Apple's auto efforts have grown considerably in recent months, including a growing web of facilities seemingly tied to "Project Titan"—the code name for Apple's car—and more hiring of the kind of folks you only hire if you're making a car. The company reportedly added Chris Porritt, a veteran auto engineer from Tesla and Aston Martin, to its roster.
Mr. Porritt's previous job was at Tesla, where he was Vice President of Vehicle Engineering. My understanding is that he was terminated from the company—while you might assume this lends credence to Tesla CEO Elon Musk's comment that Apple is "Tesla's graveyard," Mr. Porritt is a highly respected engineer with an excellent track record at Aston Martin, where he was Chief Engineer.
9to5Mac and Eletrek broke the news on Tuesday that Mr. Porritt was hired by Apple, but he may have been at Apple for a while now. He is working on "special projects" at Apple, which is a catch-all for unannounced products, including Project Titan. According to the reports above, several senior engineers are reporting directly to Mr. Porritt, and it's conceivable he will step or has stepped into the role vacated by former Project Titan head Steve Zadesky when he left Apple earlier this year.
Check out 9to5Mac's report for images of some of the cars Mr. Porritt worked on at Aston Martin, a company Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive is known to admire.
At the same time, Apple has a growing web of buildings and other facilities spreading throughout Silicon Valley. While Apple's real estate ambitions have been epic in scale in general, Nate Donato-Weinstein did some excellent sleuthing for The Silicon Valley Business Journal (subscription required for this report) where he identified multiple projects in the area tied to Apple with code names from Greek mythology. In addition, many of those facilities have local regulatory filings indicating equipment and/or chemicals tied specifically to the automotive industry.
For instance, building permits were filed on buildings Apple leased in Sunnyvale that included use of the code name "Rhea." In Greek mythology, Rhea was a Titaness, the daughter of Gaia and Uranus. The plans filed with the building permits include a "lube bay," and equipment listed in the plans include a wheel balancer, tire changer and wheel sensor.
For those still in denial that Apple is working on a car, you can assume that Apple will use these things for a new iPhone model with wheels and tires.
Mr. Donato-Weinstein also uncovered a storm water protection plan filed with the State of California for another Apple building using the code name "Project Medusa."
According to those plans, "Project Medusa will consist of the retrofit of the subject building. The building will be a Research and Design facility in support of current and future Medusa projects, and consumer products."
While that description is seemingly a bunch of noncommittal nothing, building permits for the same facilities include rooms marked as "eye tracking," cog. testing," and "vision lab." Those could be used for any number of tasks, but they could also be related to development of a heads up display for a car. Lists of chemicals to be used on site include chemicals with auto-related uses in other rooms designated for "design shops, a spray room, metal/machine shop, and a vast open R&D lab."
Other names used in permits and filings around Silicon Valley include Zeus, Pegasus, Athena, and Aria. It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to assume these code names are part of Project Titan, and therefore the Apple Car.
All in all, it's clear that there is enormous momentum for this project within Apple. The company is known to be willing to pull the plug on anything deemed unworthy, not ready, or nonviable, but with multi-year commitments on business leases with hundreds of thousands of square feet of space that we know of—not to mention significant hires and respected senior engineers moving to Project Titan—I personally think there is next to zero chance that Apple won't see this one through.