Tesla has a new vice president heading up Autopilot efforts — Chris Lattner, whose departure from Apple was reported only earlier today. Lattner worked at Apple for 11 years, where his chief contribution was creating Swift, Apple’s most recent programming language, which is relatively easy for beginners to pick up and begin using to create apps for macOS, iOS and beyond.
The role at Tesla had been filled by SpaceX VP of Software Jinnah Hossein, who was doing double-duty at both companies (much like Elon Musk himself does in the CEO spot). Tesla says they’re “excited” about Lattner’s ability to help them “accelerate the future of autonomous driving,” in a blog post announcing the move.
Lattner’s history includes creating the Clang compiler and designing the LLVM compiler optimization infrastructure. He was also a key contributor to the evolution of Objective C and worked on Apple’s Xcode software development tool during his time at the iPhone maker. He also apparently builds beautiful raw-edge wood furniture:
— Chris Lattner (@clattner_llvm) January 9, 2017
Tesla’s poach of Lattner is a significant win for Tesla, given the breadth of his influence on software development and his expertise. Tesla announced late in 2016 that all of its vehicles going forward would have all the hardware on board necessary for full self-driving capabilities, and Elon Musk said that he’s aiming to have a fully autonomous coast-to-coast test drive of a Tesla car ready for the end of this year. Lattner could be a big help in achieving those ambitious goals in Musk’s typically aggressive timelines.