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Apple poached a key engineer away from Porsche earlier this year

Apple Car

This past September, word surfaced that Apple was completely re-thinking its plans in the automotive space. While Apple was initially interested in developing its own electric car from scratch, the New York Times relayed that Apple’s automotive initiative was being scaled back due to a lack of significant progress.

Nonetheless, Apple doesn’t appear ready to give up on its automotive dreams completely. In the wake of reports that Apple has shifted its focus towards developing self-driving automotive software, Reuters is reporting that Apple not too long ago hired Alexander Hitzinger, the former “technical director of Porsche’s race car program.”

An engineer by trade, Hitzinger previously worked on a few Formula One racing teams before joining Porsche in 2011. Apple’s decision to bring Hitzinger on board is particularly intriguing given what he managed to accomplish at Porsche, specifically his involvement in developing the Porsche 919 hybrid race car.

Porsche’s new race car won Le Mans and the endurance racing world championship in both 2015 and 2016 using largely unproven technology, which beat far more established rivals.

Hitzinger helped hire and build a development team and organizational structure at Porsche, expanding from ten staff to over 150 employees.

Hitzinger’s managerial experience is particularly noteworthy given that one of the reasons why some believe Apple’s automotive plans fell by the wayside is that the project lacked direction and leadership once Steve Zadesky, the previous head of Apple’s secretive Project Titan program, left the company for undisclosed personal reasons.

While the idea of Apple designing and releasing its own branded car remains, in my estimation, a fantasy, the recent hire of Hitzinger along with Apple’s recent letter to the NHTSA regarding self-driving car technology suggests that Apple is still angling for an ‘in’ of some sort into the automotive industry.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.