Squad of Apple car staffers jump ship to self-driving startup Zoox

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
A group of 17 Apple engineers said to be working on Apple's automotive ambitions has reportedly left the company for self-driving company Zoox after Apple scaled back plans.




According to an account published on Wednesday by Bloomberg, the 17 engineers that left specialize in braking, suspension, and other mechanical automotive systems. The staffers originally came to Apple from traditional car makers, and weren't home-grown talent.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the engineers that departed found themselves less engaged with the process than previous. Apple has reportedly dialed back car plans, and is using the technology for employee shuttles, rather than having a consumer product ready in the short term.

Startup Zoox is based in Menlo Park, Calif, and has obtained $290 million in funding since July 2015. The company self-describes as a "robotics company pioneering autonomous mobility as-a-service."

Future ambitions for Zoox are to build a "fully automated, electric vehicle fleet and the supporting ecosystem required to bring the service to market at scale."

Zoox has also poached some of Apple's supply chain specialists over the last two years, according to Bloomberg.

Reports circulated earlier in August that Apple will partner with an established automaker on a self-driving shuttle testbed for use on the new Apple Park headquarters complex. Apple is reportedly responsible for suppling autonomous driving technology, while an as yet unnamed car maker provides a commercial vehicle fleet.

Dubbed PAIL, an acronym for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the pilot program will carry Apple employees from one Silicon Valley office to another. Exactly when the driverless shuttles will hit the road is unknown.

After longtime exec Bob Mansfield assumed control of Apple's "Project Titan" car initiative last year, the team was profoundly cut back to necessary personnel only as the project refocused on software and supporting solutions. Apple is now rebuilding the group, but with a renewed emphasis on specialists in autonomous systems, not car production -- emphasized by Wednesday's report of departures.

Apple has obtained a self-driving car permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and in in the process of testing of its autonomous driving technology using a small fleet of Lexus RX450h SUVs.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,398member
    Well, that zux.
  • Reply 2 of 21
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 418member
    Old news? 
  • Reply 3 of 21
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,487member
    Gad-zoox! Those are some impressive airbags.
    edited August 2017 buckalecktappe
  • Reply 4 of 21
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Who the hell cares. Man, this kind of staffing dribble is insane.
    Apple likely had hired many hundreds related to this project, many of those are still there; so what does that tell you?
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 5 of 21
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,871member
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
  • Reply 6 of 21
    loquiturloquitur Posts: 113member
    "Little Zooks, of whom no one was fond,
    Was shot towards the roof and beyond;
    The infant's trajectory passed him over the rectory,
    And into a lily-choked pond."   -- Edward St. John Gorey
    ktappeGG1
  • Reply 7 of 21
    ktappektappe Posts: 770member
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
    That would certainly explain 17 of them simultaneously going to the same new employer.
  • Reply 8 of 21
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
    So Apple is going to license software to Zoox? Or they’re going to acquire Zoox in the future?
    bloggerblog
  • Reply 9 of 21
    I hope AppleInsider will continue following the career moves of these 17 engineers. Let us know where they go after Zoox runs out of funding.  ;)
    randominternetpersonRayz2016lkruppSpamSandwich
  • Reply 10 of 21
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
    Seriously, that makes a lot of sense and that would be good for both companies.

    From what I hear, Intel-MobilEye essentially has the entire car industry under it's belt as partners that contribute and share some data. (Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Volvo, Toyota, Honda etc...)  Intel-MobilEye has level 1,2 and 3 essentially covered and are working on the more difficult levels 4 and 5 and  using crowd sourced HD Maps from all their partner's cars to help determine the drivable paths for un-marked roads.

    I understand that the Google-Baidu 3D maps technology is not scalable as it is impossibly expensive to maintain globally and uses too much bandwidth to be practical.
    ( See 1st video between 8:00 and 20:00 from MobilEye 2016 CES, second video is 2017 CES.)

    The core autonomous technology race will likely be between Intel-MobilEye and Apple Inc.  One main difference is that I think Apple will use low orbit satellites for dynamic HD maps to guide it's cars or planes etc.. ( Coherent Navigation anyone?  http://appleinsider.com/articles/15/05/18/how-coherent-navigation-can-help-apple-with-location-technology-and-talent  )  That would likely be much better than crowd source HD maps in terms of reliability, feasibility, consistency and security.  Not to mention that Apple's system will likely cover the vehicle end to end with options to override certain methods.  Time will tell. 

