Apple’s self-driving car project remains mysterious as the company refuses to give out any details but it is no secret that the program has been running for a few years now. Despite Apple great attempts to keep the project and its details secretive, the cover has been blown revealing a team of NASA veterans and robotics experts that Apple has recruited to work on the project.
Business Insider reports that it obtained an Apple filing through a public-records request that revealed Apple’s self-driving car project details giving the first look at the technology. While the details of the technology were supposed to be revealed, the team behind it was not. The filing mentions six individuals that Apple named as official “drivers/operators” of the autonomous vehicles.
The permits for testing the self-driving cars were obtained just this month, and the filing with California Department of Motor Vehicles includes a lot of details of the technology including a brief description of the automated system, and the training program that the test vehicle operators will go through.
A California DMV spokesperson said that the names of the team were not supposed to be revealed, and requested that they are not published. Apple’s efforts in developing its self-driving car technology look very fine as the team is made up of NASA experts, people with PhDs in robotics, and other related areas. All the people on the list show no public association with Apple anywhere.
The company has never publically acknowledged that it is working on a self-driving car project. As Apple managed to obtain the permits for testing on California roads, it has joined the tight competition of the similar tech giants like Google, Uber, and Tesla.
Wall Street Journal mentions that using senior level engineers and PhDs to operate the cars is an indication that the project is in its early development stages. In all previous such projects like that of Google spin-out Waymo, the senior level staff deals with operations only until the software becomes stable enough. An industry insider has mentioned that the entire team is working under the command of Professor Ruslan Salakhutdinov who is the company’s first-ever Director of Artificial Intelligence. He has been with the company since October 2016.
It was first though that Salakhutdinov was hired to make Apple’s software services smarter, but now rumors say that he will be hiring a team of researchers to work entirely on self-driving car technology. Apple’s AI team gave a presentation that talked about LIDAR, which is an essential self-driving car tech. Salakhutdinov even spoke in detail about the importance of memory to navigation at a recent MIT Technology Review conference.
Shilpa Gulati who received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas has worked on a NASA-backed project for the design of a self-driving underwater vehicle for exploring Jupiter’s Europa, back in 2009. Her LinedIn profile says she has been employed as a manager of special projects at “Silicon Valley company” since 2015. The role description says, ” developed the vision and built an organization of ~30 world-class researchers and engineers.”
David Gadda is a former Tesla engineer who has obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford.
Also on the list is Paul Hebert who is a former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory robotics engineer.
Another name on the list is David Rosas who has a Ph.D. in control systems engineering with an extensive research profile.
Victor Hwang and Jeremy Ma
The two are Apple engineers both of whom have worked with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory previously. Victor Hwang has also worked at Mercedes-Benz as a senior Vehicle Intelligence engineer.
While the filings have revealed a bit about the technology and the team behind it, the company has maintained its position on not giving out any further details. The “Project Titan” in Sunnyvale, California seems to be a separate organization of nearly 1,000 employees which was revealed back in 2015. Back then, the company was planning to build an electric car. The self-driving plans were included much later, which shows the technology is quite immature at the moment. Instead of a fully electric car, the company is now focusing on the autonomous software. Even though the project is still being kept overly secret, Bloomberg says the company will assess its progress on self-driving cars by the end of this year.