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AI Chief John Giannandrea Takes Leadership of Project Titan

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Apple Inc. has moved its self-driving car unit under the leadership of top artificial intelligence executive John Giannandrea, who will oversee the company’s continued work on an autonomous system that could eventually be used in its own car.

The project, known as Titan, is run day-to-day by Doug Field. His team of hundreds of engineers have moved to Giannandrea’s artificial intelligence and machine-learning group, according to people familiar with the change. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Previously, Field reported to Bob Mansfield, Apple’s former senior vice president of hardware engineering. Mansfield has now fully retired from Apple, leading to Giannandrea taking over.

Mansfield is the Michael Corleone of Apple executives — they kept pulling him back in. What a run Mansfield had. The man is a legend inside Apple — well-liked and well-respected, with a remarkable string of accomplishments.

It seems clear, too, that the biggest hurdles in front of Titan are AI problems. Not sensors or hardware or OS/framework problems. Just pure AI. I’m not saying any of the other hardware or software stuff is easy or solved, just that I get the impression Apple knows they can do it. The AI stuff, though, those are unsolved hard problems.

But how can the division behind Siri — a product that gets confused about what you mean by “What time is it in London?” — make a car that safely drives around a parking lot, let alone roads? “This car is as smart as Siri” sounds like a threat, not a selling point.

* Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Bloomberg’s institutional credibility is severely damaged, and everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract the story or provide evidence that it was true. Over two years ago and they’re still pretending they didn’t completely shit the bed on this story.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020