Ford is a reasonably large step up.

As a lot as Apple has been build up the Apple Automotive crew in current months, it misplaced some key managers earlier this 12 months, all of whom additionally straight reported to Doug Discipline.

Like Discipline’s current transfer to Ford, nevertheless, the opposite Challenge Titan managers additionally every made fairly important steps up, into the identical sort of senior C-level government roles that Discipline now occupies at Ford. As an illustration, Dave Scott who headed up Apple’s automotive robotics crew is now the CEO of well being care firm Hyperfine, whereas ex-NASA engineer Jamie Waydo, has moved on to change into CTO of autonomous automobile security startup Cavnue. Authentic automobile crew member Benjamin Lyon has equally departed Apple to change into the chief engineer at Astra, an area satellite tv for pc know-how.

So, these of us don’t look like deserting a sinking ship, and there’s no indication that any of those departures got here on account of issues with Apple’s automotive ambitions.

It does increase the query, nevertheless, of what’s subsequent for the Apple Automotive. Definitely, the lack of Doug Discipline is critical, however it might be a pure results of the venture’s shift into the AI division, relatively than a casualty of it.

In any case, the change in management from a former Senior VP of {Hardware} Engineering to a Senior VP of Synthetic Intelligence is a big one. Many believed that this indicated that Apple had cracked all of the precise {hardware} design points, and was now specializing in the self-driving programs. In such an atmosphere, {hardware} engineers like Doug Discipline and crew could not actually have a significant function on the crew. As a lot as Apple is perhaps blissful to maintain them round, in the event that they’ve achieved what they got down to do within the first place, they could merely be on the lookout for new challenges.

In the meantime, most of Apple’s current hires appear to centre round industrial design relatively than pure {hardware} applied sciences. This contains of us like 13-year Porsche veteran Dr. Manfred Harrer, who headed up the design of the Porsche Cayenne product line, and former BMW senior vice-president Ulrich Kranz.

Apple additionally not too long ago moved VP Kevin Lynch over to Challenge Titan. Lynch was greatest often called the face of the Apple Watch and watchOS, and whereas it’s unclear what his function might be on the Apple Automotive crew, it’s truthful to say that it in all probability has extra to do with software program and electronics than powertrains.

This previous January, Bob Mansfield’s erstwhile protégé, Dan Riccio, additionally adopted in his mentor’s footsteps, shifting from Senior VP of {Hardware} Engineering into Apple’s shadowy particular initiatives. On this case, nevertheless, it’s nonetheless unclear precisely what Riccio might be engaged on, as Apple has a couple of different balls within the air proper now too, most notably its AR/VR headset.

So, whereas Discipline’s departure looks as if it may very well be an enormous setback for the Apple Automotive, it might simply be a part of an general shift in route. In any case, the venture has clearly moved past the idea levels, as Apple is now on the lookout for manufacturing companions to really construct it, and in consequence the roles and wishes of the crew have undoubtedly shifted.

Most reviews recommend that we may see the primary Apple Automotive unveiled within the subsequent 3–5 years, so we’re simply going to have to attend and eventually see what Apple is as much as right here.