In the last few weeks we’ve heard about a poaching war between Apple and Tesla, a couple hires by Apple from the auto industry, and a whole lot of speculation followed by reports that Apple has a team of hundreds working on an electric vehicle. But who exactly is working on the project at Apple?
We can learn a lot about the scope of the research Apple is doing from the talent on the team, so we’ve talked to our sources and compiled a list of some key employees Apple has hired and assigned to the project.
A couple things we learn from the hires: Evident by this long list of automotive experts, it’s clear Apple’s ambitions go well beyond just its iOS-based CarPlay in-dash system. Well beyond software too, as many of the names below are hardware engineers coming from Tesla, Ford and other notable automotive related areas. In fact, the majority of employees on this list that are reporting to team leader Steve Zadesky come from an automotive hardware background and many only joined Apple recently or around the time Cook reportedly approved the electric car project.
Steve Zadesky’s group. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple had a team of hundreds working on the electric vehicle project led by product design Vice President and former Ford executive, Steve Zadesky. One of the hires revealed last week was former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Johann Jungwirth, but here are some of the other key team members picked from within the company and hired from outside to join the team:
Robert Gough (new hire). One of Apple’s most recent hires for the team joined the company in January 2015 from Autoliv, a company designing safety systems including everything from airbags to seatbelts to radar and night vision systems. Robert Gough previously led “the design and delivery of Autoliv’s active safety technologies into the global automotive industry,” according to his LinkedIn page.
David Nelson (new hire). David Nelson is another former Tesla Motors engineer that just left the company this month and now on Zadesky’s team. According to Nelson via Linkedin, at Tesla he served as a mechanical engineering manager leading a team “responsible for modeling, prediction, and verification of motor and gearbox performance and efficiency.” He also “tackled high profile reliability and warranty projects” at Tesla before joining Apple.
Pete Augenbergs. Another team member is product design manager Pete Augenbergs who originally joined Apple from Tesla. Augenbergs, who is now working under Zadesky, joined Apple in March 2008 after spending a little over two years as a mechanical engineer at Tesla. The report from the WSJ noted that Zadesky had been given permission to create up to a 1,000 person team for the project poaching employees from both within the company and elsewhere. Augenbergs, along with several other employees on this list, were picked for the project from within the company, while several others are newer hires.
Hugh Jay (new hire). Previously a transmission and mechanical design engineer at EMCO Gears, a company specializing in selling transmissions, axle systems, and other products into automotive and other industries. Among Jay’s work at EMCO before joining Apple’s vehicle team: the design of a closed-loop electro-pneumatic gear shift system (Paddle Shifting) and work on “the entire product lifecycle of “2 motorsports transmissions, 27 commercial gearboxes, and various aerospace/defense products, an output almost double that of more senior engineer.”
John Ireland (new hire). Previously a senior power train test engineer at Tesla since October 2013, Ireland recently joined the company and is currently working on the car project. Before Tesla, Ireland worked as a research engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory working on battery technologies and improvements to energy storage.
Mujeeb Ijaz (new hire). An interesting new hire working on the project under Zadesky is Mujeeb Ijaz from A123 Systems Inc, a company that develops advanced Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate batteries and energy storage systems, according to its website. Its products include batteries and energy storage solutions for electric and hybrid vehicles as well as other industries. Ijaz served in several roles at the company including CTO, VP of its Cell Products Group, and Director of Automotive before recently joining Apple. Before that he served as Manager of Electric and Fuel Cell Vehicle Engineering at Ford for 15 years.
On a related note: A123 Systems Inc just launched an unfair competition lawsuit claiming that Apple poached its employees to develop a “large scale battery division.” The lawsuit claimed other employees including Don Dafoe, Michael Erickson, Depeng Wang, and Indrajeet Thorat also recently left the company with a little help from Ijaz, but it’s unclear if they have all joined Apple.
