Rumors that Apple is honing its automated car technology have skyrocketed. Thanks, now, in no small part to some enterprising members of the media who leaked the names of Apple's self-driving car team to the public.
Driverless previously reported that Apple received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to trial their automated vehicles on California's public roads. It's very obvious Apple is working on their self-driving technology, which is an "open" secret in the driverless world. So that part isn't news. Especially since last year, CEO Tim Cook insisted that "it's going to be Christmas Eve for a while." But the festive season for driverless and Apple enthusiasts is fast approaching, judging by the DMV report and this new information that has been unveiled.
The documents from the DMV, entitled Autonomous Vehicle Tester (AVT) Application for Manufacturer's Testing Permit, included information about Apple's training program for drivers. The California DMV had initially requested that the names of the potential drivers were not revealed by us here at Driverless, which is why we are only reporting this part of the story now.
As they not so quietly developed their self-driving technology, the American tech giant has since enlisted six robotics experts and NASA veterans to work on the project — all under the tutelage of its Director of AI, Professor Ruslan Salakhutdinov, according to Business Insider.
Salakhutdinov, an associate professor in the Machine Learning Department in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, joined the Apple family seven months ago and is well-respected in the industry. Upon joining Apple, many thought Salakhutdinov would help on developing a smarter and better Siri, but it's clear now Apple has bigger things in mind for the professor.
The new Apple recruits' names were revealed via a public records request, courtesy of the aforementioned California DMV, and apparently, there will be 20 experts under Salakhutdinov's control. So who exactly will be joining the Apple team? These are the people we know of so far ...
Shilpa Gulati has a PhD in mechanical engineering from the Univesity of Texas at Austin and is an expert in robotics. She was involved with a number of special projects in Silicon Valley and has a wealth of experience developing algorithms on self-driving cars, which should come in handy during her new gig with Apple. Gulati has also worked for Robert Bosch GmbH as a senior research engineer, as well as a financial software developer for Bloomberg. She worked in Antarctica on a NASA-funded project to develop an autonomous vehicle to explore one of Jupiter's moons in 2009, which adds an impressive twist to an already stellar CV.
Apple handpicked some of the new team members from its own ranks, including software engineer Jeremy Ma. Ma specializes in perception and computer vision in robotics. Before joining the company, he worked as a robotics engineer for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His listed skills on LinkedIn include computer vision and perception; 6D real-time pose estimation; object detection and tracking; systems engineering; and robotics Implementer.
Likewise, Victor Chung Hwang was also a NASA-turned-Apple employee selected for their driverless dream team. He graduated with a Masters in robotics from Professor Salakhutdinov's stomping ground, the Carnegie Mellon University. Hwang also worked as a senior vehicle intelligence engineer for car for automotive company Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Inc. before joining Apple in 2015.
Another addition to Salakhutdinov's group is Christopher David Gadda, a Stanford University Graduate who also lectured at the university. He is also a former Tesla staffer, which surely appealed to Apple. Gadda currently works as a controls engineer for EtaGen, an electricity generator in San Francisco.
This (handsome) Apple employee has a PhD in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, as well as a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering. Paul Hebert also has a nice smile, but we won't get into that here. This overachiever was even given the NASA Group Achievement Award for the "Autonomous Robotic Manipulation Software Team," so it's no wonder he was plucked up by Apple. His work has been featured in publications like the International Conference on Robotics and Automation and the Journal of Neuroscience Methods.
David Rosas boasts a PhD in control systems engineering from the Autonomous University of Baja, California. His skills include robotics, MATLAB simulation, and control theory, all of which will be vital to Apple's driverless research.
Apple's competitors, like Tesla, Uber, and Waymo will have to watch out once the driverless dream team gets to work (Salakhutdinov looks like he means business!).