Apple has reportedly hired a long-time executive of Lamborghini in the latest sign that the iPhone maker is stepping up its efforts to develop its long-rumoured self-driving vehicle.
Luigi Taraborrelli has been brought in to lead the design of what is known as Project Titan, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with Mr Taraborrelli's hiring.
He has been part of the Italian luxury sports car maker since 2001 and stepped down from his role as the head of research and development for chassis and vehicle dynamics in May, his LinkedIn profile says.
Apple declined to comment on the hiring, Bloomberg said.
Information on Apple's electric car has been sparse and the company is famously tight-lipped when it comes to future product plans.
Chief executive Tim Cook in 2021 told The New York Times that self-driving technology was being worked on but declined to go into specifics.
“We’ll see what Apple does,” he said at the time.
Development, however, is gaining traction, with a number of high-profile hirings being made. In June 2021, Apple hired Ulrich Kranz, a former senior executive in BMW’s electric car division. Before that, the company brought in Stuart Bowers, the former head of Tesla's Autopilot software.
Conversely, Jony Ive, Apple's design guru who is credited with the recognisable designs of the company's products, signed up with Ferrari last year to help the Italian sports car maker develop its first electric car.
Apple's car project is currently being led by Kevin Lynch, who is also responsible for the Apple Watch and health software teams, and John Giannandrea, Apple's head of machine learning.
Apple's electric car has been reported to be fully autonomous and designed without a steering wheel or pedals.
Some major electric vehicle manufacturers have already introduced driverless cars without steering wheels, including General Motors' Bolt EV in 2018 and a Tesla Model 3 in 2019.
However, questions on their safety have been a nagging issue, with a series of accidents — including fatalities — involving some big names.
Last month in the US, authorities escalated an investigation into 200 crashes involving Tesla's Autopilot technology.
In March, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration changed a rule to allow companies to deliver vehicles without steering wheels or pedals. The levels of vehicle autonomy run from 0 to 5, with the last not requiring steering wheels or pedals.
This rule could be advantageous for companies in terms of costs and materials, as it will allow them to retrofit existing vehicles instead of building new ones.
The global autonomous car market is expected to grow to 62.4 million units by 2030 from 20.3 million units in 2021 at a compound annual rate of 13.3 per cent, data from MarketsandMarkets showed.
The sector's value is expected to grow more than 31 per cent and exceed $11.03 billion through 2028, Fortune Business Insights reported.
Apple's products — most notably the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers — have been influential and are considered a benchmark in the industry.
It is unclear, however, if the company will be able to transfer its consumer electronics expertise into a more niche market such as electric cars, as the competition is increasingly fierce.
Apple is believed to have first begun work on an electric car in 2014, with an aim to introduce it by 2025.