Apple is once again beefing up the team leading its secret car project.
The company has hired Bob Mansfield, a former top executive, to head up the development of a self-driving electric car, according to sources that spoke with the Wall Street Journal.
Mansfield started with the company in 1999 and oversaw hardware engineering for products including the Macbook Air, the iMac and the iPad, the Journal reports. In recent years, he’s served as an adviser to Apple.
While Apple has not openly expressed its intent to build a car, all signs have been pointing to yes. Last year, the company brought on board Doug Betts, an auto industry veteran who had worked at Toyota and Nissan, and Paul Furgale, an artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle expert.
In May, Reuters reported that Apple was looking into how to charge electric cars and hiring engineers who were knowledgeable about the battery technology.
The move comes as companies including Google, Tesla and Uber are gearing up to compete for the self-driving, electric car market. Google’s prototype car is learning when to honk, and Uber is testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. Tesla released its autopilot feature in some vehicles last year, though a driver was recently killed in a crash involving autopilot.
A shift toward electric cars would be a major step in removing our reliance on oil. Bloomberg estimates that the growth of electric vehicles could eliminate a daily demand of 2 million barrels of oil by 2023.
But electric cars in the United States currently get their energy from a grid powered by burning fossil fuels ― which means they’ve still got a significant carbon footprint. That’s one big thing that will need to be resolved if we expect electric cars to help cut down on emissions and have a smaller impact on climate change.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.