    So if Zoox builds cars based on Apple parts and core technologies, it would be awesome.
    I wonder who funded Zoox the $290 million?









    edited August 2017 MacProfotoformatRayz2016patchythepirate
  • Reply 11 of 21
    I'm thinking Bloomberg is wrong, that from a few "knowns" they are drawing erroneous conclusions, notably the conclusion that Apple is scaling down its car efforts. We know Bob Mansfield was brought in to redirect the project. Bloomberg and others have decided this means Apple has drawn down on its efforts and uses staff leavings like this one as further confirmation. I and others think that Mansfield's job is to refocus the project to get the AI, software and mapping components worked out first and engineers originally hired to think through hardware solutions are no longer needed until the software is better developed. Apple is apparently interested in level 4 and level 5 autonomous vehicles (not just cars!) and designing such vehicles is too "blue sky thinking" at present. Fleet cars or personal transportation? Busses? Wheelchairs? Something that doesn't exist yet? Tim Cook repeatedly refers to autonomous vehicles as the mother of all AI projects. That doesn't sound like scaling back to me.
    fastasleepRayz2016
  • Reply 12 of 21
    I'm thinking Bloomberg is wrong, that from a few "knowns" they are drawing erroneous conclusions, notably the conclusion that Apple is scaling down its car efforts. We know Bob Mansfield was brought in to redirect the project. Bloomberg and others have decided this means Apple has drawn down on its efforts and uses staff leavings like this one as further confirmation. I and others think that Mansfield's job is to refocus the project to get the AI, software and mapping components worked out first and engineers originally hired to think through hardware solutions are no longer needed until the software is better developed. Apple is apparently interested in level 4 and level 5 autonomous vehicles (not just cars!) and designing such vehicles is too "blue sky thinking" at present. Fleet cars or personal transportation? Busses? Wheelchairs? Something that doesn't exist yet? Tim Cook repeatedly refers to autonomous vehicles as the mother of all AI projects. That doesn't sound like scaling back to me.
    Well, may news outlets incorrectly think that Apple has scaled down their ambitions because they have not stated that they plan to build cars.  I think Apple has actually scaled up their ambitions greatly by choosing to work on autonomous systems (including autonomous cars, vehicle electrification and ride sharing).  Autonomous systems may include many other things such as medical instruments, planes, rockets, spaceships etc...




  • Reply 13 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,102member
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?

    I wonder who funded Zoox the $290 million?
    https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/zoox/investors

    And a bit more background about them.
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/secretive-robotaxi-startup-zoox-prepares-for-realworld-testing
    edited August 2017 Rayz2016applesauce007
  • Reply 14 of 21
    loquiturloquitur Posts: 113member
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
    Seriously, that makes a lot of sense and that would be good for both companies.

    From what I hear, Intel-MobilEye essentially has the entire car industry under it's belt as partners that contribute and share some data. (Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Volvo, Toyota, Honda etc...)  Intel-MobilEye has level 1,2 and 3 essentially covered and are working on the more difficult levels 4 and 5 and  using crowd sourced HD Maps from all their partner's cars to help determine the drivable paths for un-marked roads.

    I understand that the Google-Baidu 3D maps technology is not scalable as it is impossibly expensive to maintain globally and uses too much bandwidth to be practical.
    ( See 1st video between 8:00 and 20:00 from MobilEye 2016 CES, second video is 2017 CES.)

    The core autonomous technology race will likely be between Intel-MobilEye and Apple Inc.  One main difference is that I think Apple will use low orbit satellites for dynamic HD maps to guide it's cars or planes etc.. ( Coherent Navigation anyone?  http://appleinsider.com/articles/15/05/18/how-coherent-navigation-can-help-apple-with-location-technology-and-talent  )  That would likely be much better than crowd source HD maps in terms of reliability, feasibility, consistency and security.  Not to mention that Apple's system will likely cover the vehicle end to end with options to override certain methods.  Time will tell. 

    So if Zoox builds cars based on Apple parts and core technologies, it would be awesome.
    I wonder who funded Zoox the $290 million?









