The former Apple employee was a member of the Project Titan self-driving car team.
The race towards an autonomous future is gearing up, and automakers are jostling to get ahold of the brightest minds in the field to give them a leg up for when autonomous vehicles become a fixture in our day-to-day travel. This has prompted Volkswagen to hire a former Apple executive, Alexander Hitzinger, to assist on its self-driving development team. He will also be working directly with the technical side of commercial vehicles, as well as heading up Volkswagen’s Mobility as a Service initiative, a program dedicated to a future with decreased car ownership and an emphasis on ride-sharing.
Hitzinger, who hails from Germany, was formerly a part of Project Titan, Apple’s first attempt at entering the realm of self-driving cars. The project was shut down after the iPhone-maker had difficultly transferring its skills and resources to constructing a physical vehicle, although rumors suggest Apple is reviving the program to focus on simply developing the autonomous software as opposed to an actual car. Prior to Apple, Hitzinger worked for Porsche (which is under the VW Group umbrella) as well as with Red Bull Technology working with its Formula One team.
Interestingly, VW and Apple have a close relationship, inking an agreement last May that will see Apple utilize VW commercial vans in its upcoming self-driving service. However, Volkswagen has acknowledged that it is about two years behind its competitors in developing the technology for the autonomous vehicle sector. VW tried and failed to purchase Aurora, a startup specializing in the field, although the companies have entered into a partnership.
Volkswagen is aiming to bring its first autonomous car to the road by 2021, which we were given a sneak peek at with the Sedric Concept from the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. The concept boasted Level 5 capability, which means full autonomy, and the cabin is devoid of a steering wheel or pedals. While VW is lagging behind its nearest rivals, perhaps Hitzinger’s hiring will allow the German company to catch up in the autonomous development race.