Rui Guan (new hire). Before joining Apple in October 2014 as a hardware engineer, (around the time Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly approved the new vehicle project), Guan was a Drive Train Engineer at Ogin Inc, a company building wind turbines and other clean energy solutions. Before that he served as an Electromagnetic Design Engineer at Vestas, another company building and selling wind turbines.
Al Golko. iPhone & iPod Product Development Engineering Manager. Joined Apple in June 2009. Previously worked at Motorola. Golko has been working on iOS devices up until now, but is currently under Zadesky who is said to be leading the research into vehicles. Golko has been listed on a few Apple patents over the years—mostly related to iOS devices including patents for iPhone related technologies and patents covering Apple Watch-like wearables more recently.
David Perner (new hire). Another former Ford engineer on the list is David Perner who previously spent 4 years with the company as a product engineer working on Hybrid electric vehicle systems. At Ford, Perner worked on “hybrid vehicle calibration, new vehicle launch, design and release, and research.” Among his work at Ford on hybrid vehicles, Perner helped accelerate “adoption of new transmission for Ford’s upcoming Hybrid F-150 by improving existing fuel economy models,” according to his LinkedIn.
Jim Cuseo. At Apple since 2010 as a product design lead and product design manager working on the iMac and more recently managing a “growing team of >10 direct and matrix reports in the design, development and implementation of a future Apple product line.” Cuseo, however, is uniquely experienced to work on the vehicle project having served as Chief Powertrain Engineer at MIT Motorosports, Research and Advanced Development Engineer at Ford, and an engineer at MagCanica designing electromechanical torque sensor systems.
Fernando Cunha (new hire). Another member of Zadesky’s team is Fernando Cunha. Update: The Fernando Cunha working at Apple is apparently not the Product Design Supervisor of the same name at General Motors.
Lauren Ciminera (new hire). Joining Apple back in September, Lauren Ciminera is likely playing a role in recruiting employees for Apple’s project after leaving a position as Tesla’s Lead Recruiter to join the company. Before joining Apple, Ciminera was responsible for hiring manufacturing and mechanical engineers globally at Tesla.
Sawyer Cohen. Previously a Controls Engineer at Concept Systems before joining Apple as a mechanical engineer for the iPhone in 2010, Cohen is one of many iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac engineers on Zadesky’s team potentially contributing to the vehicle project.
Phil Hobson. A senior product design engineer at Apple since joining the company from Tapwave in 2004, Hobson lists his previous work as a “Lead designer engineer for various iPod products including, but not limited to, the iPhone and HiFi.” Working on those products, Hobson was responsible for “tooling, product manufacture and assembly through production ramp.”
Brian Lynch. Director of iPod product design at Apple since 2009 with the company since 2000, Lynch is another employee working under Zadesky.
Kurt Stiehl. At the company since 2007, Stiehl worked in iOS Accessory Product Design for 5 years before moving to Product Design Manager in 2012.
Dillon Thomasson (new hire). Lead Design Engineer at General Dynamics Dillion Thomasson has recently made his way to Apple and Zadesky’s team after spending eight years at his prior company that specializes in aerospace and defense products. It’s unclear exactly when Thomasson joined the team, but he’s currently working under Zadesky and like many other team members uniquely experienced to work on the vehicle project.
Another notable new hire is Sebastien Marineau. Apple picked up the former BlackBerry exec who for most of his time at the company was an SVP in various roles working on the company’s QNX software systems. That includes the QNX car platform that many vehicle manufacturers are still using and therefore the platform Apple’s CarPlay is built on top of. He joined Apple in June 2014 as VP Core OS and is a likely candidate for the car project.
In addition to the several notable hires from Tesla on the list, the hiring of Mujeeb Ijaz and claims that Apple is poaching A123 employees for a large scale battery operation would seem to corroborate reports that Apple is researching building a vehicle rather than just getting its software platform on the road. The scope of Apple’s new hires goes well past the level of expertise needed to provide one or two components for a vehicle, and when combined with the increasingly public testing of camera-equipped vehicles, it’s clear that Apple’s ambitions now extend well beyond CarPlay.