    Conspicious-by-absence is your lack of mention of Tesla.  It was indeed a surprise to me when Tesla ditched MobilEye since both companies want to leverage what cameras (like human eyes) can see, vs. the LIDAR systems adopted by Google/Waymo/Cruise Automation. Further, wouldn't higher-level AI need to exist for un-marked roads in addition to any crowd-sourced (or satellite-sourced) navigation aids?
  • Reply 15 of 21
    From what I hear, Intel-MobilEye essentially has the entire car industry under it's belt as partners that contribute and share some data. (Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Volvo, Toyota, Honda etc...)  Intel-MobilEye has level 1,2 and 3 essentially covered and are working on the more difficult levels 4 and 5 and  using crowd sourced HD Maps from all their partner's cars to help determine the drivable paths for un-marked roads.

    The core autonomous technology race will likely be between Intel-MobilEye and Apple Inc. 

    And where does Tesla fit into this? According to them they have full autonomous driving already done and dusted.
  • Reply 16 of 21
    loquitur said:
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
    Seriously, that makes a lot of sense and that would be good for both companies.

    ... 

    Conspicious-by-absence is your lack of mention of Tesla.  It was indeed a surprise to me when Tesla ditched MobilEye since both companies want to leverage what cameras (like human eyes) can see, vs. the LIDAR systems adopted by Google/Waymo/Cruise Automation. Further, wouldn't higher-level AI need to exist for un-marked roads in addition to any crowd-sourced (or satellite-sourced) navigation aids?

    I am convinced that Tesla's autonomous driving system is in trouble at this time, as indicated by their track record and the apparent lack of adult supervision.  Tesla will probably have to go back to Intel-MobilEye because I think that their simplistic system was not well thought out in terms of going all the way to level 4 and 5 safely and reliably.

    I have driven all the Tesla cars except the model 3.  I think they have great electrification and automotive engineers but ditching MobilEye may have been a big mistake.  I am even on the list for a Model 3 but I am not sure I will get it until I test drive a dual motor version.  I don't even trust Tesla's level 1, 2 and 3 autonomous features after the fatal accidents that they have had.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-autopilot-engineers-clashed-over-self-driving-car-plans-wsj-2017-8
    https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/608739/some-tesla-engineers-think-autopilot-isnt-safe/
    https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/tesla-employees-say-theytried-to-warn-elon-musk-about-autopilot-dangers.html
    https://jalopnik.com/volvo-engineer-calls-out-tesla-for-dangerous-wannabe-au-1773519459

    Time will tell.
  • Reply 17 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,102member
    loquitur said:
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
    Conspicious-by-absence is your lack of mention of Tesla. 

     I don't even trust Tesla's level 1, 2 and 3 autonomous features after the fatal accidents that they have had.

    Time will tell.
    Which Tesla fatal accident(s) caused you to mistrust all of their autonomous driving features. Serious question. One was due to drunk-driving. One was due to the driver ignoring repeated alerts to take manual control. Is there another one?

    Does that mistrust extend to all vehicles with autonomous features like lane-assist, automatic braking, smart cruise control, self-piloting traffic jam assistance and such?

    Your posts feel a lot like someone writing with an ulterior motive. Since you confidently predict Tesla's coming demise and even distrust of their current control systems why on earth do you supposedly have one on order?? That makes no sense if your posts are sincere. So I'd ask you instead "Hate Tesla much?" because that's what it sounds like. 


    edited August 2017
  • Reply 18 of 21
    I'm thinking Bloomberg is wrong, that from a few "knowns" they are drawing erroneous conclusions, notably the conclusion that Apple is scaling down its car efforts. We know Bob Mansfield was brought in to redirect the project. Bloomberg and others have decided this means Apple has drawn down on its efforts and uses staff leavings like this one as further confirmation. I and others think that Mansfield's job is to refocus the project to get the AI, software and mapping components worked out first and engineers originally hired to think through hardware solutions are no longer needed until the software is better developed. Apple is apparently interested in level 4 and level 5 autonomous vehicles (not just cars!) and designing such vehicles is too "blue sky thinking" at present. Fleet cars or personal transportation? Busses? Wheelchairs? Something that doesn't exist yet? Tim Cook repeatedly refers to autonomous vehicles as the mother of all AI projects. That doesn't sound like scaling back to me.
    Well one story (it might have been Bloomberg) indicated that Ive and others were definitely in blue sky thinking territory. They wanted to redefine what an automobile was. Ive did mention that in an interview he gave after being promoted to chief design officer. He said giving up day to day management responsibilities would give him more time for blue sky thinking; his bio on Apple does say he’s responsible for “new ideas and future initiatives”. My guess is Cook is being a bit more open on the software/AI stuff they’re doing as that’s not really a product and he can spin it as research that will funnel down to other stuff/existing products. My guess is Apple will always be as secretive as is possible with any potential new product that would use this software.
    patchythepirate
  • Reply 19 of 21
    gatorguy said:
    loquitur said:
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
    Conspicious-by-absence is your lack of mention of Tesla. 

