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Tesla steals top Apple coder for its Autopilot team

Chris Lattner Tesla Autopilot

Chris Lattner isn’t a familiar name to most people who follow Apple news, but he’s definitely an Apple star — or he was an Apple star, as he announced on Tuesday that he’s leaving the company to pursue a different opportunity. Tesla was then quick the confirm that it hired Lattner, giving him a major role in the development of Autopilot.

Lattner will be Tesla’s new vice president of Autopilot software, and he will lead the company’s Autopilot engineering team. This is a massive steal for Tesla and a very exciting one for fans of autonomous cars.

Lattner, although not as popular with fans as other Apple employees, is the director of Apple’s Developer Tools. He was responsible at Apple for Xcode and then Swift. These are powerful tools that let developers code apps for Apple products, with Swift becoming quite popular since its original introduction at WWDC 2014.

“I’m happy to announce that Ted Kremenek will be taking over for me as “Project Lead” for the Swift project, managing the administrative and leadership responsibility for,” Lattner said on Tuesday in a message posted on the Swift Evolution mailing list (via John Gruber). “This recognizes the incredible effort he has already been putting into the project and reflects a decision I’ve made to leave Apple later this month to pursue an opportunity in another space. This decision wasn’t made lightly, and I want you all to know that I’m still completely committed to Swift. I plan to remain an active member of the Swift Core Team, as well as a contributor to the swift-evolution mailing list.”

Soon after that, Tesla posted a welcome message on its blog for Lattner.

“We would like to welcome Chris Lattner, who will join Tesla as our Vice President of Autopilot Software. Chris’s reputation for engineering excellence is well known,” Tesla said. “He comes to Tesla after 11 years at Apple where he was primarily responsible for creating Swift, the programming language for building apps on Apple platforms and one of the fastest growing languages for doing so on Linux.”

Here is Lattner demoing Swift at WWDC 2014:

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.