Speculation rife that Apple IS planning to build a driverless vehicle

The Apple Car Play dashboard

Doug Field, who left the Cupertino-based tech giant five years ago to become Tesla's senior vice-president of engineering, moved back to Apple last month as part of the company's "Project Titan" team, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Apple has kept information about its self-driving vehicle project under a tight leash to date, however a court case filed against a former employee last month revealed some fresh details. Mansfield is the man who is leading the "Project Titan" of Apple.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Field served as VP of design and engineering as well as CTO of Segway for nine years before departing to Apple as VP of product design in July 2008.

Prior to his departure, Field was working on the parts of Project Titan that made it an actual vehicle, which is what spurs the question of if the company is looking to build a auto again. The possibility of a so-called "Apple Car" has generated volumes of gossip and speculation, but Apple revealed little about its automotive plans.

According to the Financial Times, Tesla's Musk once described Apple's auto project as the "Tesla graveyard".

For the past few years, Apple has scaled back Project Titan, the codename for its secretive self-driving auto research unit, with personnel shuffles and a new narrower focus on autonomous-driving software.

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In what seems like two calamities with Tesla within the span of less than a week - the first being CEO Elon Musk openly pitching the idea of making Tesla private again - Tesla is back in the news again, but this time, with a major departing of one of its key executives. However, under the direction of Mansfield, Apple shifted away from building a auto to focus instead on the underlying self-driving technology that can be added to an existing vehicle platform.

There are many speculations regarding the secretive Project Titan, most significantly it was reported in the year 2016 that Apple has left its plans of building a vehicle.

Field's return now gives hope that Apple could still realize their ambitious "Project Titan". His departure from the company is being considered hugely disruptive since it occurred during a time when Tesla Motors is still struggling to pick up the pieces from its launch and production issues with the Model 3.

South African born Elon Musk meanwhile, announced his plans to take Tesla private. Since 2015, the company was rumored to be working on developing a vehicle.

Field made headlines in March with an email to Tesla workers that urged them to "prove a bunch of haters wrong" by boosting Model 3 output. He immediately shuttered the teams working on the physical vehicle hardware. In June, Apple poached Jaime Waydo, a senior self-driving auto engineer from Waymo.

Field stepped away from Tesla in May. Before joining Waymo, Waydo spent 13 years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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