Apple’s self-driving car initiative may not be public yet, but there have been multiple reports that suggest that the company is on track towards its goal of building a truly self-driving car. The latest report that claims to lend credibility to rumours suggests that Cupertino is building a self-driving car in Canada – at least the operating system part of it.
The report came from Bloomberg where the publishing giant was concentrating on Apple’s poaching of as many as 24 QNX employees over the last year. The report claimed that using these QNX employees, Apple has built a special team that is focusing on the OS for its self-driving car. There have been reports that claim that Apple poached Dan Dodge, QNX’s chief executive officer, who is now working on Apple’s Project Titan car initiative and his role has expanded under which he is now overseeing the car operating system, splitting his time between Canada and California.
Apple poached QNX employees because the company has a strong presence in automotive software and its employees have reasonable exposure in automotive software that will be of prime importance in OS of a self-driving car. Another notable addition is Derrick Keefe, who left QNX last year after more than a decade as a senior engineer, one of the people said.
Soon after these reports came out, BlackBerry said that claims were false and that Dodge actually retired from QNX and that he wasn’t working with Apple. Further, BlackBerry also said that the 24 defections cited by Bloomberg report didn’t really create any impact on its automotive software business given that few of the departed had direct automotive experience.
Reports have also suggested that Apple deployed an entirely new team for the operating system that will run its autonomous cars. While an OS for the self-driving car is just one of the things, it is an important bit. There have been reports that Apple has also envisioned a heads-up display showing apps such as maps that could be manipulated by the company’s voice-based digital assistant Siri. However, Apple hasn’t confirmed its self-driving car initiative and so the fate of these features are just a shaky as Apple’s Project Titan is.
Bob Mansfield, who took over the project in April, has given engineers a deadline of next fall to prove the self-driving technology before deciding on next steps, reports indicate.
There are quite a few other teams working on Project Titan including a self-driving platform simulation group wherein simulators have been developed by using virtual reality to test the self-driving software without taking the system onto public roads.
QNX has been dubbed as a strong arm of BlackBerry and Apple’s moves are definitely going to dent BlackBerry’s progress if the reports are correct. The QNX unit maintains the operating system used in more than 60 million cars, mostly for “infotainment” systems like Ford Motor Co.’s Sync.
BlackBerry has already announced that they are working on building out QNX’s operating system so it could be used to run autonomous driving software. And it has signed deals with self-driving car startups like AdasWorks to integrate their technology into QNX.