Ford just poached Apple's top car executive

Doug Field has led Apple's secret car project since 2018.

Craig Wilson / Input

Doug Field, the reported head of Apple’s smart car project, is leaving the company for Ford. He’ll report directly to CEO Jim Farley in his new position as Ford’s chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer.

His new role at Ford will focus on developing “the next-gen Blue Oval Intelligence tech stack to deliver smart, connected vehicles and services that improve over time through constant updates,” according to a press release.

Field’s last three years as an Apple VP have been kept mostly under wraps, but rumor has it (read: many sources have leaked) that Field’s “special projects group” was responsible for developing an autonomous electric car. Last we heard those plans had pretty much stalled.

Ford, meanwhile, has been making impressive moves with its electric cars and even announced its own version of a hands-free driving assist system called BlueCruise earlier this year. Field is a big win for Ford — and, perhaps more importantly, a huge loss for Apple.

Field experience — Doug Field has a very impressive resume. Before helping with Apple’s secret car development program, he worked for five years at Tesla, four of which were spent as the company’s chief vehicle engineer. He spent most of that time working on the Model 3. Elon Musk once tweeted that Field was “one of the world’s most talented engineering execs.”

He actually worked at Apple before Tesla, too, where he helped head the Mac hardware engineering team. His primary engineering background has always been in mobility tech, though. He worked as a development engineer at Ford from 1987 to 1993 and then at Segway in the early 2000s.

It’s gonna be a while — Field’s departure raises lots of questions about Apple’s smart car development. Despite having been a work-in-progress since at least 2014, the car itself is still in “early stages.” The company’s car program is something of a shapeshifter; originally planned as an expansion of the CarPlay system, Apple later decided to instead work with traditional automobile manufacturers to parter on developing an autonomous Apple Car.

Everything we’ve heard is just rumored, though. Apple has been characteristically tight-lipped about the project. The company has posted a few job listings for car engineers this year, though, so we can tell it’s still very much in progress.

Ford’s own car tech programs, on the other hand, are thriving very much in public view. The Mustang Mach-E is a genuine Tesla competitor, for example, and you can order it right now. Analysts say Apple’s take on the smart car won’t arrive for at least half a decade, if it ever makes it off the company lot at all.