     I don't even trust Tesla's level 1, 2 and 3 autonomous features after the fatal accidents that they have had.

    Time will tell.
    Which Tesla fatal accident(s) caused you to mistrust all of their autonomous driving features. Serious question. One was due to drunk-driving. One was due to the driver ignoring repeated alerts to take manual control. Is there another one?

    Does that mistrust extend to all vehicles with autonomous features like lane-assist, automatic braking, smart cruise control, self-piloting traffic jam assistance and such?

    Your posts feel a lot like someone writing with an ulterior motive. Since you confidently predict Tesla's coming demise and even distrust of their current control systems why on earth do you supposedly have one on order?? That makes no sense if your posts are sincere. So I'd ask you instead "Hate Tesla much?" because that's what it sounds like. 

    Well, I honestly love Tesla cars because they are fast, quiet, emission free electric cars and that's why I would buy one.   In other words, I love driving them myself.  I would not buy one for the autonomous driving features.   I also love the company for what they do, not to mention that I have made money on their stock.  The folks a the local Tesla store know me since I have been there several times with family and friends to test drive the cars.

    However, I can’t ignore the facts when comparing them from an autonomous system point of view.  One particular accident that really got under my skin is the one described in the links below... I believe the car crashed into a huge truck that was across in the middle of the road because it could not see the truck partially because of the color of the truck.  If they had LiDAR for example, it would have picked up the truck.  They did not think of that and I think they should have. 

    What is also irritating is the fact that Elon is insisting that those Tesla models have all the hardware that they need for level 4 and 5 autonomous driving in the future and that is simply not true.  This is why many engineers have left Tesla.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/20/tesla_death_crash_accident_report_ntsb/

    https://electrek.co/2016/07/01/truck-driver-fatal-tesla-autopilot-crash-watching-movie/


    edited August 2017
  • Reply 20 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,102member
    gatorguy said:
    loquitur said:
    It is a possibility that Apple allowed their auto engineers an easy transition to Zoox knowing that they will use the their software in the future?
    Conspicious-by-absence is your lack of mention of Tesla. 

     I don't even trust Tesla's level 1, 2 and 3 autonomous features after the fatal accidents that they have had.

    Time will tell.
    Which Tesla fatal accident(s) caused you to mistrust all of their autonomous driving features. Serious question. One was due to drunk-driving. One was due to the driver ignoring repeated alerts to take manual control. Is there another one?

    Does that mistrust extend to all vehicles with autonomous features like lane-assist, automatic braking, smart cruise control, self-piloting traffic jam assistance and such?

    Your posts feel a lot like someone writing with an ulterior motive. Since you confidently predict Tesla's coming demise and even distrust of their current control systems why on earth do you supposedly have one on order?? That makes no sense if your posts are sincere. So I'd ask you instead "Hate Tesla much?" because that's what it sounds like. 

    Well, I honestly love Tesla cars because they are fast, quiet, emission free electric cars and that's why I would buy one.   In other words, I love driving them myself.  I would not buy one for the autonomous driving features.   I also love the company for what they do, not to mention that I have made money on their stock.  The folks a the local Tesla store know me since I have been there several times with family and friends to test drive the cars.

    However, I can’t ignore the facts when comparing them from an autonomous system point of view.  One particular accident that really got under my skin is the one described in the links below... I believe the car crashed into a huge truck that was across in the middle of the road because it could not see the truck partially because of the color of the truck.  If they had LiDAR for example, it would have picked up the truck.  They did not think of that and I think they should have. 

    What is also irritating is the fact that Elon is insisting that those Tesla models have all the hardware that they need for level 4 and 5 autonomous driving in the future and that is simply not true.  This is why many engineers have left Tesla.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/20/tesla_death_crash_accident_report_ntsb/

    https://electrek.co/2016/07/01/truck-driver-fatal-tesla-autopilot-crash-watching-movie/


    That's a single accident, perhaps the only fatality a car operating in autonomous mode has had. Further wasn't it determined the driver got multiple warnings, reportedly 7 different and audible ones, to disengage Autopilot and take over since the system properly recognized it could not safely navigate under the conditions? Yes I think so. 
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