tesla showroom

The Tesla showroom at the Washington Square Mall, in Portland. Source: AP

Poaching talent: Tesla replaces Autopilot chief with one of Apple’s best engineers

SOME high-profile HR shifts in the tech world are afoot as Bloomberg has just reported that Tesla Motors’ Autopilot chief, the driver-assist system used in its Model S and Model X electric vehicles, has just left the company.

Sterling Anderson, who has been in the role since November 2015, left Tesla in December and will be swapped in with Chris Lattner, a top engineer from Apple – who is joining as chief of software. Lattner was responsible for leading Apple’s 2014 launch of its Swift programming languages used in its apps and according to a Tesla blog post, is taking on the role of VP of Autopilot software.

SEE ALSO: China: Fatal Tesla car crash revealed by dashcam involved Autopilot function

chris lattner apple tesla

Chris Lattner, a former engineer at Apple, has joined Tesla as chief of software. Pic: nondot.org

“Chris’ reputation for engineering excellence is well known. He comes to Tesla after 11 years at Apple…[and] prior to Apple, Chris was lead author of the LLVM Compiler Infrastructure, an open source umbrella project that is widely used in commercial projects and academic research today,” said the blog post. “We are very excited that Chris is joining Tesla to lead our Autopilot engineering team and accelerate the future of autonomous driving.”

This important management shift comes at a time when Tesla is making big hardware changes to its cars. Without providing a launch date, Tesla has revealed plans to equip each of its electric cars with full self-driving features. Despite Tesla’s Autopilot system being used on all cars since October 2014, its drivers still have to hold on to the steering wheel although Elon Musk has boasted an end of 2017 reveal for a Los Angeles-to-New York car trip “without the need for a single touch”.

The Silicon Valley tech world, as it goes without saying, is fiercely competitive and companies are constantly looking to poach the cream of the talent crop from its rivals. Tesla is no exception, as in the past, it has hired a number of high-level Apple employees such as Doug Field, Tesla’s Senior VP for Engineering; and Cindy Nicola, VP of Global Recruiting.

Although it may seem that Tesla is late to the self-driving technology game, as ride-hailing players such as Uber are already testing cars on the road, Bloomberg notes that it is actually ahead of the curve. Automakers such as BMW AG and Ford Motor Co. have been slow to develop autonomous features, cautiously offering semi-autonomous driving systems as “optional equipment” and have ruled out full self-driving capabilities until after 2020.